Sunday, July 16, 2017

The (new) Doctor will see us now...

Well the wait is finally over.  After the Wimbledon  final,  the BBC announced the actor who will take over for Peter Capaldi as the new lead in Doctor Who, is Jodie Whittaker.


In retrospect  we all saw this coming.   The show's producers have been dropping TARDIS sized hints that a female incarnation of everyone's favorite Timelord (lady)  was a real possibility.   Beginning with recasting the Master with the brilliant Michelle Gomez (aka Missy).   So  this should come as a surprise to ...well,  nobody.

Reaction has predictably, fallen into two distinct camps.  1) Horror, and predictions  that casting a woman as the Doctor will be final nail in the show's coffin, after what has been largely seen as a weak 10th season; and  2) Anger at those expressing disapproval, saying they are , closed minded sexists and misogynists who are unwilling to even  give Whittaker a chance.

As is often the case with a large shift in popular culture,  the truth  lies somewhere in between the two.    Let's get this out of the way right now, I have no problem with a female Doctor.  My issue is why the the BBC decided to do this now.

The BBC cast a female lead simply to show that they could.   Not because it made sense in terms of the narrative arc of the show.     How do I know this?   Simple,  if casting a woman as Doctor Who was done to further the show's story-line, they would have cast Olivia Colman, not Whittaker.

The show had already established  that  the Doctor can  deliberately choose the face of his (now her) next incarnation.   Peter Capaldi appeared in the episode "The Fires of Pompeii".  His character, along with this family  and was saved by David Tennant's Doctor.   The 12th Doctor deliberately picked that face to remind himself that he is the Doctor, and the Doctor saves people.


It was the brilliant actress Oliva Colman,  who as "prisoner zero" met Matt Smith's  11th Doctor in his first ever episode, and first told him that "silence would fall".  Setting up the brilliant story arc that ran all through  Smith's tenure in the role.


Casting Colman as the next Doctor would have been a perfect and completely  logical choice.  Now to be sure,  Jodie Whittaker is fine actress, but  let's be clear, her casting  was  PR decision not a narrative one.

Recasting gender in science fiction reboots is not new.   Most notably , the casting of  Katee Sachhoff and Grace Park as  Starbuck and Boomer, respectively  in Battlestar Galactica.  Both casting choices that worked out brilliantly and even added new depth to both characters.  

Yet it is worth noting that the Roles of  Commander Adama and Apollo  remained  true to their original male genders.   The American television series "Elementary" re-imagined Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's ever faithful Doctor Watson as an Asian woman, played brilliantly by Lucy Liu.   Yet, again it is worth noting they kept Sherlock Holmes and didn't go  for Shelia.   The great Dame Judy Dench brought wit and gravitas to the role of  'M'  in seven Bond Films. Yet again,  we still had James not Jennifer Bond.

In all of these cases, the Male lead was not recast, this wasn't because casting a woman was not possible, or even permissible.  It simply didn't make sense.  That is what we have here.   What the BBC have done here is the equivalent of doing a reboot of Star Trek Voyager and re-imagining Captain Janeway as a man.  Possible to do?  Absolutely.   Does it make sense?   No, not at all.

That being said, this could still work.  As always with Doctor Who, it boils down to the writing.  A strong Doctor can overcome a weak script.  We saw that over the course of this  past season, were Peter Capaldi had weak stories that  he was able to carry via the strength of his portrayal as the Doctor.    This new casting choice means the show's writers don't have that luxury.

The writers are now facing the daunting task of having  to win over a significant percentage of the show's existing fan base.  One weak episode and the TARDIS could very well  find itself grounded again, as it was following Sylvester McCoy's tenure.  Only this time, it could be permanent.

I certainly hope both the writers and Whittaker are up to challenge.   I look forward to tuning in Christmas Day to see how this goes.

Allons-y!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Trump Administration Colluded With Russia .... and?

Hey there Trump Voters!

As the massive plume of smoke spewing forth from the White House gets closer and closer to bursting into an actual political wildfire, I am thoroughly enjoying your desperate but none the less endearing attempts, to say the real scandal is, given the opportunity, Hillary Clinton would have done the same things the Trump Campaign did.

That’s so cute! It’s like a car-jacker telling the judge that he shouldn’t go to jail because if the car had been his to begin with, his victim would have clearly done the same thing.

