Thanksgiving was cool. Lots of time with the high school friends on Wednesday and Friday which was good. Mostly. It was a reminder once again that I’m not nearly as close to some as I once was, though I’m closer to others than ever. Putting childish things away, wheat from the chaff, thou shalt not worship golden calves, what have you…But I drank beer out of a boot. And there was a chocolate milkshake in there somewhere, “and you know that can’t be bad…”
The movie watching portion on Thursday was great. Full Metal Jacket, the Good Girl, the Graduate, and Rushmore. That was a grand old time. Ah, Bill Murray, you’re the brilliant uncle I never had. Saturday night I had a script meeting with frequent colleague Tom Schorsch on the first third of Activision, he made some top notch structural suggestions and I think it’s a terrific third of a play now. Then last night I saw the brilliant L3K alumna Ellie Kaufman perform in “Meshugga-Nuns” a wacky farce produced by Chicago Jewish Theatre about some nuns um, acting Jewish or something. It’s the sort of thing that’s designed to inoffensively amuse old people, and it was just one of those so dorky it was awesome things. It reminded me a bit of a show I did at a church a couple of years ago that pretty much left off at “so dorky…”. Overall it was adorable, but the best part was looking at the rest of the Chicago Jewish Theatre season: Next up, another wacky farce about being Jewish entitled “Oy”. followed by “The Diary of Anne Frank”. That’s one of those things you just can’t make up.
My mother announced her intention to go into my apartment and clean it today. My parents still kind of pamper me, though I’m a few weeks shy of 27. I’m okay with that really, they frankly have a lot to atone for. It fills me with apprehension though…A clean apartment is kind of unnatural.
And now I’m back at work…Hurm.
Every so often I encounter a work of pop culture/pop psychology that makes me want to hurl things across the room. Today on the Internet, and in the newspaper, I’ve been unable to escape references to this “advice” book He’s Just Not That Into You, about how if guys don’t call girls, they’re not interested in said girls. Seems commonsense enough, I don’t know (personally I don’t call girls I’m into very often because I’m terrified of them)…but women actually buy this book and they subject themselves to the same tired gender stereotypes…God I’m going to start tearing my hair out…Examples from the book include “The book also lays waste to some tried-and-true excuses women often let men get away with. Like, he's just too busy. ("The word 'busy' is the relationship Weapon of Mass Destruction. It seems like a good excuse. ...")” And sometimes an accurate one. Many people, particularly interesting people, really are very busy, people who don’t spend their time reading and writing stupid advice books. Or, he doesn't want to ruin the friendship. ("Unfortunately, in the entire history of mankind that excuse has never ever been used by someone who actually means it.") Yes, it bloody well HAS! Some men do in fact value friendships with women, even women they’re very attracted to, and in fact value those friendships more than they might value the potential of dating them…sometimes life is complicated…no, don’t you see, life is *never* complicated, because Guys Don’t Like to Talk About Their Feelings and Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend and White People Drive Like This…. I don’t like these bits of hackery because they’re infectious, I found myself slipping into them for an easy laugh just last night…But people like them because they’re a way to understand the world that takes no real effort. There are six billion stories on the Naked Planet but nobody wants to hear them all because that would take too much work, much better to reduce them to a series of easy punchlines. But I *do* want to hear the stories, and tell them. Which is why these jackasses should stick to their pithy newspaper columns and leave the book contracts to the Big Boys (and Girls)
So the big Gratitude Festival is tomorrow. I feel like something of an ingrate, 'cause I'm looking at my life and going "Well, this is all right then." I'm better off than uh, you know all those people who suffer in all those countries. I have a new winter coat...Um...I'm a member of one of the Lesser Generations.
I'm pretty much estranged from most of my biological relations, most notably my father's mother, the Matriarch, so I'm not going to do the traditional stuff tomorrow. Which is okay, because I never much liked the relations, hence the estrangement, although I do like the food. It's a good combination of foods, Thanksgiving is. I've been looking forward to doing absolutely nothing on Thursday. Except watch movies. That's what I'm gonna do. Probably Wes Anderson movies, that's always sensible.
During my college years, Thanksgiving weekend was an awesome time because it was one of the times I got to see my army of friends back in Chicagoland. But now fewer and fewer make it home, and some of those friendships aren't what they were. Seems like nobody likes me for very long...
