MUGGSY

MUGGSY, obscure Children’s TV show from the 70’s

Cast

MUGGSY, from left: Paul Michael, Ben Masters, Sarah MacDonnell, 1976-77

This is serious TV trivia.  I remember a television series that was geared to young people that aired on NBC in the 70’s.  What made this show interesting was that it dealt with crime, drugs, gangs and life in the inner city.

For the longest time, I just could not remember the title.  All I could remember was that the best friend of the protagonist was named Clytemnestra.  She looked after this red haired girl who was living with her brother in a trailer, or truck or something like that in the city.

For some reason, I found the series!  And my memory served me well.

The TV show was called Muggsy.  Sarah MacDonnell was Margaret Muggsy Malloy, the girl with bright red hair.  Her brother Nick Malloy, played by Ben Masters, was a cab driver who took care of her. I recalled her father had a serious drinking problem and the mother was absent, but I cannot recall the reason.

Unlike a lot of shows, it was very “real” and dealt with some hard core material.  It was way above average and I remembered it being very good.

I cannot believe my memory brought this obscure show back to life.

12 episodes were aired, but 13 were created.

According to what I found out, here are some interesting facts about Muggsy.

Notable guest stars included Christopher WalkenDavid NaughtonPamela Reed, and Scott Baio.

The theme song was sung by David Clayton Thomas of Blood, Sweat, and Tears.

If you recall this long forgotten series, let me.  I just recalled how good it was and how it dealt with such hard material. I do not think television has really done anything like this as far as gearing something like this to young people.

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Duo, Allo, Google Talk, Hangouts WTF?

Google’s Confusing Chat Client

For some explicable reason Google, of all companies, is a confusing hot mess when it comes to chat clients. They can produce solid online offerings, but messaging is an area of communication they consistently get wrong.

One notable exception is Hangouts. It was so adept that at one point Google was encouraging users to make it their default messaging client. For reasons not known, they are now encouraging users to switch to Allo and Duo, or as I like to call them collectively “Client Dumb and Client Dumber.”

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A very good chat client, but who knows how long it will be around.

The functionality that Hangouts posses has been separated into two. Allo is a messaging application and Duo is a mobile video chat application. The division of features makes no sense. When people chat, message, video chat and the like, they prefer to be in one application not two, or three. However, Google is not the only one out there messing up in chat arena.

Stalwarts of messaging AIM, and Yahoo have become more anemic than robust. Yahoo Messaging has become a pale thin shadow of its former self. The heavy hitters in the chat world are Facebook Messenger, nearly a requirement on a mobile, Skype, a well respected chat client nearly everyone uses, Viber, popular with the international set, What’s App, and there are other cult favorite players with followings.

Peculiar is an appropriate term when it comes to a major smart phone OS maker that is fickle about what direction it should steer the general public concerning messaging. It makes no sense. Then again, Google has a distinguish history of hit and/or miss products.

One notable success was the image editing and picture organizer Picasa. The popular program has been retired. There is no real reason why not to support it, and it was a robust image editor for bulk work, organization and syncing with Google Photos on line. It was just left to rot and now dead.

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Hello and Goodbye,  neither is what anyone really wants in chat.

Google also made an interesting choice in taking over the Nik Collection. This is a collection of Plug-Ins for Photoshop. After making them available for sale, they now offer the entire suite for FREE! It is nice move. But, you must download fast. No one knows how long this will last. Future updates are not stated.

The conundrum Google faces is one faced by tech companies that are established. It appears after a period of time companies begin to “anticipate” what consumers want without ever asking them what they need. The decision makers produce an idea and assume that it will work without thought to the real world.

Microsoft’s menu redo in Windows 8 was a perfect example of change for the sake of change without regard to end users. In a act of hubris more suited for a Greek Drama than a PC maker, they arbitrarily changed the startup menu. They never once bothered to see if people wanted this change or found it necessary. Microsoft was forced into making a retreat and brought back the popular, well organized, brilliant menu of old. The people spoke. Microsoft listened.

Google does go off and produce assorted programs here and there. There is much less of that now than before. In the past, Google looked like a big company willing to make room for their smart engineers to fiddle in the hopes that a winner would emerge from the many developments.

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It has been revamped, but it lacks critical features that Hangouts already has.

However, you cannot move, fidget, launch, relaunch and direct back and forth and back when you are dealing with end users that need productivity tools. It is great to experiment and do R and D. But, you have to let the core products alone until you have everything lined up ready to go with a polished product.

Google for all of its success has a winner in Hangouts. There is no real reason to do anything other than beef it up and add needed functionality. When you have too many products on the market doing more or less the same basic things, no one is really going to spend the time figuring what is appropriate. . Allo, Duo, what do they do? Who cares?