What is painfully obvious, dear Trump Supporters is, You don’t love your country nearly as much as you (still, even now,) HATE Hillary Clinton. The fact that President Trump and pretty much his entire inner circle have lied about their collusion with Russia doesn’t matter. Your defence of the President of the United States having conspired with a hostile foreign power to interfere in our elections is to stick your fingers in your ears and yell ; “CROOKED HILLARY LALALALALALA!!!!”

Setting aside for the moment, that Millions of Americans are going to have their lives put at risk by the loss of their health insurance, just so the top 2 percent of Americans can get a huge tax break. Setting aside for the moment, that The United States is more isolated and marginalised than at any point since the turn of the last century.

Setting aside for the moment, that President Trump released a budget with a $2 trillion math error. Setting aside for the moment, the gutting of environmental protections, and complete removal of science from the mission of the EPA. Setting aside the myth that somehow, coal is going to be America’s economic silver bullet, and let’s not even dwell on the fact that Trump has instructed the interior department to review dozens of national monuments to see if they could be scrapped or resized to allow better access for oil and gas drilling.
Setting all that aside… I get it, none of that matters as much as how much you hate Hillary Clinton. It doesn’t matter to you that the President of the United States rants on social media like a toddler on meth. It doesn’t matter to you that the President of the United States gets his understanding of the world from a cable news show that has to habitually issue so many blatantly obvious corrections that it has become a running gag on Saturday Night Live.  

Nope, none of this even registers with you, In your world it's fake news.
The fact that the actions of the this administration will hurt you far more than it will any of the creatures in the “swamp” Trump promised to , but then completely forgot to drain must, in your mind, just be a democratic lie to excuse their electoral college loss last November.

I get it, the fact that women’s reproductive rights, minority voting rights, consumer protections and access to affordable health care for millions of Americans are all being wiped away by theTrump Administration isn’t nearly as important as your being able to say, “We won! Get over it!” on internet comment threads. 
I get it, you are completely okay with having a President whose main response to the greatest single threat in terms of nuclear proliferation in the last 40 years is to tweet about it. You are totally cool with a President who has turned the executive branch of government into a money-making operation for his “brand”.

You are giddy with excitement that access to the President of the United States can now be booked online at  hotels.com.

You are thrilled about rounding up kids born in this country, and then deporting them because their parents weren't. You really do believe building a wall on the Southern US border is physically possible, and a substitute for an actual immigration policy.

None of this bothers you at all.  You are standing by your man.  After all it's only smoke... lots and lots of smoke.  Which the Trump Administration's new Air Quality Standards claim is completely harmless. So breath deep Trump Voters. I really do get it. You hate Hillary Clinton, (and by extension, President Obama) far more than you love your country. 

Consequently you will happily accept any and all damage done to the country, as long as it means you never, ever have to admit that maybe, just maybe, you might have been wrong.


Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Independence Day Thoughts...


When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

I have a mild obsession for the American Declaration of Independence, It is a magnificently written document that expresses in glorious Jeffersonian prose, the hopes, and dreams of the people living in those thirteen British colonies in 1776.

As a result, the Fourth of July, has always been one my favourite holidays. I love all the Americana that goes with it. When I lived in Chicago, I would practically force my friends to come with me and picnic in Grant Park where we would sit on the grass eating watermelon, waving sparklers and listening to the Chicago Symphony play “Stars and Stripes Forever” as the fireworks boomed over our heads.

It was always at that moment, seeing the thousands of people around me cheering and waving flags, I’d feel so fortunate to have been born an American. A nation that, despite all its flaws and foibles , has nevertheless, never stopped striving to be that place Katherine Lee Bates called “American the Beautiful”.

The experience of celebrating American independence from outside the United States is not a new one for me. Today is the fifteenth July 4th holiday in my life, spent as an “ex pat”.   I have observed this day in Germany, in South Korea and here in the UK. Friends and co-workers here, were surprised to learn I was not going to take the day off today. I had thought about it, but when you get right down to it, Tuesday, July 4th, is just another workday here. So when in Rome... or in this case, London...

Having served its original purpose in announcing independence, the text of the Declaration was initially ignored after the American Revolution. Its stature grew over the years, particularly the second sentence, which came to be seen as a sweeping statement in support of human rights:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

I have always loved those words, because at their core, they proclaim why American was designed to be different. What would set us apart from the other nations of the world. No feudal systems of hereditary privilege for us, thank you very much. You keep your Kings, and Dukes and Earls and Viscounts and whatnot.

