1/18/19: “The Rick Blog Show” of 12/1/17

1/18/19: “The Rick Blog Show” of 12/1/17

Below is a video of my “show” of 12/1/17. I’ve lost weight since then. The camera angle is inept, but you can view it as an outre art video approach if you are feeling generous.

I never posted this video before. I decided that I just wanted to write, and not perform.

I post it tonight because it is prescient. I was right about everything. I don’t like how the woman piece turned out. I would cut the first half of the immigrant piece.

The show was originally called “The Death of a Nation.” The director coined the title. I didn’t really like his direction. By the time of this performance, I ignored most of it, and regretted what I followed.

I produced the show myself. I am the worst producer in America. My marketing director chastised me for talking about politics at a production meeting. She had a great feel for my material — NOT! She sold zero tickets. When I asked her for an audience count she said she and her husband might make it if they could find a sitter.

A cellist who was to provide musical accompaniment quit. It was no loss. She apparently thought that she was playing my memorial service.

I liked the 19 year-old kid who stage managed and ran the lights — poorly, but he was a good egg.

The audience was a group of invited friends. We had a party afterwards. They were lovely.

I think the main reason I am sharing this is that Paula and I just binge-watched “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which is, well, marvelous. I think it made me nostalgic.

I love this form — just getting up and talking to an audience, but my great weakness and strength, I suppose, is an over-sensitivity. I just can’t take how crass the venues are where this kind of work is done. If I knew of a place where all of this would be welcome, I’d be there in a New York second.

I think I am a better writer today than I was in December 2017, but I think this is pretty good writing.

I consider this the culmination of Phase 1 of “The Rick Blog,” a phase that ended on December 1, 2017.

Copyright 2019 Richard Thomas

The copyright covers the text and the video.

Sigh — all I want to do is live and talk about it.

The director wanted all Trump and no me. He must have been talking to the marketing person. He did send me a video of a terrible comedian. I thank him for the pain.

Copyright 2019 Richard Thomas

 

 

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1/12/19: Why I Write

1/12/19: Why I Write

A thoughtful reader challenged the moral tone of much my writing. Below is his comment and my reply. I thank him for the challenge. I think it inspired my clearest statement regarding why I do what I do.

Reader: Human history has never been about morality. We simply aren’t a very intelligent species. What kind of beings invent bombs that will destroy themselves permanently? Kinda dumb ones. There are billions of planets, some have been in the warm zone for a billion years longer than we have. I hope for the best, or shudder to think what they are like.

Me: As Joyce said (James not Sloane— ha! — in joke for Second City readers) “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” Morality makes an appearance every once in awhile in history, MLK, Gandhi, Havel. Individuals can be moral, which I think is the same as being aware of reality. It’s the reason I chose to be a writer and teacher instead of an entertainer and lawyer, and I think, but I don’t want to speak for you, that you chose to be a musician. Art and real spiritual experience — not bullshit religiosity —-are what really change the world. The competition for material power is stupid and it is what historians write about. Art is the long game. The consciousness of mankind can evolve, just as an individual can transform and grow. It is humbling to have that perspective. It means that I know far from everything and have to always work to be more aware, and also to know whatever change I bring to the collective mind is very, very tiny. It’s the reason I chose to do my writing from a personal perspective and not from an academic one. My writing is simply about my trying to understand the world. It’s all autobiographical, even when I write about politics. When you wrote a comment about the curse of the hick Cheney and the Queens Trump in a limo, I related in a very personal way. I’ve dealt with assholes like that in my life. All that is different is the size of the stage. I want to be a good man because I think that is the smart way to live, best for me and the world in general. Wisdom doesn’t come naturally to me, so I work on it in my writing. I am not making a claim for the writing’s quality, but I honor its goal. The goal of art. Then we leave these notes to each other — written notes, musical notes, paintings whatever and we stumble to perfecting history and touching eternity in the here and now. That’s what I believe, I hope it is for better reasons than simply to keep living my own life with some freedom and meaning, as a tiny speck in the train wreck of history.

But if it is only that, and a conversation with others trying to do the same, it’s enough, I reckon.

Copyright 2019 Richard Thomas

1/7/19: Christian Bale Politics for an Oscar and Sells Tickets for “Vice” — Amoral

1/7/19: Christian Bale Politics for an Oscar and Sells Tickets for “Vice” — Amoral

I would like to drop the subject of the movie “Vice,” but it won’t let me go.

I enjoyed “Vice” as an entertainment, but intuitively disapproved of it.

I now have more evidence for my disapproval.

Bale reportedly told Fox News that he admired Cheney. He said that Cheney was a great husband and father, “with a brain like a vice.” He was selling tickets to conservatives.

At the Golden Globes, Bale compared Cheney to Satan. He was trying to get votes from liberal Oscar voters.

Regular readers will not be surprised to know that I don’t give a damn about “Vice’s” box office take or Christian Bale’s career.

I do give a damn about the people of America and the world.

The subject matter of “Vice” is too important to merely serve the personal ambitions of its creators.

Shame on you, Christian Bale. You are a very talented man. I am sure that you can find a way to be rich and famous without dishonoring the truth.

I have included below my recent entries that discuss “Vice.”

I hope I can drop the subject, but who knows?

A real artist can want money and success for his work. Hell, I do.

But he wouldn’t change a word or brushstroke in order to get it.

Bale, you could be a great artist, but right now you’re just a salesman of questionable ethics. Do better with your enormous talent.

Muddy water pollutes people’s minds.

Here is what I wrote previously about “Vice.” I am sorry that I can feel so certain of what I wrote from insight that is now buttressed by facts. Bale’s contradictory statements before contradictory audiences are admissions of cynicism. If you think he is just an actor and unimportant, you don’t get the power of speaking to people who innocently look to you as an aid to make sense of the world. We all have that responsibility. People who have big stages have the greatest responsibility of all.

1/7/19: Movies in the Time of Trump

I am interested in the movies. Good movies, bad movies, movies, movies that reflect the current collective mind — commonly called “common sense”, movies with insight that lead the common mind to new places, movies that pander to markets of prejudice, movies that exploit human fear and desire …

Movies. I don’t want to make movies. I don’t want to just watch them. I want to talk and write about them.

Movies are documents of our inner world.

And our outer world reflects our inner world.

I am interested in power. More on what I mean below. Power is in the mind.

Movies reflect the consciousness of the world.

And that consciousness determines our fate.

I care nothing for aesthetics. To me an assessment of a movie begins and ends with what the movie says. To focus on the rest is to reward showing off which is just a distraction.

I feel the same way about politics. George H. W. Bush cared about being a good man. The only concern that he had above that was winning. He wanted to govern in a decent and responsible way. His1988 campaign was racist, however — see the Willie Horton ad, and it fostered the rise of the anti-religious right, see the Moral Majority. That tainted the way that he governed. He asked Viet Nam to apologize to America. He executed an unnecessary war, Iraq War I. He wanted to overcome the shame of the American military in that war. Overcome, not deal with … He also didn’t gloat at the fall of Russia and respected our allies. He wrote warm thank you notes, and treated all in his immediate orbit with respect. I could generously assess him as a mediocrity, but I won’t. The presence of a good man makes the world better. Bush did not make the world better. He promoted his namesake son George W., and his Defense Secretary Cheney, and the malevolent and misbegotten modern fanatical Republican party.