Ah, shouldn't get near the Internet during a spout of self-pity should I? Guess it's the fault of whoever invented holidays. No, holidays are all right. Who invented families?
Barack was on the Charlie Rose show last night. Not much to say about that, he was his usual smooth self. People are talking about him being the "olive branch" between the Senate Democrats and the White House because they think he speaks their language. 'Cause he talks about God sometimes. It's a misjudgement on the White House's part since Barack's God is nothing like theirs.
I'm going to see a lot of my friends this weekend, maybe not an army but a decent battalion, and it never was about the numbers anyway, so I'm looking forward to some joyfulness...
I don't have that much to do in my new job. I'm not complaining exactly, as long as it's cool with the people signing the slightly bigger checks. But I'm counting down the hours until I can do Hamlet. Hamlet is fun, it really is, last night I got to throw the skull around and sing to it. That's a great way to spend your time.
I saw liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman speak at Northwestern University about how everything's going to Hell on Friday night. Those Northwestern kids, they love their Paul Krugman. It reminded me of a beautiful Northwestern grad student named Molly who I met on the L a couple of months ago and talked to me about the New York Times, the Clash, Texas, and 19th Century robber barons. Then she disappeared into the Rogers Park afternoon...My friend Molly Fitzgibbon has thus far been unable to locate her with the special telepathic link that is shared by all people named Molly.
My friend Rik Reppe, always linked to on this blog, has started to write more stuff. This is a very good thing. You should read it.
Frequent correspondent Kurt Touhy asserts that decrying the CIA as a hotbed of liberals that needs a Stalin style (one hopes with less killing) purge may in fact be an indication that right wing extremists in the government have a sense of humor. It's certainly proof that they're hilarious but I'm not sure it's self aware hilarity. But understand that the word "liberal" has undergone a number of permutations in recent years, and is now defined principally as "anyone who disagrees with the President on anything".
You know the long expected Powell resignation followed closely by the Rice appointment reminds me of a line in Star Wars delivered by Peter Cushing's character, the evil Governor Tarkin: "The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away..."
One of the most fundamental reasons why President Bush solidified his rein recently, and why the Right has been ascendant for decades is that their factions are unified in an airtight coalition. The needs of religious fanatics may not always seem to coincide with those of power mad billionaires but they always seem to work it out, whereas the various factions of the Left absolutely loath each other. Mainstream America sees the crazy, self righteous dicks on the Left and freaks out, while the sane, funny, utterly charming mainstream liberals like myself, who constitute the vast majority of the Left of Center, are obscured. I've written about that here before, and it's a major theme in my current play in progress Activision, but it was driven home to me again on Friday night, while I was enjoying the fine Irish folk music of One of the Girls at notorious counterculture hangout the Heartland Cafe. The brash, charming young lead singer Tom Schorsch, sensing an easy crowd, told a joke "What's the difference between Iraq and Vietnam? George Bush had a plan to get out of Vietnam." Funny joke. The normal people in the room all laughed. But an aging hippie in the back shouted out "He didn't even go!" indicating that he didn't get it or didn't much care. And there, painfully is the crucial difference between sane, non-dogmatic leftists and their fanatical counterparts: a sense of humor.
The factions of the Right don't have this problem because *none* of them have a sense of humor.
I've been promoted at my job. I am no longer a member of the lowly but fraternal Support Team, and am now a Program Specialist. I like that title because it sort of vaguely and falsely implies that the job is much more computer related than it is. I am insisting that all my former colleagues in Support call me "Mr. Leahy" rather than the familiar first name by which everyone else, including the president of the agency is customarily addressed, and I am striding about like the cock of the walk. If you're an employee of J.P. Morgan Chase and you want some tuition assistance, you've got to go through me. Or one of the other Program Specialists.
My friend Marc and I saw Neil Gaiman do a reading of his new book the other night, which was bloody brilliant, I got Neil to sign my copy of Canterbury Tales. A lot of people asked me why I would want Neil to sign a classic work of literature that he had nothing to do with. It really can't be explained. The Great One seemed amused, I asked him if he considered it an ethical violation and he said he thought he could get away with it because Geoffrey Chaucer was unlikely to complain. He signed it "To Rory, a book I never did write..."