Simplicity is the key, and confounding choices are productivity killers. I do not like the idea of having to look at Google Talk, Google Hangouts, Google Allo, Google Duo and whatever else, when one product is all that is needed. No one has the time to pick chose and guess what is what when one elegant program is all anyone really wants or needs, not split up applications that have hit or miss feature sets.

Why Democrats Loose

A HOUSE DIVIDED

A Primer for Democrats on How to Win Elections

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Catherine Miranda, Prominent Democrat, who  openly supported Republican Doug Ducey for Governor. The kind of cynicism that turns voters away.  Plus, we had a good Democrat running.

 

I experienced an episode yesterday that illustrates why the Democratic Party fails and the Republican Part gains votes. It is essential that we as “true Democrats” and “True Progressives” prevent our Democratic Republic from turning into an Oligarchy.

The Arizona gubernatorial race between Doug Ducey, Republican, and Fred Duval, Democrat, ended in a victory for Ducey.  One feature that made this race “disturbing” for me was the fact that Catherine Miranda, a Democrat publicly supported a Republican instead of a Democrat.

On Facebook, I had made a point that seems to have “irritated” Miranda.  She replied with a comment, “Who are you?”

For me, this sounded rather rude. Granted etiquette on the internet differs from other types, I took this to be a bit impolite.   She could have instead replied with a “Thank you for contacting me, can I clarify a point with you?”  Instead I was greeted with a stark “Who are you?”

This can easily be taken to mean that you need to know my rank, position and status before engaging in a conversation.  Either way, it comes off as highly unprofessional.  A political figure is a public figure.  Part of the job is knowing how to communicate with people, and how to let them know that your concerns matter.

Some time ago I ran into a similar issue within the Democratic Party.  I had to “school” a figure on how to treat local active community figures.  When I was a writer writing for a LGBT magazine, not one Democrat would even respond directly.  However, the one Republican on my list made a point of engaging me in discourse.

I was also treated to a pleasant exchange with another Republican that centered around basic concerns and possible solutions to long time issues such as education, social services, health care, housing and police protection.

I do not want to paint the picture that all Democrats are ill versed on manners. My point is that we as Democrats must be “inclusive” and not so determined to being class conscious or deciding only those with deep wallets merit respect.

What has harmed the Democratic party time and time again is this inability to connect with working people who are not Wall Street Bankers.  Rather than directly deal with people of all backgrounds, the party ends up insulting the very people it so desperately needs.

When Hillary Clinton referred to Trump supporters as “deplorable,” that was a generalization that did little to encourage a change in voting.  I am not here to bash Clinton.  She has been active for important causes for years.  She was also subject to some very harsh treatment.  However, this does illustrate the Democratic Party failing to reach out to those that need the party the most, working people of all kinds.

Another issue that hurts the party at the polls is the inability of party members to stay on task with the pillars of the party. That inability to support fellow Democrats is a HUGE problem.

Miranda supporting Doug Ducey illustrates perfectly the fear of being on the wrong side of a victory.  It also shows a certain lack of spine to being a true Democrat.  Arizona is clearly a Red State.   When someone in the party refuses, and even publicly declines the party’s candidate, it has horrible consequences.  It certainly did not help DuVal’s candidacy and may have cost him the election.

Democrats who just can’t stand to be part of the party’s platform, usually called, DINO’s, Democrats In Name Only, are of no real use.  This last election has made it clear that there is a profound change in the political climate.  The days of the candidate, who appears to lack authenticity, a connection with the people and a stated set of beliefs is over.   The days of the bland everything to everyone candidate is dead.  If you lack a distinct identity, you will lose an election.

Time and time again Democrats go to great efforts to being so banal and scared to say anything controversial least they lose a vote. The Republic Party has no problem standing behind their platform. Their unity is their strength.  

Democrats on the other hand, along with some progressives, just can’t get organized without having a falling out and fracturing the party further.   The recent  Presidential election may be changing this since we are seeing, the ultra-progressives mobilize in mass.

We must realize that we have to put back “small differences” in order to be a unified party.  If the Democratic Party cannot embrace the enthusiastic idealistic powerful youth vote, the ones who are far left of center, and working people, the party faces such divisions that will be ineffective.

The fracturing of the Democratic Party is a huge liability. It can only harm the party further.  We can have differences, but we cannot apply a hard line purity test to candidates. It is realistic to expect them to support the “MAIN ISSUES” of the party.  It is realistic to expect each and every Democrat running for office to support EVERY Democrat running for office.   On this, we MUST have agreement.

If there is a “class difference” in the Democratic Party, that has to end.  Sadly, even amongst the liberal left, there are those who are “backdoor racists.”  They are not asking for lynching’s, just  the desire to live in expensive housing with those like themselves.  They like diversity, as long as it is over there, not in their manicured backyards.