George H. W. Bush won office and riches, but he didn’t achieve what he set out to achieve — goodness, the minor to his major. The world is worse off as a result of his victories.

People often think, well — that’s life, and decency mixed with a struggle for power and glory is the best we can do.

People often think wrongly.

We all can do better.

George H. W. Bush was a failure.

I’ll define power now, my personal definition. Power is successfully accomplishing something good.

I’ll grade the movies of the time of Trump that I have seen in this awards season on a pass/fail basis. I’ll use George H. W. Bush as the template for failure.

Vice: Christian Bale’s Golden Globe acceptance speech in which he compared Dick Cheney to Satan, and wondered if Mitch McConnell should be next in line for a political biopic, was better than the movie Vice. And my recent article on Vice was better than Bale’s speech. The movie makes Cheney’s stealthy rise to power look sexy. Phallic bombers soar over Iraq. The movie portrays Cheney as a Citizen Kane, a mystery. The accurate take would have shown him as a cross between Babbitt and Chaplin’s Great Dictator. Vice shows authoritarianism as a point of view instead of the crime that it is. The movie disagrees with Cheney when it should condemn him. There aren’t two legitimate sides on this. FAIL.

Mary Poppins Returns: Set in Depression Era London, the film offers imagination, perseverance, friendship, community, faith in magic, family and another faith in a spiritual security never given by political and economic power structures as the antidote to the condescensions of greed, and class oppression. PASS.

 The Favourite: An examination of the prison of competitive power relationships. One character is redeemed, a George H.W. Bush figure who transcends less than mediocrity and chooses the good for good by seeing the emptiness of winning. A Trump figure lies in her own filthy bed while narcissistically posing with the trappings of political power for its own useless sake. A third character is the rich powerful figure, a Koch brother, Robert Mercer, Sheldon Adelson type, who is beyond having to bother with the work of useless power, but pathetically sets all the objectives motivated by her own petty concerns. A portrait of privileged despair and personal liberation. PASS.

 Roma: A story set in Mexico City in the early 1970s, it is about the United States today. The movie shows how the rise of violence and authoritarianism affects the lives of ordinary people who just want to go to the movies, watch TV, eat good food, celebrate New Year’s Eve, get married and have babies. The price of fascism, paid by the innocent. PASS.

 See you at the movies, even if you aren’t there.

The movies are the common mind and heart.

And mine.

All the writing about Trump and the movies is autobiographical and mirrors the events and feelings in my own private life — events that I sometimes share with you, and sometimes keep to myself.

Copyright 2019 Richard Thomas

12/27/18: Vice

I don’t know why I ever thought that I wanted to be an actor.

I love Amy Adams. She is beautiful. I like her nose. She can play a Disney princess or Lady Macbeth.

I’ll just say it. She never went to college and she is waiting for someone else to tell her what to think. Or if she has a mind of her own, it has limited scope and she is happy to serve someone else’s idea if they are a nice person or the money is good.

It’s so silly that such a big deal is made of Academy Awards because acting is such a powerless occupation.

Amy Adams was at the service of Adam McKay in his movie, “Vice” which is like working for a high school history teacher with flair.

Vice does not reveal one journalistic fact that I didn’t already know. I don’t go to the movies to get my journalistic facts. I go to the movies to get insight, to get some better understanding of what it is to be a human being.

Or (most often) I go for the popcorn and a dark place where I can think my uninterrupted thoughts.

Amy Adams serves Adam McKay’s vision by making it seem wise and plausible.

She makes Vice look like a serious piece of work. It isn’t.

McKay is not a real writer. He is a great showman. He makes things interesting — Vice moves, it’s not a boring movie. It lags a little at the end because showmanship only takes one so far.

McKay never explores what the essence of Dick Cheney is, and since he doesn’t, I wonder what the fuck was I doing there.

Oh yeah. The popcorn and the thoughts.

I’m not really a critic. A critic looks at an external object with detachment. A critical tone is all about the object. With me, it’s all about me. All me, all the time. The world and me are on an even par. I write about my experience of the world. Most of the time, that experience isn’t too dramatic. But my responses are. I’m alive and everything interests me, even boredom as I discussed in my last entry.

I’m no Amy Adams. I’m the one who makes the vision of my world. I don’t serve someone else’s point of view.

I am a decision maker. Or an explorer of the decisions made for me by some divine source that ordained that I am the way I am.

I don’t want to be critical of Adam McKay per se. I am sure he works very hard and he is making good money. A lot of people enjoy his work. Hell, I enjoyed it.  I looked forward to going to see Vice, and I am glad that I went.

I just think that Adam McKay’s vision is not nearly as mature as mine. I don’t think McKay understands Dick Cheney as well as I do. McKay gets distracted by how Cheney does what Cheney does. Mckay doesn’t bother himself with why.

That makes sense too. McKay is an engineer. He has done a lot of stuff. He learned how to direct a movie. That must be hard. He navigated a career and amassed a fair amount of power in his field, just like Cheney did in government. That is hard. A lot of brains. A lot of effort.

McKay opens the movie saying that Cheney didn’t talk much. He listened and never revealed his thoughts. Cheney patiently and stealthily amassed power.

I knew that already. Cheney wanted power and was cunning. He was a master of manipulation of bureaucracy.

Again, my question is why. McKay recites commonly known facts about Cheney: he flunked out of Yale, he got DUIs, his wife gave him direction and purpose.

After reviewing the facts as presented me by McKay in his engaging review of what is known, I conclude — not McKay ‘s conclusion, he really doesn’t have one— that Cheney has lived a life of sublimated despair. The source of evil is negation. Cheney’s intention was to throw his life away as a dropout and a drunk. His wife read him the riot act, and then he threw his life away as a powerful politician and business executive.

I saw Cheney discuss the surgical insertion of a stent into his heart on TV one time. His entire focus was on the procedure. He tellingly did not discuss the emotional or spiritual aspect of facing his mortality. Cheney was born without a soul. He wasn’t a man. He was a monkey wrench.

McKay has a scene in Vice where Lynne and Dick Cheney speak to each other in iambic pentameter. McKay would have been better off trying to be like Shakespeare instead of just making the shallow claim that the Cheney story is Shakespearean.

Check that, let’s leave Shakespeare out of it. There is no comedy or tragedy about Cheney. Nothing human is there.

Cheney was nothing masquerading as a lot. That’s what has been running America for the last forty years. The real story is the nascent life force that is pushing from under a pile of dead bodies to reclaim the world. And that story has nothing to do with Cheney.

I can see why McKay was drawn to Cheney. McKay likes the technical for its own sake too. McKay uses a waiter to explain the Unitary Executive Theory and other abstractions the way he used Margot Robbie in a bathtub to explain concepts of high finance in The Big Short.

Cheney and McKay are both materialists. They admire the thing for its own sake. Making war, making movies.

But if meaning is not given to the thing, the thing is no thing.

“Why ?”is the most practical question.