The theatrical world is all abuzz about my latest projects, Activision, the play I'm writing which will ideally be the sophomore American Demigods production in 2005, and the other play I'm collaborating on with my friend Eric, then there's the Keyhole production of Hamlet in which I play the Gravedigger, that will have its first readthrough on Sunday.
Note: For the purposes of the previous paragraph, the "theatrical world" is defined as me and anyone I talk to.
The city is starting to snap out of the depression I think. I've lived in this town all my life and Wednesday was the worst I'd seen it since the first Jordan retirement.
I guess the popular vote margin was actually closer to three or four million. Forget that burst of optimism at the last post, fuck them all. Someone pointed out what makes this election so awful, it's not just that these are policy differences, they're fundamental, existential issues here. We don't disagree on where America should go, we disagree on what America *is*.
"Now that I've got the will of the people at my back, I'm going to enfoce the one question rule...oh yeah, Iraq."
-George Walker Bush, 11/4/2004
This is the charming guy everyone would like to have a beer with?
I'm really, really disturbed by the conventional wisdom on why GWB won the election. I actually prefer to think there are a lot of swing voters out there that thought Bush was much better on terrorism, that's moronic, but it's a lot less malevolent and vile than the petty hatreds that are based on the proscriptions of Israelite scribes five thousand years ago. This is the only place in the Western world that thinks such proscriptions are a working model for a government. And they think *we're* on the side of the Islamic psychos. I don't want to hear another damn word about "moral values". Morality is a somewhat broader concept than why it's bad for boys to kiss other boys. It's immoral to rape the earth, deny decent compensation to the working and care for the ill and the injured based on market principles. It's immoral to kill tens of thousands of people for the crime of not embracing democracy. My moral values are better than yours, you diseased maniacs.
I was at a meeting of young progressives Wednesday night, trying to figure out ways to reach moderates, if there are such people, in the evangelical universe. I'm in the camp that says we've got to learn to speak their language and try to understand their beliefs better. I hope they're not reading this blog right now though, because right now I also think we need to adopt the maxim Sean Connery had in the Untouchables: You want to beat Capone, you shoot hard, shoot fast, and shoot first. They bring a knife, you bring a gun, they put one of yours in the hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue. That's the Chicago way.
I've been writing this play about political activism for the last few months, my friend and American Demigods managing director Tom asked if I thought the play would be any different depending on the outcome of the election. I didn't think so, but yeah, that was totally wrong. It's going to be a rather more *angry* play now, I'm thinking.
Henry V is out and Hamlet is in: "From this time forth, my thoughts be *bloody* or be nothing worth!"
My subject line refers not to any notion that JFK will salvage the presidency, I concur with most observers that won't happen, but to his campaign song, penned by the immortal Boss. It's a great fucking song. Let's take that with us. I come not to bury Kerry as I'm afraid most lefties want to do, but to praise him. We don't like our guys as much as the other guys do because we demand perfection, even when it is the enemy of the good. It's not enough to "hold your nose" and vote for Kerry instead of Nader. The prevailing attitude on the Left often seemed to be, "He sucks but we've got to vote for him anyway" and apart from being inaccurate, 'cause he doesn't suck, that's no way to win a fucking national election. I was at a little gathering of folks last night watching the returns. One of the hosts, whom I don't know very well but know to be quite the leftist radical bitterly denounced Kerry as the "DLC creature" that the conservative Democratic establishment wanted. Respectfully, that's fucking absurd. Kerry is probably the most liberal nominee, and the most principled even if his awkward use of the English language (with all 'em big words) and evenhanded analyses makes him sound like he's not, since George McGovern. And well we know what happened to him. Lieberman was the evil DLC creature and he was a joke. Somehow I doubt Howard Dean would have been some electoral behemoth last night. Kerry has served his country well and I think he's great. As for the rest of the country...
A guy on the bus last night said "You gotta love this country..." I'm trying to, man, I'm trying to. I love Jefferson and Lincoln and FDR and Barack Obama. Barack was beautiful last night, as always but he's joining what's damned close to a Republican super-majority in the Senate. 55-45? Oy. I was counting on a slimmer margin to keep the Cowboy from turning the Supreme Court into a judicial body resembling the one they had in Salem a few hundred years back.