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The party of working people.

The Democratic party cannot afford to be an airliner with first class seating.  We have to be an Egalitarian party that accepts all people and sees all people as worthy of respect.  It means overcoming a history of “socially acceptable fragmentation” in order to see a real party that stands for “WE THE PEOPLE.”

The legacy of racism and social economic separatism has been a highly effective tool in preventing Whites, Latinos, Blacks and others to see that their shared interests are not different, but in fact are the same.  We have lived in the culture of divisiveness for too long.  It has harmed society and created a drug problem, a poverty problem, an education problem and the destruction of the very planet we call home.

We have to work together and see past the constant racial and sexist imagery our culture embraces, and start to see our nation as one collective.  America should never be a nation where the motto is “It’s A Dog Eat Dog World.”

Some right wingers, some left wingers and assorted scared people have benefited from keeping the various races that make up America scared of each other, hating each other and hoping to kill each other. 

Abraham Lincoln said that, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” We The People have to be We The People.  For too long those with  wealth and powerful have seen America as place for enriching themselves at the expense of others.  Their power plays have robbed us of power.  They have pitted citizen against citizen.  They have stopped the very cooperative nature that can solve our problems and create a Nation where everyone is productive, fed and free of the pain of poverty.

We have the resources right now to reduce prison populations, reduce crime, heal the ill, employ the unemployable and create a country where everyone’s child is safe.

For me, the only party that can bring the Privilege, the Poor and those who struggle to succeed is the Democratic Party.  This is the party that should welcome all and refuse none. We are the Party of Liberty, Freedom and ultimately Hope.  We are the makers of dreams. 

As long as we fight, bicker and hate those within our ranks, our divided Democratic Party will be a house that has fallen from the many walls that keep us locked in rooms from which we will never be free.

 For information, check out this article on Catherine Miranda

For information on Doug Ducye, read this link.

If you wish to support me, or see my art.

Westworld: H.B.O’s Spectacular Art Film Series

 

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                                                                                                            WESTWORLD When entertainment engages the mind.

There is a conceit that small independent films are the exclusive sanctuary for cinema as an art form. H.B.O.’s ambitious new series, Westworld, almost defiantly asserts that art and big budget productions are not mutually exclusive. The motto “It’s not television, it’s H.B.O.” has a new resonance.

The old fashioned edict in television has been to play to the lowest common denominator. Free of the constraints of network T.V., premium channels have the luxury to explore adventuresome material without the meddling of censors. However, as the need for new material rises, so do the demands. At this point, H.B.O. has a great deal at stake.

Producing intriguing programing like The Sopranos, Sex and the City and the epic Game of Thrones, which is coming to a close, H.B.O is now in need of a hit. As is the case with anything, when you take risks there is the chance for failure. Case in point, Vinyl, the peak inside the ugly side of the music industry in the 60’s was bold, but brittle. It was a mixture of manic moments that was ultimately alienating and not very interesting, despite good direction and excellent performances.

At what price such fantasies cost in one’s humanity?

H.B.O. has thrown the dice high regarding Westworld. Too often reboots are rehashes that add little next to nothing to the original concept. Way too often they are only redundant. This time out, H.B.O. has taken a film with an interesting concept and reworked it in such a way that it bears little resemblance to its predecessor. This retelling of Westworld feels new, innovative and possess something often missing from entertainment, profundity.

In the original film, the story line was about an amusement park that featured replicas of three historic periods, the American West, Classical Rome, and Medieval Europe. Androids, machines that are identical to humans to the last detail, were employed to offer a wide spectrum of experiences from gun fights, jousts and the decadence of Pompeii. It was the ultimate virtual reality.

Westworld was interesting as a concept, but the execution was weak. It felt like a good premise had been turned into just an average science fiction movie. It was simply put good guys versus bad guys.

This time around, Westworld is far more interesting, and it is not only because of improved visual effects. Clearly, there has been some serious money spent. It shows. Interestingly enough they are just effective backdrops for the real star of the series: high minded ideas, pitch perfect direction, seamless editing and brilliant acting.

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                                                                                    Delores, a first generation “Host” that blurs the line between being Human and being a machine

While naturalistic androids identical to humans is interesting, this series is really about the bigger questions humanity has always asked. It even addresses the weaknesses within mankind that prevent us from not repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

The first Westworld took its theme as a given. An amusement park for adults where anything is possible, including the forbidden. It never asked one pressing question. At what price such fantasies in and of themselves cost in one’s humanity?

It is one thing to play a game when it is obviously a fantasy. When the fantasies are identical to the physical world and entertainment takes the form of destruction, rape, theft and cold blooded murder, what does this say about us? Throw in androids so close to being human that they nearly are, to what end can this come?