Cheney hit bottom when his wife told him to stop drinking and make something of himself or she was out of there. That was the turning point of his life. He could have gone inward and found a real purpose. Or he could be distracted by power. He didn’t even consider the possibility of meaning. He wasn’t equipped to do so. Power for 23 million, Alex.

And the rest is history.

McKay gave himself a very tough assignment. How do you make a story about a nullity, a void?

I was criticized by some for my anger when my writing focused on Trump. I am not angry now, but I am proud that I was. Anger was a phase of death, before acceptance. The death was not my own. Trump, and his supporters, and those that can’t be bothered about Trump,  are dead. I was trying to jolt their hearts with paddles and bring them back to life. That was noble in its futility. I had to learn that they were dead already.

Let the dead bury their own dead.

McKay doesn’t want to argue with “conservatives.” He wants to talk with them. He is learning that you can’t get to them. I was the type kid who would stick it in my father’s eye. I never accepted the idea of his authority. McKay was the type kid who liked to please his father. That’s why McKay’s work gets money, power and awards.

And why he walks on eggshells instead of getting to the point.

I fought the dead. McKay romances the dead.

I’m now free.

Freedom is better than money, power and awards.

I am not being competitive.

I used to envy people like McKay, a long time ago.

I used to rage at people like Cheney, a lot more recently.

I have learned that the powers that be only reward what serves their morbid concrete ends.

And the answer to Cheney, Trump and the Boss in all of his forms, is to live in the real world not the worlds of their escapist visions because their egos think God’s creation isn’t good enough.

And that the ultimate reward one bestows upon oneself — the right to life — life as an important thing to care for and participate in, not to use and destroy because you stupidly think life’s not worth it.

Hollywood and The Unitary Executive Theory are abstractions and distractions. Life is the stuff of poetry, and poetry in its broadest sense is what gives meaning to my life.

I live my life with meaning and I tell you about it.

I’ve come to a humble place. And all the grand places that I thought were so important are pathetic.

You see Dick Cheney, and Adam McKay and Amy Adams, and me, of course, the dramatic personae of this little exercise are all me, of course. And I thank God for my frustration.

I escaped the prison of being an actor, whoring (sorry Amy) my gifts for others’ worthless schemes; I escaped the prison of power — amassing money and power through the exploitation and manufacture of suffering; I’ve escaped the prison of commercial art, restricting my depth of feeling to the outer edges of popularity, sacrificing my meaning to the sensation of technical mastery for its own sake.

On the local PBS show, “Check Please,” people from all walks of life get to be food critics. They review Chicago restaurants.

I’d rather hear the story of what happened at the restaurant, the alchemy of the person and the world. I don’t care about what those people like or dislike.

But then again, they are real estate agents and such. I’m the writer. So I do that part.

The alchemy, I mean.

The real writer.

Ha!

Copyright 2018 Richard Thomas

Postscript:

A friend of mine, who has been very supportive of my writing and sincerely wishes me the best commented about this piece on Facebook. Here is his comment and my reply.

Bill: I get all of this, but first and foremost, the guy’s gotta get asses in the seats. I think the quote was merely Hollywood PR.

My reply: Bill, I love you and I respect your point of view. I have a different “first and foremost.”

Bale said on Fox that Cheney was a good family man. Cheney betrayed his lesbian daughter to help his straight daughter win an election. Raw power trumped family for Cheney.

Bale said Cheney had a vice like mind. Cheney is a war criminal. The war was a disaster in every way. Like all criminals, Cheney is stupid. He made money by killing hundreds of thousands of people. He made money like all thugs make money. That’s cunning, not brains.

My “first and foremost” is searching for truth — that’s what artists do. I listed several movies that are doing big box office, getting awards and telling the truth.

Bale hypocritically called Cheney Satan to impress liberal Oscar voters. He misrepresented the movie as a condemnation of Cheney, which it is not. Bale puts his personal ambition ahead of the truth. The truth is more important than Hollywood PR. What good are asses in the seats if there is an asshole on the stage? Bale is an entertainer who could be a great artist — something much better!

I would love money and popularity, but I wouldn’t compromise a word to get it. And I would never misrepresent my work, because the misrepresentation becomes part of the work. Like I say in the piece, all my writing is autobiographical. The piece isn’t about Bale. It’s about me. I disdain his choice. I would never do it. I didn’t write it to criticize Bale. I admire what a trooper you are, and I love you for wishing me success. I thank you for your friendship. But I’m playing a different game. Best to your son. He has a great father.

Copyright 2019 Richard Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

1/7/19: Movies in the Time of Trump

1/7/19: Movies in the Time of Trump

I am interested in the movies. Good movies, bad movies, movies, movies that reflect the current collective mind — commonly called “common sense”, movies with insight that lead the common mind to new places, movies that pander to markets of prejudice, movies that exploit human fear and desire …

Movies. I don’t want to make movies. I don’t want to just watch them. I want to talk and write about them.

Movies are documents of our inner world.

And our outer world reflects our inner world.

I am interested in power. More on what I mean below. Power is in the mind.

Movies reflect the consciousness of the world.

And that consciousness determines our fate.

I care nothing for aesthetics. To me an assessment of a movie begins and ends with what the movie says. To focus on the rest is to reward showing off which is just a distraction.

I feel the same way about politics. George H. W. Bush cared about being a good man. The only concern that he had above that was winning. He wanted to govern in a decent and responsible way. His1988 campaign was racist, however — see the Willie Horton ad, and it fostered the rise of the anti-religious right, see the Moral Majority. That tainted the way that he governed. He asked Viet Nam to apologize to America. He executed an unnecessary war, Iraq War I. He wanted to overcome the shame of the American military in that war. Overcome, not deal with … He also didn’t gloat at the fall of Russia and respected our allies. He wrote warm thank you notes, and treated all in his immediate orbit with respect. I could generously assess him as a mediocrity, but I won’t. The presence of a good man makes the world better. Bush did not make the world better. He promoted his namesake son George W., and his Defense Secretary Cheney, and the malevolent and misbegotten modern fanatical Republican party.

George H. W. Bush won office and riches, but he didn’t achieve what he set out to achieve — goodness, the minor to his major. The world is worse off as a result of his victories.

People often think, well — that’s life, and decency mixed with a struggle for power and glory is the best we can do.

People often think wrongly.

We all can do better.

George H. W. Bush was a failure.

I’ll define power now, my personal definition. Power is successfully accomplishing something good.

I’ll grade the movies of the time of Trump that I have seen in this awards season on a pass/fail basis. I’ll use George H. W. Bush as the template for failure.

Vice: Christian Bale’s Golden Globe acceptance speech in which he compared Dick Cheney to Satan, and wondered if Mitch McConnell should be next in line for a political biopic, was better than the movie Vice. And my recent article on Vice was better than Bale’s speech. The movie makes Cheney’s stealthy rise to power look sexy. Phallic bombers soar over Iraq. The movie portrays Cheney as a Citizen Kane, a mystery. The accurate take would have shown him as a cross between Babbitt and Chaplin’s Great Dictator. Vice shows authoritarianism as a point of view instead of the crime that it is. The movie disagrees with Cheney when it should condemn him. There aren’t two legitimate sides on this. FAIL.

