Archive for August, 2014

Robin, Richard and the Fates

August 18, 2014

This was originally going to be written 10 days ago, to commemorate history’s yard waste, but that never happened. (oh, I’ll get to Milhouse, have no fear) Enough has been written about him to make David McCollough jealous. His mere presence, from his ascendancy to fall, has put the Republican Party a Khan-like single-mindedness hell-bent on destroying whoever or whatever they feel like, including themselves, to get revenge. But more on that later.

I was going to write about all that, even last week, but then Robin died. Which in a strange way, ties in with Nixon. Back in 1970, Robert Altman made the most subversive anti-war movie about a war that showed the comedy and pathos and futility of war and life. The movie, M*A*S*H, was set a generation before it, in Korea, except (most) all references to Korea were taken out. Making it the perfect anti-war movie for the war in Vietnam. It made stars out of Donald Southerland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skeritt, Robert Duval, Sally Kellerman and featured the most hilarious football game in cinematic history. But the subplot was the horrors of war and the destruction it brings, both on an emotional and physical scale.

The Unit’s dentist, unable to consummate with a nurse, decides that suicide is the only way out. Played brilliantly by John Schuck, he is both wise and foolish at the same time. In the movie’s most macabre and poignant scene, Schuck’s character, fearful that he might be a homosexual because of his malfunction with a visiting nurse, asks advice on a reliable method. Hawkeye, Trapper and Duke suggest that he use the “black capsule”, a fictitious fast-acting poison. At a farewell banquet that satirizes The Last Supper, Walt takes the capsule (actually a sleeping pill) and falls asleep in a coffin. Hawkeye persuades Lt. Maria Schneider to spend the night with Walt and cure him of his “problem.”

The song used at the beginning of the movie alludes to this subplot. It was written and preformed by Johnny Mandell.

Through early morning fog I see
Visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see…
That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.
I try to find a way to make
All our little joys relate
Without that ever-present hate
But now I know that it’s too late, and…
The game of life is hard to play
I’m gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I’ll someday lay
So this is all I have to say.
The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I’m beat
And to another give my seat
For that’s the only painless feat.
The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn’t hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger…watch it grin, but…
A brave man once requested me
To answer questions that are key
Is it to be or not to be
And I replied ‘oh why ask me?’
‘Cause suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.
…and you can do the same thing if you please.

Which, in a roundabout way, brings us back to both Robin and History’s yard waste. Robin Williams suicide and the reason’s behind it will remain a mystery even to those closest to him. He was an introvert who made us laugh and much like his hero, Jonathon Winters, struggled with depression most of his adult life. I personally think most adults are depressed at some level if you dig deep enough.

There was a movie of his that I had never seen before until yesterday called “World’s Greatest Dad”. It is a story of a father of a lonely teenager who dies while masturbating. Williams makes it look like a suicide and writes a fake suicide note and subsequent book about his son, supposedly taken from his journal. The book becomes a best-seller and Williams is a celebrity, gets the girl of his dreams (sort of) and appears on an Oprah-esque TV show to talk about the book and has offers to make a movie from the book.

His moment of clarity comes at the end of the movie, when he confesses as the school’s library was to be named in his son’s honor. After his faux-girlfriend dumps him and his students abandon him, he runs out of the room and down the hall, stripping himself naked as he runs to the school’s natatorium and jumps off the seven-meter board into the pool. His voice over is heard to say this:

“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.”

In that way, Nixon was alone too. He never trusted anyone, not even his staff. It was his greatest failing as a President and a man. I was 15 when he resigned from office, a mere teenager finding my way in a world that i’m still trying to figure out 40 years later.

There was one good thing that came out of that summer. ABC had a summer replacement show called “Happy Days,” which starred Ron Howard, Henry Winkler and Tom Bosley. It was the summer’s biggest hit, so much so that it was brought back as a permanent show in January, 1975. Three years later, the show introduced us to a far-out character named “Mork” an alien who landed in Milwaukee and took on the Fonz. He appeared on two episodes and were the two highest rated shows of the season. The actor who played this alien? Robin Williams. Garry Marshall, the producer, saw gold in that character and the rest is history. Good history. So, Nixon, a relic of the past, inadvertently gave us a show set in the past but gave us someone so unique and transcendent not even his sudden death will diminish his accomplishments.

In the meantime, Nixon, along with Hoover, keep digging deep in the ninth level. Nixon, I’m sure, keeps asking “If we keep digging, will we get to China?” No, Dick, you’re just making room for Cheney, Bush and the rest of them.

Oh, the eternal question: Whatever happened to Chuck Cunningham?


The Sum of Our Decsions

August 1, 2014

Yesterday, for the first time in history, Congress sued the President of the United States.

Take in those words carefully. Congress sued the President. Of the United States. Of America.

This is what happens when you have half the country freaked out about a man, dutifully elected twice by very comfortable margins both times (which can’t be said about the guy before him) in both the popular and electoral vote.

This is what happens when you have a President who takes an idea generated by conservatives and passes it into law and then said conservatives start calling it Obamacare. And screaming about “Death Panel’s” and “socialized medicine.”

This is what happens when one side blocks everything this President tries to accomplish. When the world is turned upside down and they start questioning where he was born and the anti-colonial views of his father and grandfather. (Just for the record, Kenya in 1961, was still a British colony)

This is what happens when those who are opposed to the 44th President of the United States compare him to Hitler and Stalin and start calling him a “dictator” or a “tyrant.”

This is what happens when 22% of voters in 2010 vote in the worst Congress in the history of the Republic and then state their number one priority is to make this President a one-term President.

This is what happens when you have a TV “network” devoted entirely to promoting one side of the narrative and cheers when a Democratic member of Congress is shot in 2011.

This is what happens when you allow hate and disrespect in the guise of “free speech.”

This is what happens when you have a son of privilege and wealth, who implemented the same health care system while Governor of Massachusetts, run away from that singular accomplishment while running against this President in 2012.

This is what happens when you have a rigged electoral system whereas Democratic candidates for Congress received almost five million more votes in 2012, but due to gerrymandering following the harry knipshit fit the 22% threw in 2010, the House stayed in Republican control.

This is what happens when the Affordable Care Act is upheld by the Supreme Court, but states are given a choice to opt-out. This is what happens when Congress has a temper tantrum and shuts down the Government over said law being upheld and voting to overturn it 50-plus times.

This is what happens when, over the course of 40 years, our liberties have been slowly eroded, when a college drop-out and failed public relations gofer for the Kansas City Royals becomes a voice for conservative America and a dullard of a man is elected President and begins the attack on unions and poor people by demonizing them as “welfare queens,” or Medicaid abusers.”

This is what happens when we impeached a President over a sexual act (which has nothing to do with “High Crimes and Misdemeanors”) and had a Supreme Court stop a recount of an election, appointing a man ill-prepared for the office.

This what what happens when, in 2008, in a desperate attempt to change the game, the nominee of the Republican Party picks a woman who was never vetted properly or could keep her story straight. Yet today, she is calling for the impeachment of the President. Along with several others.

This is what happens when members of Congress call the President a “tar baby,” scream out “you lie” while giving a speech before a joint session of Congress and who question his legitimacy. Where he is called a coward and a disciple of Saul Alinsky, (who either fixed the 1919 World Series or co-wrote “Do the Loco-Motion”) and Bill Ayres, a 60’s radical who’s now retired from the University of Chicago.

This is what happens when the Speaker of The House proclaims to judge us not by the laws we pass, but how many we stop. In the meantime, our infrastructure is crumbling and nothing gets done.

This is the sum of our decisions. When will we ever make the correct ones?