It also begs another question. In a world where technology is this advanced, the best we could do with it is make a virtual realty Sodom and Gomorrah?

This sparkling fresh Westworld takes nothing for granted. It leaps into the kind of depth that is usually reserved for in indie productions. Questions of death, morality and even the purpose of being are gently woven into to the story line.

The series becomes more than just an adventure, but a real examination of values and meaning. Although it is set in a distant unspecified future, the real story addresses us when our entertainments become more and more violent and the depth of our thoughts become shallower and shallower. It also brings in the just how ethical it is to create beings that may be so self-ware that they gain true consciousness.

Even this early on in the series, it is the Androids that area becoming more human as the guests and scientist who conjured this world become less and less so. The twist is a noticeable one, and it hints at something darker to come.

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                                                                                 Are we playing games, or playing God?  Prometheus rises, and Frankenstein is still relevant.

 

The trend in Science Fiction, and Fantasy films has been to jettison the whimsical and aim for the juggler. A kind of gravitas has entered into the stories. Characters cope with loss, grief and ambiguity in a way that is far from removed from the idea of a dialectical world of good and bad. Now, everything is in shades of grey. Nuance is dominating. Even the most slightly drawn characters have back stories.

H.B.O.’s revisionist Westworld takes aim at the darker side of the human experience and does so in a visceral, but interestingly enough, poetic manner. Few television series offer blood, gore, sex, nudity and adventure while referencing Shakespeare and Gertrude Stein.

Free of the censorship that hamstrings network television, H.B.O has always taken full advantage of its liberty. Nudity, adult situations and language are selling points. However, Westworld uses its nudity and violence in a way that is far from gratuitous. They are used metaphorically, and this has escaped some who see the undraped androids and simulated sex as gratuitous.

Episode one treats the viewer to metaphors and symbolism that may take a viewer repeated viewings to get. The points are not “banged” into your head. You have to observer and consider what you see and hear to get the full effect. This is not passive T.V. Easter eggs are present.

The huge, and I do mean huge, ambitious nature of Westworld is such that it may be off putting for viewers not accustomed to programming that ventures into such deep terrain. The loftiness of Westworld could prevent it from being fully appreciated by some.

As deep as this series is, it is not without flaws. But, the small and insignificant criticisms pale in comparison to the grand sweep that this series is shaping for itself. It is admirable H.B.O. is taking the high road, not the cheap one.

From pitch perfect casting, to incredibly rich production values, Westworld has made a grand debut. Closing its first season, with plans for a second to come, this is Science Fiction of the most refined kind.

After Shock: The Triumph of Trump

 

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                                                                                                                                Donald Trump, The wealth populist

From the moment Donald Trump was on the podium with the confederation of dunces that comprised the nominees for President by the Republican Party, I knew he was not to be underestimated. Once the race started, I knew it was going to be close. Not unlike everyone, I thought Hillary Clinton would have a victory. So many of us did.

If you look at the actual popular vote, Hillary Clinton won. She had the majority of the votes. Had it not been for our outdated electoral college, all the pundits would have been accurate. In the after math of this disaster, everyone is scratching their collective heads wondering where they went wrong.

How could someone so unlikely, so raw, so brazenly offensive rise to the point of dividing an entire nation and ultimately becoming its President? It is a scenario that defies the imagination.

In another time and place, anyone spewing the rhetoric of Trump would have found their bid for public office extinguished. While the politics of the past was nasty, it was never a brutal vulgar disgusting blood sport on the same level as a roman gladiatorial fight. At the very least, those had some entrainment value. Watching our drawn out election cycle was like viewing a boring, dreary overwrought play that repeats itself until It can no more.

,… there is truth that Middle Class White America is vanishing. They are in legitimate pain and no one really gives a damn.

Interruptions, name calling, fuzzy logic, truth bending and outright open lies are the lingua franca of political discourse. Civility has become a quaint idea from a bygone era. The semblance, even the veneer, of being in an enlightened society has been shredded. Our Republic has demonstrated that it can dummy itself down to the lowest common denominator.

Amid all the deception and boorish behavior, one salient feature that most missed was the United States, for all of its political correctness, has a dark blood soaked heart that takes joy in the suffering of others. In spite of having a real African-American President, prejudice, hatred and bigotry are not dead. They are alive and well. Slavery has ended. The brutality has not.

Much ink has been spilled about “The Donald” tapping into the frustrations of a White America that feels it has been served a raw deal. While the Left hates hearing this, and the Republicans just give it lip service to secure votes, there is truth that Middle Class White America is vanishing. They are in legitimate pain and no one really gives a damn.