Mary Poppins Returns: Set in Depression Era London, the film offers imagination, perseverance, friendship, community, faith in magic, family and another faith in a spiritual security never given by political and economic power structures as the antidote to the condescensions of greed, and class oppression. PASS.

 The Favourite: An examination of the prison of competitive power relationships. One character is redeemed, a George H.W. Bush figure who transcends less than mediocrity and chooses the good for good by seeing the emptiness of winning. A Trump figure lies in her own filthy bed while narcissitically posing with the trappings of political power for its own useless sake. A third character is the rich powerful figure, a Koch brother, Robert Mercer, Sheldon Adelson type, who is beyond having to bother with the work of useless power, but pathetically sets all the objectives motivated by her own petty concerns. A portrait of privileged despair and personal liberation. PASS.

 Roma: A story set in Mexico City in the early 1970s, it is about the United States today. The movie shows how the rise of violence and authoritarianism affects the lives of ordinary people who just want to go to the movies, watch TV, eat good food, celebrate New Year’s Eve, get married and have babies. The price of fascism, paid by the innocent. PASS.

 See you at the movies, even if you aren’t there.

The movies are the common mind and heart.

And mine.

All the writing about Trump and the movies is autobiographical and mirrors the events and feelings in my own private life — events that I sometimes share with you, and sometimes keep to myself.

Copyright 2019 Richard Thomas

1/4/19: Impeach the Motherf—er! a Poem

1/4/19: Impeach the Motherfucker!

A poem by Richard Thomas, J.D., attorney, writer, college professor and not your fucking coffee boy you miserable condescending cowardly pricks

Civility has its limits.
The racist tyrants are offended. It’s part of their M.O.
The Muslim Ban was a false accusation on a grand and global scale.
The act of a mob of racist motherfuckers.
Bullies are fundamentally insecure.
So they mock and condescend, and abuse and if allowed to keep going — kill.
To feel superior.
To fill the void created by their ignorance and fear.
Then, when the people they want to oppress stand up to them with equality
An expression of equality that is angry in the face of the bullies insults, grifts, thefts and beatings
The bully lectures the potentially oppressed person on his or her professionalism or civility.
The bully is shocked, shocked that someone would be so mean to them.
It’s just a ruse to control their targets for victimhood when they are called on their bullshit.
I have lost more than one job by telling the boss to fuck off.
In each case the boss made a deal with me and broke his word.
In each case, the boss ridiculed me mercilessly until I finally had enough.
In each case, the boss refused to recognize what I had accomplished.
I learned to recognize myself.
The Muslim-American congressperson recognizes herself too.
She is as American as Trump or his white nationalist base.
She actually won an election.
She wants to create and solve problems, not scapegoat groups of people to steal money and power.
Impeach the motherfucker!
The words are an assertion of equality.
I used to worry about the recognition of others.
That was a weakness the bullies exploited.
I recognize myself.
I am proud of myself and my accomplishments: improviser, writer, lawyer, college professor.
Italian-American, Catholic, seasoned …
And human.
And worthy of respect.
Impeach the motherfucker!
All men are created equal.
And lock him up!
To steal one of their lines
Except we have evidence
Have you ever watched a Chicago cop arrest someone?
It’s not too civil.
We are a few steps from civility.
Let’s get the criminals in jail first.
Then shame the people who offend the Judaeo-Christian and any other legitimate religious tradition and trash our culture
while claiming moral superiority.
Then let’s make things fair and just.
Take care of the weak
Make sure that everyone who deserves it gets paid.
Justice and dignity now.
Civility later.
Impeach the motherfucker.
Destroy the current Republican Party of 2019, which has done nothing fair or good.
Jail the motherfuckers.
Shame the motherfuckers.
Drive the toxic fucking words that demean and belittle us from our brains.
Stand up with our shoulders back.
Fuck them!
We don’t have to get along with them.
We have to put them in their place.
Civility comes later.
We have to be kinder and fairer to them than they ever were to us
After our equality is clear to all involved.
Copyright 2019 Richard Thomas

1/1/2019: Why People Support Trump

1/1/2019: Why People Support Trump

Another email to my college roommates (in the same stream):

Wow. I agree with all of that, Jim. You went into the particulars.

I think that the support of Trump is immoral. Period. That is my rejoinder to a thrust of your rejoinder.

Whatever the rationale: right wing judges, screwed by the elites —- justifiable feelings or not —- it’s immoral. It’s overused but true. It is the same psychology as what happened when Hitler rose in Germany. Anyone who voted for Trump after seeing a minute of a Trump rally in 2016 made an immoral decision.

The dirty little secret is that the middle American religion of “hard work” “tough on crime” “blame the poor for being poor” “rich people are rewarded by God” “The Bible is a users manual to be read literally” and on and on has created a lousy, mean-spirited culture. Oh add ignorant too.

I feel like an abolitionist at the time of the Civil War. I’m sick of the con that this evil is a political point of view to be debated and compromised with. It’s evil.

“Conservatives” (not really what they are) are selfish. Full stop. They worry about their money at the expense of children, the old, the sick, anybody in trouble, anyone with a problem. Jack Kemp wasn’t like that. A government program v an enterprise zone is a debate. “The weak can go fuck themselves” is an abomination.

Whether solutions are in the private sector or the government, in a democracy they would still be controlled by the people. People pass the laws of incorporation. People indirectly make the laws. At least in theory. Businesses should be regulated —- justly. The government should have checks and balances and oversight. I don’t see a difference. I lean to government answers because the individual generally gets more respect there because they have a vote. In theory. The idea that the boss with the most money should call the shots is anti-democratic and therefore anti-American.

The boss takes your work, your education and skills and then pushes you around? God made us equal. A good boss, business or govt or anything else sees the dignity of every person.

Trump supporters want to dominate. They could give a fuck about God or equality. They think it’s all bullshit. Their “arguments” are designed to get power for themselves, not to get things clear or right.

Republicans like to talk about results. They — and corporate Democrats have run things since 1980. Everything is worse. Sounds like an overstatement. Not really.people are less prosperous, less safe. Environment is in crisis. On and on.

I completely agree with Jim. The big question is how people can support this evil — my word not Jim’s.

I personally relate. My life took a detour with right wing Christians and bullying right-wing business people a long time ago. I was just looking for a job and I wound up in that cesspool. I was naive. I had to learn the difference between decent business people and the assholes, and find public sector progressives.

And I had to learn to protect myself and get as far away from the right wingers as I can. And whenever they cross my path, I still do. (Sometimes they masquerade as progressives. There are bullies at the University of Chicago. And there are people who say they are progressive who secretly cheer him. An asshole prof at UIC whispered after Trump’s election, “Good, they can’t govern themselves.” He taught a diverse population for 30 years as a closet racist.)

I also make sure that my words and deeds have nothing in common with them.

You can’t compromise with evil.

Can’t debate it either.

I get in trouble for this all the time, but Trump is in office because there are a lot of really shitty people in this country. And they are shitty in the way they conduct themselves in everything, not just their vote.

There are a lot of good people too and I am on the constant look out for them.

A lot of people support Trump because a lot of people are assholes.