For us, America would be a place where power and governance would rest in the hands of the many, not the one.

Now on this 4th of July I find myself feeling another emotion... Embarrassment. Now don't misunderstand, I am not embarrassed to be an American, quite the opposite in fact. I have been and always will feel I am blessed to have born a citizen of my country. No I am embarrassed by my country's Government, my country's electorate, and by its choices.

I am horrified, appalled and disgusted by my country's President.

On this day, of all days. It is worth revisiting that brilliant founding document. Jefferson's masterful expression of the American Mind. The American Declaration of Independence


Never in my lifetime would I hear those words and think that a passage written in defiance of a mentally unstable king, would apply so aptly to the President of the United States.

A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

The legacy of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and all the other Men and Women who on this day in 1776, set sail in "a skiff, made of paper"; is now in the hands of a mentally unstable, narcissistic man-baby, whose infantile reaction to one of America's core freedoms, the freedom of the press,  was to take to the internet and post.... this:

video

This... whatever  you want to call it, is what passes for an official statement from the President of the United States in 2017.   To all Americans  wherever you are in the world, if  you are not embarrassed by that, then you are as ignorant of  what this day means as the rodeo clown  in that video is.   

It is my fervent hope that  my nation will soon come to its senses and  reclaim our legacy as an example to the rest of the world.  Instead of what Donald Trump is making it...  An embarrassment.

Happy Independence Day everyone. 

Friday, June 09, 2017

Meanwhile over in the UK...

So what happened in the UK last night? 8 short weeks ago pundits were talking about a 100+ Tory seat gain and how Labour under Corbyn was completely unelectable and was facing the largest Conservative Landslide since Thatcher.... Well a number of things happened. The first is Theresa May honestly thought that she and the Conservatives could just coast to a victory on Jeremy Corbyn's unpopularity. The Torys didn't run FOR anything as much as they just ran AGAINST Corbyn. The Prime Minister's decision to not participate in any actual face to face debates just reinforced the idea that the Conservatives were a bunch of arrogant, out of touch twits who just assumed people would vote them in because there wasn't really any other choice.... Oops.

Then there is Brexit. Which didn't mean what most people outside the UK think it did. The conservative defeat is not a vote of Brexit Remorse,  as much as it was a vote against the Tory loony toon back benchers idea that a "hard Brexit" would be some sort of expression of British power and resolve. Instead of what it really would be; Economic Suicide.  The Government has never articulated a clear or even moderately coherent plan for Brexit other than the Prime Minister saying she would be a "Bloody Difficult Woman" to deal with in the negotiations .

Funny how voters didn't find that comforting...

Then there were the Manifestos. The Tory Manifesto read like a chapter out of a Charles Dickens novel. It was so bad that even the largely inept Labour PR team was able to point out that taxing dementia  patients to fund tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires was a bad idea.  The Torys may idolise Thatchernomics but the electorate has moved on and sees it as a massive scam that is nothing more than Robin Hood in reverse.

Rather than defend their plan, the Conservative response was incoherent mumblings of how "Labour's numbers didn't add up", and when that didn't work they basically gave up and ran away from their own party platform.
Contrary to what some American pundits are saying this morning, terrorism really didn't play a role in how people voted. The attacks in Manchester and London were not foremost on voters minds. The Conservatives attempts to paint Corbyn as weak on defence and not willing to combat the threat from radical extremists came across to voters as a crass and vulgar attempt to capitalise on a national tragedy. It actually served to damage the Conservatives on an issue they should have had the advantage on.

But clearly the biggest reason for the wreckage in Westminster this morning is the Prime Minister herself. She called this snap election after repeatedly saying she wouldn't. She never had a real message other than "Brexit will be great, and Labour is bad!" A problem compounded by the Prime Minister being unwilling to do any real campaigning beyond carefully staged photo ops. It became a national drinking game to see how Theresa May could only answer questions with some word salad of a response that desperately tried to work in the words "Strong and Stable" as many times as possible.

Whereas the UK voters may not like Jeremy Corbyn, what is crystal clear this morning is, they simply didn't trust Theresa May.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

My Annual Response to "Why isn't there a Straight Pride Month?"