 

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                                                                                                                Bernie Sanders, the idealist the Democratic Party betrayed

Low wages, higher prices, home foreclosures and sky high tuition have drained Middle America of its strength. It is true. White Middle Class America is in anguish. So is Black working class America, Native American Middle Class America, Hispanic Middle Class America and on it goes.

Certainly, White America has a gripe. Now that they have found a voice in Donald Trump, who points blame at immigrants, a supposed welfare state and opportunity given to others. He has acquired a populist sentiment that hit a cord with the states between New York and L.A.

The reality is that the woes of the White Middle Class have been the result of the greatest White on White crime in history. Somehow everyone missed the mark in focusing the blame where it really belongs, abuses in the capitalist economic system, money corrupting politics and good old avarice . The hubris of America is that it is often blind to both reflection and self-criticism.

One dividing line in America that this race to the bottom made perfectly clear was that class divisions do exist. Minus titled nobility, we do have an educated class, an educated upper class and the uber wealthy, who do not see their privileged status as difficult to obtain. Our working class is stuck in the belief that one day they will be boorish billionaires.

Bernie Sanders, the most authentic of the crew, was able to round up enthusiasm and support. Unfortunately, he was undermined by a Democratic Party too insular to read the hand writing on the wall.

The American working class saw Hillary Clinton as an incomprehensible intellectual looking down on them from an Ivy League tower or Elitism. Oddly enough, the richer you become the better you are. The more educated, the more you are perceived as a snob.

This abhorrence to erudition is the undoing of a Democratic Republic. The less educated the populace, the more likely they are to make poor decisions. Even our founding Fathers and Mothers held this fear.

“The Donald” is revered because he has the “common touch.” What he has is a rudimentary command of communication that fits well with an audience dulled by poorly funded public schools and a society that is skeptical of those who think. The ugly face of America is that stupidity is considered a virtue. Erudition is not.

As the blame games begin, it is clear Hillary Clinton was far from being even remotely an ideal candidate. She carried the baggage of Bill Clinton’s failures. That was a history that was just too heavy to toss away.

But most of all, Clinton lacked both a concise message and a charismatic personality to promote her case. “The Donald,” from all his experience in front of the camera has an instinctive sense of how to sell himself and his ideas, no matter how silly they are. A gullible America was willing to buy into his fictions. They were also too eager to overlook his vulgarity and common deportment. Trump was perceived as an outsider coming to clean house in D.C.

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                                                                                                                                Hillary Clinton, the people’s choice.

Bernie Sanders, the most authentic of the crew, was able to round up enthusiasm and support. Unfortunately, he was undermined by a Democratic Party too insular to read the hand writing on the wall. Sanders could have beaten “The Donald.” The D.N.C. failed. They failed in a big way and they carry the blame of even allowing Clinton close to the campaign trail. It was an act of arrogance to think Clinton, for all her abilities, could do well in a country that was looking for a fresh face.

The true tragedy is that the disgruntled “Bernie or Bust” crowd were too depressed from disillusionment to care. Some may have gone to Trump as a screw you vote, or drowned themselves in a dose of indifference to reality and the consequences of non-participation.

Americans, as a rule, are not political people. This is a huge problem in a developed industrial power where no part of life is exempt from the influence of politics. Pericles said, in so many words, “You can ignore politics, but it will not ignore you.” It is a truth refuted on these shores out of fear, loathing and profound ignorance. We have been told to despise Government, the very cure for social immobility.

Apathy, the favorite sport of the lazy, has reared its head again. The participation was up, but the there were far too many Americans who just remained at home. Our voter turnout rate is a national disgrace.

As the blame games begin, it is clear Hillary Clinton was far from being even remotely an ideal candidate. She carried the baggage of Bill Clinton’s failures. That was a history that was just too heavy to toss away.

Then again, our wonderful system does not make voting easy. When the Supreme Court refused to support Voting Rights Acts, it basically sent a signal to the States that they had permission to do whatever they can to stop poor people, working people and any other type of people from voting. It is as if we are back to the days when only landed White men could vote and women remained home.

Our media has some blood on its hands. From abnegating coverage of important events to not so subtly pitting White American against Black America and everyone else on the planet, they have created a climate that is not only artificial, but dangerous. Any type of civil discussion of race, gender and class is turned into one big street fight.

The fact the world is complex, nuanced and requires intelligent solutions to problems does not sell. We demand quick solutions. Thinking is a demanding task that makes weary a populace with short attention spans.

The reason for the “Triumph of Trump” is surprising still. How could someone so awful, so trashy, so unfit for any public office be the Savior of lower income White America? It seems like an impossibility.

As you start to really look at America, from the most elite parts to the most downtrodden to everyone in between, the reality of America is that this was just waiting to happen.