Eventually, they will self-destruct. The shit of it is, how much damage will we have to endure?

That fascist child abuse and murder on our border is the type thing that if a person is OK with it, there is something seriously wrong with them. How can a decent person support a govt that does such things and brags about it? I know it’s not new for the govt to do such things, I’m saying it is now so obvious how wrong it is even if someone isn’t paying attention.

I think the problem is moral. All I can figure out to do about it is be different —- they make me want to be the best man I can be, create the alternative, and confront and oppose them whenever I have the power.

Nothing to do with politics ultimately.

Rick

Copyright 2018 Richard Thomas

12/31/18: New Years’s Email to College Roommates

12/31/18: New Years’s Email to College Roommates

This is such a thoughtful conversation. I really appreciate it.

Jim, for what it is worth, I think it’s great that you are passionate about ND football. I have my passions too. I don’t think life has any meaning. I think we give it meaning. I enjoyed becoming a slightly more sophisticated college football viewer listening to you here.

Bob, I love how you examine all the seemingly small choices and transactions of daily, ordinary and mundane life. It’s kind of poetic. You have an unassuming spirituality that feeds others’ souls.

We shared predictions on Trump’s fate. I hear Jim’s depression related to Trump’s existence and it’s awakened my own. It grounds me.

I don’t know what will happen re Trump. Cancel my optimism.

Here’s what I know. If the rule of law holds, he will go to jail. He is a major criminal. A criminal complaint against him would have multiple counts. I’ve done a few prosecutorial investigations and this guy is filth. I won’t list everything here — it’s too much. But if you combined Gotti’s counts, Nixon’s counts and the counts against treasonous CIA double agent spies in the 80s, you get Trump. He should depress. He is too horrible to think about.

The question is will the rule of law prevail. Has it ever? Are we just run by criminals with money and influence? Has that always been so?

If democracy holds, Trump won’t survive his term. But are we a democracy? It’s an important question. People are dying because of this evil, the way that they always have. Will money and lying public relations thought control deny us the country that we want?

As to ND, and any other community I’ve ever been a nominal part of, I’ve always loved individuals —- like you guys —- and never loved the community or institution as a whole. That says a lot more about me than ND. I get no pleasure out of belonging to things or identifying with them. I’m kind of a wanderer. I want to figure out and experience life on my own terms. I always feel like groups interfere with that.

Maybe, that is why I like to write. I kind of create my own community —- one where people don’t have to think alike or cheer, cheer.

My passions are democracy, the rule of law, education and art. I wonder if they are all abstractions. I guess they are, and if my life is the futile attempt to make them real, I guess I have to take it. No choice.

I’ll tell you this. I completely reject the pursuit of money, power and status. They are empty pursuits, and worse, their pursuit hurts other people.

I love you, guys. You are a combination of friends and family. There is a kind of intimacy with you that time and distance can’t erode.

Rick

Copyright 2018 Richard Thomas

12/27/18: Vice

12/27/18: Vice

I don’t know why I ever thought that I wanted to be an actor.

I love Amy Adams. She is beautiful. I like her nose. She can play a Disney princess or Lady Macbeth.

I’ll just say it. She never went to college and she is waiting for someone else to tell her what to think. Or if she has a mind of her own, it has limited scope and she is happy to serve someone else’s idea if they are a nice person or the money is good.

It’s so silly that such a big deal is made of Academy Awards because acting is such a powerless occupation.

Amy Adams was at the service of Adam McKay in his movie, “Vice” which is like working for a high school history teacher with flair.

Vice does not reveal one journalistic fact that I didn’t already know. I don’t go to the movies to get my journalistic facts. I go to the movies to get insight, to get some better understanding of what it is to be a human being.

Or (most often) I go for the popcorn and a dark place where I can think my uninterrupted thoughts.

Amy Adams serves Adam McKay’s vision by making it seem wise and plausible.

She makes Vice look like a serious piece of work. It isn’t.

McKay is not a real writer. He is a great showman. He makes things interesting — Vice moves, it’s not a boring movie. It lags a little at the end because showmanship only takes one so far.

McKay never explores what the essence of Dick Cheney is, and since he doesn’t, I wonder what the fuck was I doing there.

Oh yeah. The popcorn and the thoughts.

I’m not really a critic. A critic looks at an external object with detachment. A critical tone is all about the object. With me, it’s all about me. All me, all the time. The world and me are on an even par. I write about my experience of the world. Most of the time, that experience isn’t too dramatic. But my responses are. I’m alive and everything interests me, even boredom as I discussed in my last entry.

I’m no Amy Adams. I’m the one who makes the vision of my world. I don’t serve someone else’s point of view.

I am a decision maker. Or an explorer of the decisions made for me by some divine source that ordained that I am the way I am.

I don’t want to be critical of Adam McKay per se. I am sure he works very hard and he is making good money. A lot of people enjoy his work. Hell, I enjoyed it.  I looked forward to going to see Vice, and I am glad that I went.

I just think that Adam McKay’s vision is not nearly as mature as mine. I don’t think McKay understands Dick Cheney as well as I do. McKay gets distracted by how Cheney does what Cheney does. Mckay doesn’t bother himself with why.

That makes sense too. McKay is an engineer. He has done a lot of stuff. He learned how to direct a movie. That must be hard. He navigated a career and amassed a fair amount of power in his field, just like Cheney did in government. That is hard. A lot of brains. A lot of effort.

McKay opens the movie saying that Cheney didn’t talk much. He listened and never revealed his thoughts. Cheney patiently and stealthily amassed power.

I knew that already. Cheney wanted power and was cunning. He was a master of manipulation of bureaucracy.

Again, my question is why. McKay recites commonly known facts about Cheney: he flunked out of Yale, he got DUIs, his wife gave him direction and purpose.

After reviewing the facts as presented me by McKay in his engaging review of what is known, I conclude — not McKay ‘s conclusion, he really doesn’t have one— that Cheney has lived a life of sublimated despair. The source of evil is negation. Cheney’s intention was to throw his life away as a dropout and a drunk. His wife read him the riot act, and then he threw his life away as a powerful politician and business executive.

I saw Cheney discuss the surgical insertion of a stent into his heart on TV one time. His entire focus was on the procedure. He tellingly did not discuss the emotional or spiritual aspect of facing his mortality. Cheney was born without a soul. He wasn’t a man. He was a monkey wrench.

McKay has a scene in Vice where Lynne and Dick Cheney speak to each other in iambic pentameter. McKay would have been better off trying to be like Shakespeare instead of just making the shallow claim that the Cheney story is Shakespearean.

Check that, let’s leave Shakespeare out of it. There is no comedy or tragedy about Cheney. Nothing human is there.

Cheney was nothing masquerading as a lot. That’s what has been running America for the last forty years. The real story is the nascent life force that is pushing from under a pile of dead bodies to reclaim the world. And that story has nothing to do with Cheney.

I can see why McKay was drawn to Cheney. McKay likes the technical for its own sake too. McKay uses a waiter to explain the Unitary Executive Theory and other abstractions the way he used Margot Robbie in a bathtub to explain concepts of high finance in The Big Short.

Cheney and McKay are both materialists. They admire the thing for its own sake. Making war, making movies.