Massachusets fit in better in those days didn't it?
The United States of America is a land of ideals, hopes and dreams, but I will never again buy for a second the quaint old notion that its virtues are in the little farms and prairies. They're in the metropolitan oases of sanity and decency like this Windy City I call my home. The rest of the country consists of vast, rugged plains of what's the phrase I'm looking for? Oh yes, retarded hill folk.
The homosexuals and the terrorists are coming for your daughters.
The U.S. Senate, with a few notable exceptions used to be regarded as the stately upper chamber, removed from the baser passions of the people. Some of these new guys not so much. They seem to have sprung fully grown out of Jesse Helms' skull. These gay marriage ballot initiatives all passed overwhelmingly of course. In Mississippi, apparently by 92%. How ya doin' Mississippi, murder any civil rights workers lately?
When LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act in 1965 he said he knew he was signing away the south forever, but he felt it was worth it.
Was it? Of course it was.
That's the thing about governing from principle, you can only do so much of it before they stop you.
Got to catch a bit of Jon Stewart last night. He was masterful, it was amazing to watch a man whose mind and heart were clearly spinning out of his body fight like hell for the one thing he still has, the one thing he'd ultimately keep above all else, the funny. And as I said before it will be a good time for dark wit. I want to kick him around some more. I had my political awakening in 1988 when I was ten years old, and I realized how mean and vicious and ugly these people could be, so I'm used to losing. It feels normal and natural to me. I feel I belong in the countercultural trenches so I'm actually kind of comfortable. And yet I'm so not. There are genuine comforts I can take from this. Bush's failures will be his. No one will be able to say "Kerry lost Iraq". If the last three second term presidencies are any indication, it's Special Prosecutor Season again. Hopefully that'll be fun.
I don't know ya'll...
It's easy to despair right now. The old saying is "Don't mourn, organize." You know the thing is, this year was amazing, we actually *did*. "I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat." But this year, we pulled together. Nader was pretty much a non-factor, Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn actually got behind a major party candidate. People got passionate and they got involved. Forty years ago, conservatives were in the same dark wilderness that we are now, but they didn't give up, they created their own counterculture that laid the foundations for taking over the country and we must do the same. Look at the organs of the progressive left that didn't exist four years ago, at least not in their current form: Air America, MediaMatters, Moveon.org, the Center For American Progress. I saw people feel a rush to make a difference in their world literally as I had never seen before, the old and the young incredibly galvanized. I've been lucky enough to be dead center in the one spectacular progressive victory this election for the last year and a half, and it was a privilege and a joy. The worst lesson we could take away from this is that it was pointless and that we shouldn't try to keep this going and that we should abandon the idea of a strong progressive coalition to take the country back. In the end, when it's all counted I'm sure we couldn't have lost by more than a million votes. We can take a million hearts and minds back easily, if only our own are strong. We stood up and we were counted and we let it be known what we believed.
Was it worth it? Of course it was.
Well I could entertain ye with many a campaign trail tale but my own words fail me at this moment. Other people's are ringing through my head:
"Oh, we're halfway there, whoa-oh, livin' on a prayer!"
-Bon Jovi (He was singing for Kerry in Wisconsin today and I presume he sang that)
"What if we don't succeed?"
"We *must* succeed."
-Doc and Marty in Back to the Future II
"Methinks I could die nowhere so contented as in the king's company, his cause being just and his quarell honorable..."
"But if the cause be not good, then the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make..."
-Henry and William, Henry V
"And gentlemen in England now abed will think themselves accursed they were not here...whilst any speaks...that fought with us...UPON SAINT CRISPIN'S DAY!!!"
"One more day before the storm, at the barricades of freedom...when our ranks begin to form, will you take your place with me? The time is now, the day is here! Raise the flag of freedom high, do you hear the people sing? My place is here, I fight with you! One day more! Tommorow we'll be far away, tomorrow is the Judgement Day, tomorrow we'll discover what our God in Heaven has in store, one more dawn, one more day! One Day More!"
-Enjorlras 'n' the gang, Les Miserables
Lots more I'm not thinking of, but as I've been saying to everyone: God willing we shall meet again in a new era of hope and light...