The reasons why this travesty took place becomes clear when you do an inventory of what is wrong with America. Slavish devotion to material possessions, worship of the rich and famous, vapid values, poor judgement, lack of decent public education, low wages, gun happy police departments, politicians using race for advancement, lack of ethics, lethargy, racism, sexism, xenophobia and perhaps the worst of the lot, laziness. The important things we discard and ignore. The trivial we glorify and adore.

In spite of all of this, the ascendance of Donald Trump is a jarring thing to behold. It is a surrealist idea that gives credence to the idea that you are living in an alternative reality. One wakes hoping that this is all a nightmare. The glaring reality that this is real makes it even more unreal.

The reason why people are in a state is because so many of us believed that we operated on a higher level as a collective group that we really do. The one thing you could count on was that the system, for all of its glaring flaws, would never super nova. There was no preparation for an event like this that rocks core believes in integrity.

The fact the world is complex, nuanced and requires intelligent solutions to problems does not sell.

Idealism has been given a brutal beating. Hope is extinguished. Never has cynicism been so blatant. There is such a hollow feeling in the words, “Lets Make America Great Again.” Everything about that collection of words is trite. It is ignorant of the progress we have made, and could make. It feels like a sales pitch, not a call to patriotism. It is a marketing idea masquerading as a political one. It also overlooks one important point, “WE ARE THE RICHEST NATION ON EARTH.”

Behind the curtain, do we have a clown who will turn into a statesman, or do we have just a buffoon ready to seek vengeance? Are we are getting what we did not want or need because everyone checked out of civic responsibility?

In a Kingdom of the Blind, the one eyes is King, so the old expression goes.

Our future is a big question mark. We will see.

Attack on the Elderly: Joni Mitchell under fire

For all of the progresses “allegedly” made, growing old is still problematic, particular for women.

 

“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other 1.”   It is a phrase former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright began using 25 years ago.  Those words immediately came to my mind after reading Dr. Gina Barreca’s article “Joni Mitchell on New York Magazine: Is The Photo Disturbing? In Psychology Today 2.

It is a tragic reality that a woman’s appearance is still excruciatingly tied into her achievement.  Irrespective of how accomplished any woman is, how she appears is usually factored into any evaluations of her work, relevant or not.  It is an anachronistic element of society that lingers like a rotting corpse.

 

Mitchell, unlike any number of her peers, has survived the rigors of a business known for creating fast careers and forgettable songs. 

 

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Mitchell modelling for Yves Saint Laurent

 

For all of the political correctness, rhetoric and enlightenment we are supposed to possess at this juncture, none of it has erased the problem of woman having to be concerned with aesthetics obscuring what they do.  Gauging female achievement based on looks is at the center of Barreca’s article on Joni Mitchell.

While the author cites comments Mitchell has made that she takes issue, those concerns have the feel of being justification for critiquing her on how well, or poorly, she has aged.

Let me go back a bit. I think the genesis of how these pictures came to be is intriguing.

Yves Saint Laurent decided to focus on older woman to make a statement about both age and fashion. The concept was to bring to the forefront women of achievement who were in their later years. It was a bold move in a fashion world that is laser focused on youth, and being as slim as possible.

Where Barreca finds Mitchell so objectionable is when she is depicted wearing a white formless dress and long straight hair in the signature style of her youth.  For some inexplicable reason, this image Is objectionable to Barreca.

 

All of those substantial achievements are eclipsed in Barreca’s article simply because Mitchell did not age in a manner she deemed appropriate.

Granted, Mitchell does not resemble her youthful self, but it is difficult to look at these images of her and think they are repugnant.  It is not as if she is dressing too provocatively, displaying too much skin or doing something far outside the boundaries of the acceptable.  The reaction that Barreca has to these images is extreme.  They just do not seem to be in accord with the reality of what the images represent.

One can debate and question what Mitchell has said over the years.  One can debate the merits of any artist without calling the process of evaluation into question.  When you enter the public domain you will be the subject of discourse.  People will talk, speculate and evaluate.

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From her appearance at “The Last Waltz,” the only woman to appear on stage.

                However, when the critique comes to looks, that reaches a peculiar low.  It is not the substance of a serious debate.  It becomes the foundation of a kind of gossip mentality, a decidedly mean spirited one.

The underlying point to Barreca’s article is that Joni Mitchell has grown old and not altered her look to compensate for the changes time necessitates.  She commends Stevie Nicks for aging well, but dismisses Mitchel for not.  However, both are doing the same thing with their looks: adapting them to their times.  It is not as if one is doing something totally unrelated to the other.

 

Mitchell, unlike any number of her peers, has survived the rigors of a business known for creating fast careers and forgettable songs.

 

One starts to think that what is being discussed is not only the physical changes of time, but the idea of what time does to people.  Inevitably, some of us grow old.   Sometimes people grow bitter in the process.  Some go to extremes to fight the inevitable.