It's June... so we all know what that means...

As the rainbow flags go up on Market Street in San Francisco , the annual debate over the merits of LGBT Pride celebrations re-surfaces like a perennial weed that just won't stay down. It's a debate that rages both inside and outside the broader LGBTQ-XYZ123-whatever-else-you-want-to-add-on... community.

Inside the community the question always gets asked ; does some of the imagery of Pride celebrations hurt the cause of equal rights? In addition, in the wake of significant legal victories for LGBT rights, especially around Marriage Equality; Some are asking do we even need pride celebrations anymore?   

While outside, critics and opponents love to point to that same imagery as evidence of Gay folks wanting "special rights", and then pull out their favorite chestnut, of asking why are Gay Pride Celebrations acceptable but Straight Pride celebrations are not?

Sigh.... Really? It's like asking why isn't there a "White History Month". I get tired of trying to explain to people who really do know better, but get enamored of Fox News talking points, just how stupid they sound whey they try to make these types of arguments. But fine, since clearly there is some "genuine" confusion out there as to the reason for LGBT Pride celebrations , allow me to clarify.

The number of states in the USA where you can be fired  for  being  Straight = 0
The number of states in the USA where you can be fired for being Gay = 29
Number of countries that will execute you for being Straight = 0
Number of countries that will execute you for being Gay = 10

Growing up, how many books, songs, television programs, and movies did you see that featured straight couples meeting, falling in love and living happily ever after?  Pretty much all of them. Ask someone who is Gay how many positive images in popular culture they had growing up that affirmed who they are? The answer is, none, or at best few, if any at all.

Gay characters in movies and television were either creepy villains or camp comic relief. If you doubt that, you really should check out the groundbreaking HBO documentary, "The Celluloid Closet". It shows clearly the disparity in popular culture where messages about sexual orientation were concerned.

Then there is the area of religion. The number of straight kids who have been told they are going to hell simply for being heterosexual = 0. The number of LGBT kids who have been told that they are going hell simply for being homosexual = too many to even try to count.

In the light of LGBT rights victories in the U.S. over the past few years, it is easy to laugh at the various American Talabangelicals who shrieked hysterically how the US Supreme Court ruling on Same Sex marriage back in 2015, would result in nothing less than some sort of Gay, Nazi... apocalypse. But for a young person struggling with issues of identity and self acceptance,  these toxic messages of hatred and bigotry could cut right through you .


To my Straight friends, I have to ask, how many times have "respected" public figures, politicians, pundits and clergy gone on national television demanding that everyone be given the chance to VOTE on your civil rights?  How often has someone told you that not being able to discriminate against you was somehow an attack on them?  When was the last time you heard a member of the Supreme Court saying that simply by being allowed to exist, you were "an attack" on the moral fiber of America?

Anyone?? Yeah...I didn't think so... I have a flash of the obvious for you, every month is "Straight Pride Month."  There is a word for someone who truly feels that equal rights for people they don't like is somehow an attack on them. That word is "Bigot".

Saying LGBT people are human too, isn't an attack on straight people. Those people who really think it is, I want to ask them if they are really that stupid, or just that bigoted? People who say LGBT Pride celebrations need to be stopped, are in fact, the exact reason they all started in the first place.

Are pride celebrations good or bad for the cause of equality? The answer is both. With visibility comes closer examination. Anti-gay bigots love to show images of drag queens, leather daddies and nearly naked porn stars dancing on parade floats, and scream "See! it's not about equal rights! They just want to recruit your kids into THIS!!"

They never show the families, advocacy groups, welcoming and inclusive religious denominations, and workplace affinity groups who participate in Pride parades. After all, that wouldn't fit their desired narrative.

Media outlets are complicit in this, by the way.  CNN loves to show the drag queens  and semi-naked boys in their coverage, but when straight allies like the CEO of  the largest health care company in the United States rides in the San Francisco Pride  parade every year, along with his LGBT employees,  you'd think the guy was invisible.

Likewise, critics of  the concept of LGBT Pride , never talk about the rates of divorce, unplanned pregnancy, child abuse and neglect and domestic violence in Straight relationships.  You never see  folks like Tony Perkins, head of the certified Hate-Group, the "Family Research Council" on Fox News talking about Mardi Gras, or "Girls Gone Wild" on Spring Break.