But if meaning is not given to the thing, the thing is no thing.

“Why ?”is the most practical question.

Cheney hit bottom when his wife told him to stop drinking and make something of himself or she was out of there. That was the turning point of his life. He could have gone inward and found a real purpose. Or he could be distracted by power. He didn’t even consider the possibility of meaning. He wasn’t equipped to do so. Power for 23 million, Alex.

And the rest is history.

McKay gave himself a very tough assignment. How do you make a story about a nullity, a void?

I was criticized by some for my anger when my writing focused on Trump. I am not angry now, but I am proud that I was. Anger was a phase of death, before acceptance. The death was not my own. Trump, and his supporters, and those that can’t be bothered about Trump,  are dead. I was trying to jolt their hearts with paddles and bring them back to life. That was noble in its futility. I had to learn that they were dead already.

Let the dead bury their own dead.

McKay doesn’t want to argue with “conservatives.” He wants to talk with them. He is learning that you can’t get to them. I was the type kid who would stick it in my father’s eye. I never accepted the idea of his authority. McKay was the type kid who liked to please his father. That’s why McKay’s work gets money, power and awards.

And why he walks on eggshells instead of getting to the point.

I fought the dead. McKay romances the dead.

I’m now free.

Freedom is better than money, power and awards.

I am not being competitive.

I used to envy people like McKay, a long time ago.

I used to rage at people like Cheney, a lot more recently.

I have learned that the powers that be only reward what serves their morbid concrete ends.

And the answer to Cheney, Trump and the Boss in all of his forms, is to live in the real world not the worlds of their escapist visions because their egos think God’s creation isn’t good enough.

And that the ultimate reward one bestows upon oneself — the right to life — life as an important thing to care for and participate in, not to use and destroy because you stupidly think life’s not worth it.

Hollywood and The Unitary Executive Theory are abstractions and distractions. Life is the stuff of poetry, and poetry in its broadest sense is what gives meaning to my life.

I live my life with meaning and I tell you about it.

I’ve come to a humble place. And all the grand places that I thought were so important are pathetic.

You see Dick Cheney, and Adam McKay and Amy Adams, and me, of course, the dramatic personae of this little exercise are all me, of course. And I thank God for my frustration.

I escaped the prison of being an actor, whoring (sorry Amy) my gifts for others’ worthless schemes; I escaped the prison of power — amassing money and power through the exploitation and manufacture of suffering; I’ve escaped the prison of commercial art, restricting my depth of feeling to the outer edges of popularity, sacrificing my meaning to the sensation of technical mastery for its own sake.

On the local PBS show, “Check Please,” people from all walks of life get to be food critics. They review Chicago restaurants.

I’d rather hear the story of what happened at the restaurant, the alchemy of the person and the world. I don’t care about what those people like or dislike.

But then again, they are real estate agents and such. I’m the writer. So I do that part.

The alchemy, I mean.

The real writer.

Ha!

Copyright 2018 Richard Thomas

 

 

 

12/25/18: The Point of Distraction : Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen Degeneres, Norman Lear, Joseph Campbell and “The Favourite”

12/25/18: The Point of Distraction : Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen Degeneres, Norman Lear, Joseph Campbell and “The Favourite”

I was waiting for the Bears game to come on, a West Coast away affair with a 3 o’clock start. I live in a waiting room in an old hospital, a mortal in a good health phase.

It was the Sunday before Christmas, and even Trump needs a breather from Trump. For me, every day is the Sunday before Christmas. Who wants to do anything? Once you’ve done one thing, you’ve done them all. When my Uncle Fred died in the 1980s, his last words were about ice cream.

Nothing was on TV. MSNBC featured 24 hours of This Year in the Apocalypse in Review. HGTV broadcast it’s one show with different hosts discussing open floor plans and mid-century modern furniture.

Boredom is a gift. It beats the hell out of terror, resentment, imprisonment and rage.

The shopping, the laundry and the dishes were done. The escape routes of mundane necessity were closed.

Netflix is a library of things to watch when bored, a last resort. I studied the virtual shelves of shows in a virtual coma. Ecclesiastes personified, nothing is new seemingly under the sun.

I came upon, after several minutes of restless searching, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” three things that still mildly arouse something in me resembling interest. The star of the show is Jerry Seinfeld who did the show about nothing. Seinfeld’s guest is the comedian, Brian Regan. Seinfeld has matured since he did the show about nothing. He is now bored with shows and talking about nothing.

Seinfeld turned to Regan and laid out the theme of the show that they were doing  now that disinterested him.

“People talk to each other all the time. All they do is get together and talk. And then, they turn on TV and watch other people talk to each other. Why? What’s the point?”

Seinfeld’s question would be provocative if anyone gave a shit, but no one does. Fittingly, Seinfeld and Regan didn’t bother to explore the question further. They just had a conversation and I watched it. Samuel Beckett has nothing on Jerry Seinfeld.

When someone tells me to shut up, I hear them say drop dead. I talk therefore I am.

Freud said that when nothing is going on, everything is going on. If he was right, and I think he was, I was bathing in the font of human history on the Sunday before Christmas.

Action and activity are not synonyms.

Earlier in the day — in the middle of the night at that time when it could be Saturday or it could be Sunday — I watched another Netflix show about nothing “Just Another Version of You” — an almost honest look at Norman Lear, told mostly in his own words.

What makes the talk of distraction good? The listener.

The truth of the matter is what matters. Lear wants to justify his life, and there is a lot of evidence to put up a good defense. “All in the Family” was great popular art on early 1970s commercial television. That is a powerful Exhibit A. He was a good storyteller. I’m a fan of Norman Lear. But he said his marriage failed because he worked too hard and neglected his family. He said his first wife wound up in a mental hospital because she was a manic depressive. I’m no psychiatrist, but I know that other people drive people crazy. too

Sometimes people break their legs because they have osteoporosis. Sometimes they are run over by distracted drivers. And sometimes they are intentionally tripped.

Was Lear a womanizer? A bully? A control freak? A sweet man who lost sight of something important? An exile from the home of a mad wife? How would I know? He spends a lot of time talking about workplace politics on the set of “Good Times” and rushes past the one paragraph most tantalizingly potentially revealing about what kind of man he might be.

Jill Soloway told Ari Melber that the artist’s transparency is an act of self-hatred. Only someone who hates herself would tell all. That’s not my experience. Pain leads to the best art, but isn’t the art itself. Art burns the pain away.

I’ve never been burdened by secrets however. I’m a naïve person who lays it all out there to whoever is around. Sometimes I am rewarded, but most often I am punished. I usually retreat into a period of convalescence from the wounds of my intimate folly with untrustworthy partners, and emerge a little less naïve and more discerning of with whom I share my next boring distraction.

I’m a sinner like everyone else, but I haven’t lived a life of sin. I’ve hurt people, but never as much as I have hurt myself. I have had the good fortune of being loved, so I have never seen myself as unlovable — particularly by myself.

I am outraged when someone doesn’t love me, since like a puppy I am all too willing to love them. Art makes me feel like incorrigible fool — an idiot really — but I don’t hate fools or morons.

I think the whole process is kind of noble.