Via body alterations, speech and dress, some are not willing to accept the aging process and fight hard to keep the hands of time still.  Some do better than others at this.  Some try too hard and end up caricatures of themselves.  Some know when they have gone far enough.

Mitchell has been cited for her cynical nature toward the music business.  It is often painted as a flaw in character, or the ruminations of someone who simply grew weary of professional music making.  However, unless you have been in the world of contemporary music, or art period, you may not have an idea of how brutal it can be. It really is a blood sport.

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Mitchell with B.B. King, she freely crossed genres and styles during her career.

                Dreams are crushed, talent exploited and artists suffer.  The weight of fame, success, awards and constant media attention is a burden too great for some.  Add to this the turmoil of being on tour for months on end, and it can be a soul stomping ride through hell than ends up in self-medication and excess.

The wars to keep your art intact, the fights to even get your creation to the public without being made “commercial,” and all of the indignities endured along the way make it an epic undertaking to make music that is high on artistry.  Mitchell, unlike any number of her peers, has survived the rigors of a business known for creating fast careers and forgettable songs.  Longevity in contemporary music is not common.   Those that have made it are part of an exclusive club.

During her career, Mitchell has created recordings spanning jazz, pop, rock and roll, blues, folk, country and in some cases a style of music so different it is hard to place it in any one category.  Her influence is still felt.  Her work has already stood the test of time.

All of those substantial achievements are eclipsed in Barreca’s article simply because Mitchell did not age in a manner she deemed appropriate.   Because of her failure to live up to one expectation, now she is seen as a disturbing image best forgotten.  Sadly, it is based on her appearance, not her achievements.

One possible reason Barreca maybe so uncomfortable with Mitchell is that we are a society that wants to consign the elderly to the hinterland.   Older people are not supposed to occupy the media space.  The faces of the older among us are too painful a reminder of where all of us will be if we live long enough.

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The photography for “Hejira,” an album that defies any classification.

The face of the older Joni Mitchell is a sobering reminder that time creates changes.  Some may have a hard time seeing the stars and idols of youth doing something that all of us do if we live long enough.

For some film stars of the past, when age set in, they retired to apartments and lives far away from the limelight.   Rather than disturb the image of beauty and youth they projected so carefully, some actors hide away tending to their legacy like sacred objects to be preserved in tact immune to time.

Seeing the image of an older Joni Mitchell is not disturbing, any more than her musing on the record business.  She has created, survived and lived through interesting and arresting times.  It is sad that her physical appearance is evaluated in a negative light while her considerable achievements are diminished or ignored.

What makes this article truly disturbing is that this is in Psychology Today and that Barreca is a  Ph.D.  This is yet another example of a women taking aim at another woman for nothing more than not living up to some inane concept of female beauty and aging.   It is an attack mounted for no real legitimate reason other than to attack a woman for her looks.

As a whole, there is much work to be done to change attitudes about aging, particularly for women.  Barecca proves that the past movements have not stopped women from slamming each other or becoming far too critical of each other.   Some habits die hard deaths.

  1. Open Ed, New York Times, Feb 12 2016
    1. Gina Barreca “Joni Mitchell on New York Magazine: Is The Photo Disturbing?

    Psychology Today

Two Faces of White Privilege

Brock Turner and Lena Dunham

Brock Turner and Lena Dunham

When Stanford University Swimmer Brock Allen Turner’s sentence for rape became known, the outrage and disbelief caused an instant outpouring of anger, both off and online.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky’s verdict was a visible reminder that race, class and privilege still determine outcomes that are favorable to those who enjoy them.  Prosecutors asked for a six-year sentence.  The actual sentence was slighter.

“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Persky said. “I think he will not be a danger to others.”  The rationale provided  was that Turner did not have an extensive criminal history.  He was sentenced to six months in jail, that more than likely will become three, with good behavior, of course.

Turner’s father, Dan, in a written statement summed up the sexual assault as “20 minutes of action” in a plea for leniency.  He had an interesting way of summing up the event as little more than “Boys will be Boys.”

It is no secret that stars on the playing field are “indulged” both on and off of it. The veneer of stardom is powerful and alluring.  No one wants to punish an athlete, particular those of the “blonde” and “All American” type.

What this entire trial made painfully clear, despite so many proclamations to the contrary, is that class, privilege and money count.   It is hard to maintain the illusion of a free and democratic society when those attending prestigious  institutions of higher learning  can do as they please with minimal consequences.   There is no equality here, but there are those given distinct advantages. We have seen it before, and it should not be so shocking now.

Clearly, the judge in this instance seemed to be far more concerned about Turner’s future than the long last effects of a rape on young woman who had passed out and was taken advantage of in the most brutal of ways in the most vulnerable of places.