That would be admitting something of an inconvenient truth.  It's much easier to just point at a group of shirtless men on a flatbed truck or women on motorcycles and say that they are the real threat to families.

I have always said that Pride celebrations are not really for the people who attend them. Instead they are for the people who cannot attend them. Growing up as a Gay kid in a small town in South Central Wisconsin, there were times when I was convinced I was the only gay person on Earth. The constant message from popular culture, religion, family and peer groups was "boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married (or not) and have kids and live happily ever after". There was no happily ever after for someone who felt what I was feeling.

Then, for one weekend in June, I would turn on the TV News and see thousands of people just like me, in places like New York, San Francisco and Chicago saying "No, that's not true, you are not alone, and there is a big wide world out here beyond Sun Prairie Wisconsin. So hang in there .... we're here and we're waiting for you!"



Now 30 years later, I watch coverage like this and it seems so endearingly cheesy. Yet at the time, it was a lifeline to people like me, living with the fear and isolation of being "in the closet".

Pride Celebrations are the original  "It Gets Better Project". 

My straight friends never needed to be told that being straight was okay, and that they were okay because nobody ever told them they weren't. Pride isn't about celebrating being Gay, it's about publicly showing that being LGBT is just as much a part of the the human experience as being straight is. I for one would love to see the day when Pride is obsolete. When that scared closeted gay kid, in some small town doesn't need to be told that he or she is fine just the way they are.

But until that day comes, I will be adding my voice to that joyous mob in places like Market Street in San Francisco, Oxford Street in London,  Halsted Street in Chicago, and Fifth Avenue in New York City. If for no other reason to let that kid know, it really does get better. There is a world where  "boy meets boy" and "girl meets girl", where they fall in love and (f they want to) get married, and yes, even live happily ever after...

Happy Pride Everyone.

Friday, June 02, 2017

What do I think of President Trump?

Earlier today, a dear friend of mine, who lives in Hong Kong messaged me on Facebook and asked me what did I think of President Trump? It is question that American Expats get asked often these days. The answer is, like the American political system itself, rather complex.

What do I think of Donald Trump? Hmmm… okay, well it is safe to say that historians will be kept gainfully employed for decades to come, all writing books on this very topic. I can only give you my thoughts on this. There are several key points you must look at in any examination of how we all got here. As is often the case, to do that we must start at the beginning...

Donald Trump is a product of privilege. Complete, total, and unearned privilege. He is someone who was born on the second highest step on the ladder, and now lauds himself as a “huge” success story for having “gotten to the top”. This is not a criticism, nor is it an attack on wealth. It is just a fact, and a critical one to understand, as it has informed Trumps world view, and his behaviour all throughout both his personal and professional life.

When faced with trouble, or serious personal challenges it was that privilege that got him past it. Be it problems in school, problems in his personal life, or even obligations he didn’t care to fulfil. (His numerous Vietnam draft deferments for a non-existent “bone spur” and his habit of just deciding not to pay vendors, or change the terms of contracts mid-stream and then sue into submission anyone who dares try to fight back, his multiple divorces, all are manifestations of this.)

As result of this…

Donald Trump is completely accustomed to always getting his own way. Any options that are not of his making or control are inherently wrong and unacceptable. The world of New York Real Estate is truly one of dog-eat-dog. Manhattan has a finite amount of land, for which there is a nearly infinite demand. For something new to go up, something old must come down, for one person to win a deal it means someone else must be the loser in that deal. Which means…

For Trump, success is a zero-sum gain proposition. In Trump's world for one person to succeed means another person must fail. Therefore, the world is seen through the singular lens, that in all things there are, and must be, winners and losers; and to be the winner is good, and the loser is always bad. This also means…

For Donald, partnerships are never about mutual success, they are only about expedience. Every partner is still your competition, who must eventually be defeated for you to be the winner. This approach will make you a great deal of money in real estate, but it has revealed the core fundamental flaw in Donald Trump as a leader.

Donald Trump is a remarkably insecure man. As someone who got to where he is more by circumstance of birth than by intellect or ability, Trump’s ego is incredibly fragile. As a performer, Trump is obsessed with ratings. (Be it crowd sizes or polling numbers, or twitter followers).
He is a man who talks about himself in such grandiose terms, often in the third person and nearly always ends with a demand for affirmation. (“believe me!”) This is a man who is trying to convince himself as much as those he is speaking to of how great he is. Anything that contradicts that view of himself as the winner, must be, in his mind “fake”, “rigged” or “very unfair".