Love is a choice. Anger is not a hateful feeling. The hateful feeling is indifference.

The world is not boring because there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes was wrong.

The old world is boring at times because new worlds arrive after periods of gestation.

I wondered whether to write about my boredom at all. But now I see the point. Boredom is interesting. I write about that which I don’t know, and in so doing I come to know it.

A little.

Boredom is the time of grace when injury is explained. Lear provides tears and regret that belie a decent guilt of some kind. Is he blaming himself or is he to blame? My enquiring mind wants to know because that might resonate within me and hint toward the purpose of the boredom of this moment of my life.

But the question ultimately leads to the resonance. The answers won’t come from Lear, they only come from my contemplation of Lear. It is up to me to find meaning for me in an experience, even the viewing of a mediocre video memoir.

And you thought I was writing about Norman Lear!

And I thought you read my words because you were interested in me!

You selfish human bastards!

Boredom gives the illusion that there is no past or future. It also heightens the reality that there is no past or future. A paradox! The past buried or denied is not past at all. In boredom we distract ourselves with ourselves. The people that we listen to on TV or across the dining room table are mirrors that reflect upon our own souls. If the truth of the matter is not fully expressed in that which we view, we can still go to deeper realms in the manner in which we view it.

At least I can.

Lear is just another version of me, I just can see more of both versions than he is willing or able to talk about.

 Paula suggested that we watch the Ellen Degeneres Netflix special “Relatable.”

I was surprised how much I related. She gets pissed off at bad drivers in exactly the same way that I do!

Ellen says that feels trapped by being nice. I gave up being nice a long time ago. She made a fortune being nice. Oh how the gilded caged bird sings! She says that she started out writing journals and poetry. Then she had the epiphany that she would be the first woman comic that Johnny Carson would invite to talk to him on the couch. She quit the journalling. She shows the “Tonight” show first appearance clip in “Relatable.” She presents her success with Carson as the peak moment of her life. I can relate except I chose the poetry and the journals to be the peak, and never aspired to be more than an audience with Johnny Carson.

Is Jill Soloway condemned to self-hatred because audiences like to gawk at car wrecks? Is Ellen Degeneres constrained from telling all because people applaud what is nice? I have no idea. I just know that I would feel those ways if I were them.

My reward for my choices is self-satisfaction, occasional sincere connection, self-love, a world that often seems skeptical of me (at best) and obscurity.

Deal!

(I am breaking my exclamation point record in a piece about boredom!)

I used to admire Joseph Campbell. So I re-watched some of the old “Power of Myth” show with Bill Moyers on Netflix too. When I read most of what Campbell wrote in the 80s, I read for answers. In my boredom in 2018, I could see that Campbell was just a writer telling his personal story. He swoons at the Cathedral at Chartres, not me. Campbell says that we are all heroes living out the same quest in different ways. He says we just need to understand the thread that will lead us to a full and conscious experience of life. He says, in so many words, that he is a cartographer that provides a map of the way. He even calls one of his books, or maybe it’s a collection of books, an “atlas.”

I now think that Campbell is right about a universality of human experience. Of course, the way is the same for everyone but inflected by our individuality. Connection with another human being wouldn’t be possible if that wasn’t true.

But I don’t personally believe in Campbell’s maps, true as they may be. I think you have to write your own myths. The whole process is blown if you know where you are going. If you don’t figure it out yourself, you can never bring the “boon” back to the world that Campbell says that all heroes provide.

We are comedians in cars getting coffee. Experiencing life and telling one another our monologues. We are really intelligent dogs sitting next to our masters, and masters sitting next to our dogs. Different species living solitary and mysterious existences enjoying the companionship of one another in our waking hours, and thrown down into our particular dreams when we sleep.

Once someone told me to shut up. I kept talking. He fired me. His last words to me were, “You’ve been heard.”

Ha!

Which brings me to the last talk that filled the inert boredom of the holiday weekend.

This porridge was just right.

I went to the movies on the morning of Friday, December 21, 2018. I saw “The Favourite.”

Queen Anne was pathetic, clinically depressed — she had 17 babies either miscarry or die shortly after birth, obese, suffering from chronic gout, insecure, prone to temper tantrums and totally and covertly in charge. Anne possessed people in a sick way without them knowing it. She used people while they mistakenly believed that they were using her.

Lady Sarah was Anne’s lover. Sarah was a serious person interested in affairs of state. She cared for Anne, and also used her relationship with the Queen to exert power and influence.

Abigail was a former lady who fell on hard times. She was beaten down by the world and resolved to kill rather than be killed. She cared for no one but herself. Abigail wanted privilege rather than power and influence. Sarah, who was Abigail’s cousin, naively got Abigail a job in service to the Queen. Abigail became Anne’s lover.

A great line in the movie is delivered by Anne to Sarah as she coldly sends her away: “I like it when she (Abigail) puts her tongue in me.”

Abigail lies to Anne about Sarah and Anne banishes Sarah from the court for good. Before Abigail “wins” the power struggle, Sarah warns Anne about Abigail’s true nature. Anne doesn’t believe Sarah. Abigail, on the other hand, provides Anne falsified evidence when she gets rid of her rival.

Abigail flaunts her victory over Sarah, and Sarah replies, “You think you’ve won? We were not competing for the same thing.”

Anne keeps 17 rabbits in her chamber. They represent her dead children. One day she sees Abigail torturing a bunny with the heel of her shoe. In that moment she realizes that Sarah was right about Abigail. Anne sees Abigail’s meanness once and for all. Anne commands Abigail to come and have sex with her in an uncomfortable position.

Anne likes Abigail’s tongue in her after all.

A friend recently made this observation about competitive betrayal in petty power struggles: “The ‘winners’ get to lie in their own bed.”

I didn’t understand what he meant until I saw”The Favourite.”

The house always really wins.

I’d rather be in Sarah’s shoes than Abigail’s. Sarah could start over based upon who she was, not what happened. Abigail was stuck.

Sarah’s mistake was in thinking she could win her game with the house as her patron. Sarah learned. Abigail’s mistake was thinking that the favor of the house would bring freedom when in fact it made her a concubine.

Anne’s mistake was in self-hatred and giving up on love, and replacing love with exploitative possessiveness.

I think I just came upon a theory as to the motive of the mass murderer who killed so many people in Las Vegas this summer. No one has been able to figure out why he did it. He was a financially successful man. He was a successful gambler.

Maybe his problem was that he won, but he was still in Vegas.  He had to put his tongue in Vegas whenever Vegas beckoned him whether he felt like it or not.

He wanted to kill Vegas in a murder-suicide, and damn near pulled it off.

Maybe he should have just moved somewhere more boring.

Copyright 2018 Richard Thomas

12/20/18: David Shepherd and Improvisational Writing; Barr Might Not Be So Bad as Attorney General

12/20/18: David Shepherd and Improvisational Writing; Barr Might Not Be So Bad as Attorney General

In my last entry, I discussed how David Shepherd, who recently passed away, is the unacknowledged founder of Second City. I was told that he was not included in the infamous panel of founders at that theater’s  40th anniversary because he was a founder of the Compass, Second City’s precursor. That is nonsense. The idea behind the Compass was the same idea behind Second City — non-actors creating an immediate theater that reflected their lives. David Shepherd came up with the what. Paul Sills came up with the how, taking his mother, Viola Spolin’s, school of acting to new professional and artistic heights.