As to be expected when monumental events transpire, the celebrated are going to make their voices heard.   Sometimes with the best of intentions, or sometimes for the worst, someone will say something, anything.

Some spokespeople do no real harm when they voice support.  However, there are some who by their very presence carry a veneer so tarnished and ugly that their voices are better left silent.

I have never been a fan of Lean Dunham.  For several excruciating hours I tried to make sense of her H.B.O. series “Girls.”   Poised as something of a junior version of “Sex and the City,” Dunham’s creation lacked even a hint of the wit, pathos or humor that made the former memorable.

Now she has come out to speak against violence against women.

The world of “Girls” amounts to nothing more than the vapid complaints of the self-absorbed fortunate few who must create meaning from self-induced pain.  The shrill sounds of their own meaningfulness utterances had a difficult time as being passed off as profound.

Michelangelo Antonioni, Françoise Sagan, and Federico Fellini were masters at turning the ennui of the affluent into the stuff of which art is made.   The best that Dunham can muster are sitcom one liners and self-aggrandizement.

Dunham also frequently peppers her trudge through the lives of the ungrateful and the dull by parading around nude.  The idea behind this is that she is “accepting” her body and “owning it.”  She is somehow doing those not part of the cultural norm of attractive a service.  She opening the range of what the acceptable body type for women ideally should be, supposedly.

What this amounts to is that female self-value is still in some way rooted in the body, not in female accomplishments.  She may sound like she is breaking new ground, but instead she is resorting to the old “female nude as valuable only ethos” and in turn just reinforces the idea that any woman must see her body as one of her primary assets.   Nothing new is here.

It is interesting to note that a woman who strives so hard to see beauty in an unconventional body only finds attractive men who are the most conventionally physically attractive.  In her show I have never seen her attached to a man who has an equivalent body type to her own.

Even her memoir, if you can all it that, “Not That Type Of Girl,” qualifies everything in it by Dunham stating that it may be true in part or possibly all fiction.   She cannot commit to being either a chronicle of her experiences or a writer of fiction.  She wants the veracity of truth and the escape clause of fiction.  It is that ambiguity that stifles her work.  It also robs it of any real substance as well.

What is certainly not fictional are the allegations, or more accurately hints, in the book of a rape by a conservative named Barry when she attended Oberlin College.  Dunham never called the police and reported the indicient.  The rape itself can be called into question.   Durham makes it clear  she is not a reliable witness.

Unfortunately, the only Barry on the campus had to endure the humiliation of everyone thinking he was a sex offender.   The real life Barry has been able to clear his name, but accusations like these have a long shelf life.

Jumping to yet another disturbing revelation in her book is that she was a sexual predator.  She recounts events where she manipulated her sister Grace in order to have sexual encounters.   When she was questioned about this, she brushes off the episodes as just so many children’s games. “Boys will be Boys” and one assumes, “Girls will be Girls.”

One cannot help but wonder what would happen if a man wrote a quasi-fictional piece like this?

When it became known that Josh Duggar had molested his sisters, the response to this was swift, and fiscal.  Outrage filled the internet and a lucrative television show was shut down in short order.

Honey Boo Boo’s mother, “Mama June Shannon,” lost her reality show when  reports surfaced that she was dating a man who had been convicted of raping one of her daughters.  Like Josh Duggar, the media response was swift.

Interestingly enough, Dunham has found herself largely untouched by her disturbing maybe real maybe not revelations.

Now, Dunham has come out as an outspoken voice in support against Brock Turner.

What makes this truly disturbing is that you have a person who admits to being an unreliable witness wants to be  a voice against the very acts she may, or may have not, done herself.  In what kind of upside down sideways universe does this happen?

For a woman to make light of sexually molesting her sister, and then to condemn acts of violence against women, Dunham is the very last person on the planet who should even be near this arena.

An interesting point of convergences is that both Dunham and Turner are operatives in a world where privilege, wealth, access and ethnicity work in concert to create a world where everyone feels entitled, but no one responsible.   It is an atmosphere top heavy on “Noblesse and paper thin weak on “oblige.”

The very same sense of entitlement used by Dunham and Turner are here. Neither has the objectivity to see that they are both coming from a place where one can do what one pleases and not face consequences.  Rational thinking and logical thought processes have been replaced by a needs and wants mentality.  Desire is the generator and all other considerations are mute points.  Any sense of compassion or consideration of other people is secondary, if at all considered.

Dunham and Turner are  not total equivalents, but they are not far removed from each other.  Both have enjoyed the rewards that come from a system that gives hall passes to the affluent.  For a society that denies the benefits of race, class and economic position, for a society that strenuously insists that the U.S. is a level playing field, one has to simply look at the evidence.  It is omnipresent.

 

By Kurt Joachim von Behrmann