In that quest for affirmation Trump finds role models in bullies. Be it Vladimir Putin, or President Duterte of the Philippines, or even North Korea's Kim Jung Un. So of course, his campaign colluded with the Russians. But I won’t go any further down that road here. Instead, we have to talk about the elephant in the room. By that, I mean the question historians will be asking for years to come; How did this man get elected President of the United States?

Donald Trump told the lies people were desperate to hear. As the global economy, the march of technology and social change redrew the American social and economic landscape there was a large sector of the American population that got left behind. The core industries of the rust belt states no longer exist in the same form they did in the years following World War II.

Globalisation forever changed that steel plant in Allentown PA which sprung out of the war effort and became a piston in the engine driving America’s middle class. That coal mine, that auto plant, and all the related business that sprung up around them, were all victims of the march of time. And for the last 40 years, both political parties have been unable to tell these people the hard sad truth. That their jobs were never coming back. Instead both parties told little white lies.

The republicans told them the answer was tax cuts for the rich, who would then invest in their communities and wealth would “trickle down” to them (It didn’t.  The people who got those massive Reagan- Bush 1 and Bush 2 tax cuts, were never going to invest that money in West Virginia, Ohio, or Pennsylvania, they took the money, and used it to get richer. Investment in America became about making money by moving money, not spending it on people.)

The Democrats told these people they just needed more education. If they went to their local community college and got continuing education and training in something new, then all these new economy jobs would come flooding in, as they were now a desirable workforce. (This also didn’t happen. Google, Apple, and Intel were never going to move from Silicon Valley to Hancock County, TN. If those newly educated workers moved themselves to Northern CA then sure, there was opportunity, but those opportunities were never going to move them.)

Then along came Donald Trump, and he loudly proclaimed what these economically desperate, angry people had been waiting for someone, anyone to say. Trump told them their problems were not their fault, and promised to make things like they used to be. Back to when if you were white, and reasonably literate that was enough. When people who were different were the ones who felt marginalized not you. It was lie, but it was a beautiful lie, that affirmed their anger and had a very real subtext that fed on racial and social animosity and fears.

The result? They voted form him in droves. Which brings us to another interesting truth about all this….

Donald Trump honestly didn’t expect to win. The plan always was to run, to lose and then use that exposure, that resulting fame to promote and expand the Trump brand. But then the impossible storm of improbable events all came together. The Clinton emails, The Sanders phenomenon, the Russian election hack (which was always more about hurting Clinton than helping Trump) You look at Trump in the days following the election, he looks like he is in shock. There was no transition plan ready. The Trump team at the first meeting with the Obama Administration, honestly didn’t know that the entire staff of the Executive Office of the President (The west wing staff) wasn’t going to stay on after Obama left.

Which brings us to the core issue with Trump…

The Government is not a business, and being President is not like being a CEO. When a new CEO comes into a company, what is the first thing nearly all of them do? They set about erasing all trace of their predecessors. The new CEO alone can “fix it” and anything the old CEO did was bad. If you do that as President you wind up with 24 million Americans losing health insurance, and America losing its leadership role on the world stage.

You can’t just sign executive orders like corporate memos and do whatever you want. The American system of government is set up so the Presidency is the weakest branch of government. Trump doesn’t understand that.

So, this is a very long run up to the answer to your question- What do I think of President Trump?

He is the most unfit man to ever hold the Presidency. While he is not evil, he is simply completely unqualified and totally unable to cope with complexities of the job. He is not smart enough, not patient enough and lacks a fundamental understanding of the role of the United States Government and the executive branch within that government.

The longer he remains in the job, the more damage he will do, to both the country and to the Republican Party, which is slowly coming to terms with the fact they have to remove him, and soon.

I am in no way thrilled by the prospect of President Pence and Vice President Ryan but the alternative is to do potentially irrevocable damage to the American Presidency and the nation as a whole,.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Thoughts on the Will & Grace Revival...

After 11 years in the re-run/box set  wilderness, they are coming back.


It apparently stems from the very positive reaction  to the mini-episode  the cast came together to film in the run-up  to the 2016  U.S. election.  Hmmm.. Okay.  This could go one of two ways.  It will either be brilliant  or  a complete bore, no middle ground there.