David and Paul also informed this very old and modern art form by who they were — social, political, artistic. Everything Second City ever did was in a tradition that David and Paul initiated. And David was the ignition point.

I have no agenda here except the truth. There are many people who worked with both David and Paul more than I did. There are many people who knew them better. But I worked with both of them. They both liked me. They both thought I was a good improviser. They were both very open and I talked to them about the art form and its inception.

I have a distaste for what I would call “The Second City Eulogy.” This is where someone speaks about a luminary of Second City when they die to show off how close they were to the person, and as an opportunity to perform in front of their peers.

I actually don’t know what David, or particularly Paul, would think of my writing here and I what I have done and am doing with my life in general. In a very real way, I don’t care. I loved them. I learned a lot from them. But it was a long time ago, and I am creating an art of my own.

I think the failure of the improvisation community to recognize David as fully as he honestly deserves points to a general aspect of the human condition. Everyone wants credit, to be “the one”. I’ve spent too much of my life resenting not getting credit for various things I’ve done. I don’t feel that way anymore. The older I get, the simpler things get. The truth is all that matters. Who gives a shit what people think? What is is what is.

Fact: David Shepherd had the idea that led to Second City’s glory. Second City’s less glorious moments over the years can all be attributed to betrayals or ignorance regarding that idea.

He also gave something specifically to me, and others who work in my form. A few years ago I attended the Iowa Summer Writing Workshop. The experience was unremarkable. There was all of this talk about aesthetics which I found to be a waste of time. A few months after I returned I came across an article by David titled “Improvisational Writing”, that David’s dear friend, Michael Golding, posted on Facebook. That made sense to me. It was then that I knew what my form is.

The most important aspect of David’s article for me was the title: “Improvisational Writing.” I’ll tell you what it means to me: an improvisational writer lives his or her life. They think and feel. They write it down. They follow where their impulses take them and they shape it as they go along. They aren’t too concerned with rules of making a who, what and where. They just report it. Like great improvisational acting, great improvisational writing is deep, substantive, immediate, personal and connected to the greater world. It doesn’t worry about genre or rules. It is determined by what is real in the moment. It is democratic. There is nothing precious or elite about it.

Improvisational writing, and acting too, are the thinnest of art forms. They are the closest to simple personhood and simple community. Like Paul Sills’ bare Second City stage —- six people, a light and six chairs makes a theater —- improvisational writing is just words on a page. No other craft or artifice is needed.

The quality of my art is determined by my quality as a human being. The hard work is on the soul, not on the gorgeous phrase. These words before you are bentwood chairs.

This is all me. The credit or discredit for this belongs to me, not David or Paul. An artist chooses not be in charge of anyone or anything. All power of the artist lies in his or her example.

So a nice man died, who was a great artist. I knew him a little and he shared a bit of what made him tick with me. I remember running into him on an Amtrak train — The Lake Shore Limited. I can’t recall whether we were headed to New York or Chicago. I spent a night talking with David in the club car. It was like an evening with Steve Jobs or Walt Disney or Leonardo Da Vinci — although in full service to the truth, David lacked those geniuses’ ability to fully execute ideas and follow through. But man, could he come up with ideas. He was kind of a prophet. He saw all the applications of improvisation — to education and business and government. People are applying improvisation today in all these areas. I do so in my teaching. Everyone who does this applied improvisation work would have been better off if they had checked in with David first for some mentorship regarding how to proceed.

David’s article about improvisational writing was just one of the great applications of the art in just another field. That field is mine.

The improvisation community today is too institutionalized and burdened with “rules” as to how things could be done.

I was blessed to have glanced against the trajectory of David and Paul Sills. Why did I always feel free and empowered after I interacted with them? And why do I feel annoyed and constipated when I encounter so much improvisation today?

My writing and teaching want to bring people to the same spot David and Paul brought me. The way that I do it is my own.

I once was praised by Paul for a performance, and I said with a lack of confidence that was characteristic of me at the time, “My object work (an aspect of Spolin-method acting) was bad.” Paul said, “Who gives a shit about object work?”

Paul and David didn’t care ultimately about improvisation. They cared about freedom and other great aspects of life that are beyond words.

These words aren’t what is important. What matters is where they take you.

Barr Might Not Be So Bad as Attorney General

 Hear me out … I hope I am right … William Barr might not be a bad Attorney General, at least as related to the Mueller investigations.

The Case:

Trump is nothing more than a dishonest salesman. He knows nothing about governing, even to his own nefarious ends.

Pelosi and Schumer pantsed him over the government shutdown.

He fucked up his roll out of his idiotic Syria troop withdrawal plan.

He hand-picked a Federal Reserve Chair who was less sympathetic to his desire for low interest rates to keep a sugar-high economy,  and fired a Chair less inclined to raise rates because she was short.

Outside of riling up ignoramuses, Trump has no skills.

My speculation: Rod Rosenstein recruited Barr  to be Attorney General. They had Barr write a memo that he sent to the Justice Department and the White House Counsel’s Office. Barr wrote that Trump did not obstruct justice by firing James Comey. He said the President has the right to fire the FBI Director.

Trump heard of the memo — he can’t read 20 pages — and picked Barr. Trump thinks he has an ally.

Again, Trump is an idiot at everything but grifting dumb people. Trump can’t read with nuance. He doesn’t listen to advice from people who know things.

Rosenstein is an amazing institutional survivor. He’s lasted this long! No one disagrees with Barr, the President can fire the FBI Director. But — and this is what idiot Trump ignores —- that which is normally legal can become obstruction of justice if done with corrupt intent.

Intent is one of the toughest things to legally prove. But if Mueller proves that Trump conspired with others, including Russians and maybe other foreign nationals, to defraud the United States, proving corrupt intent to cover up the conspiracy will be a lot easier.

Obstruction of justice is the least of Trump’s problems.

Mueller is building the conspiracy case. Rosenstein said that Barr would be a great Attorney General. He said that he wasn’t concerned about Barr’s memo, written in the abstract. He said he was sure Barr would be on the side of the rule of law when Rosenstein filled him on all of the facts.

Sure Rosenstein thinks Barr will be a great Attorney General. Rosenstein picked him!

Speculation: Rosenstein put Barr up to writing the memo, getting Trump’s attention and being appointed, and saving the Justice Department — and the rest of us.

Trump fell for the rope-a-dope. He didn’t understand Barr’s memo. He thought Barr was saying nice things about him.

Trump’s incompetence is chilling — murdering children on our Southern border, Kurds and Puerto Rican hurricane victims, and more, and who knows who’s next.

But it is also our secret weapon.

I hope that Rosenstein is the cunning operator that I think he is. I really don’t know. Intuition is operating. I was right a lot during the campaign. Maybe, I called this one.

Infomercial public relations got this Trump asshole pretty far, but he is up against some really smart and cunning people who actually have done something in their lives.

Dear President Trump,

Good luck, Stupid.

Love,

Rick

Copyright 2018 Richard Thomas