 Lets  talk about the big pink elephant in the room for a moment.  The idea that  as a television series  Will & Grace was "groundbreaking".    

The LGBT Community's  relationship  with  Will & Grace has always been "complicated".    As a prime time TV network sitcom,  yes... Will & Grace  was one of the first to feature gay lead characters.  But let's be very clear here,  Will & Grace was not a show about Gay  people.  It was a very funny sitcom about four  people  who were for all practical purposes, married to each other, (Will/Grace and Jack/Karen)   but would never, ever have sex.

Critics of the show love to point out that the series never addressed any of the  real issues that the LGBTQ community faced.  HIV,  hate crimes,  trans issues, etc.,  were pretty much non-existent in the  make believe New York world of  Will Truman and Grace Adler.   This criticism while true,  misses  the real reasons why Will & Grace was a good thing a decade ago, and may just be a great thing to be bringing back now.

To my LGBTQ fiends here is the thing we need to remember.   Will & Grace was never meant  for us.

It was always meant for, well... Your Mom.  And My Mom, and her friends and their friends . People for whom watching shows like "Queer as Folk".or "The L Word", or more recently, "Looking" would have been both really unlikely and highly traumatizing.   But instead  there were these very funny, somewhat endearing  and yes relatively harmless characters who charmed their way into their homes once a week.

I would wager serious money that many of us have heard Straight friends and family members actually cite watching Will & Grace as evidence of their support and acceptance of LGBT rights. As silly as that may seem on the surface;  (I once wrote that Will & Grace had about as much to do with American LGBT experience, as The Cosby Show did to the African American experience.) The fact is, Will & Grace did make a difference, and yes, it did have a real impact.

For many Americans, Gay people simply didn't exist as part of their world. Their problems and struggles were completely removed from their frame of reference. Then suddenly there was Will and Jack, in their homes every Thursday night. Commenting on hot guys, making gay culture references, and turning hateful stereotypes into the butt of gentle jokes. For those Americans, Will & Grace dispelled some of the mystery, and a great deal of the fear, that for them, surrounded "The Gays".

I know this first hand. Once back in late 2009 , I was sitting a a flight from Washington D.C. to London. The woman seated next to me asked what was the reason for my trip. I explained I was going to visit my fiancee  who lived in London.

She  asked would my wife be moving to America after we were married, I explained that because of the Defense of Marriage Act, I couldn't sponsor him to live in the United States. She then exclaimed excitedly how she remembered a Will & Grace episode where Grace had to marry Will's Canadian boyfriend ( played by Taye Diggs) to prevent him from being deported, and she thought it was just  "terrible that people  would have to do that just to be together."  She then went on to say how before having seen that episode,  the issue would have never even occurred to her.

That is who Will & Grace was for.  That woman sitting next to me on the plane.  Who was able to connect the  the dots between a funny TV show, and someone she was meeting in real life.    It's  also why now  just may be the perfect time for the show to come back.

Since the 2016 Presidential election,  there has been a spike in hate crimes against minority groups in the U.S.     A recent story in Slate Magazine detailed  the alarming rise in attacks against LGBTQ Americans,  where  often the attacker(s) cite the victory of Donald Trump as justification for their actions

Chris Ball, a Canadian film producer who lives in Calgary, was watching the election results pour in on Tuesday at a bar in Santa Monica, California, stunned with disbelief. Ball told Calgary Metro that as the outcome became clear, the atmosphere became tense and volatile, with other patrons yelling anti-gay slurs at him. “We got a new president, you f**king faggots,” one Trump supporter reportedly said. After the altercation, Ball was jumped while attempting to walk to his car, and the attackers smashed a beer bottle over his head. He blacked out after his skull slammed against the pavement.

So it just may be  time bring back  "that nice Will Truman and funny Jack McFarland"  to once again  get people who are not bigots, but for whom the issues  are just not that visible, to  "connect the dots."    If you wouldn't want your favorite TV sitcom character to get gay bashed or have their civil rights taken away,  it just might just make you less tolerant of it happening to people in your own neighborhood. 

As for the for rest of us,  there will undoubtedly be some funny Trump jokes, and  after all,  we all know the show was really about Jack and Karen anyway.

Welcome back Kids...