A Lack of Imagination – Robb Elementary

I was given a great gift – imagination. It carried me through some difficult times in my childhood, and has allowed me to have remarkable adventures in my mind. 

For the past 4 1/2 years, I’ve been taking care of our business owner’s child. I’ve fed her, burped her, changed her diapers, and rocked her to sleep. As she grew, she hung onto my fingers as she walked and explored her surroundings. Those early mangled words and nonsense noises have coalesced into an incredible vocabulary. I’ve stood at the bottom of the slide, encouraging her to take the risk of sliding down, then watched her tell me to sit on the bench so she can play on her own. I’ve dragged her to daycare screaming and crying, then transitioned to seeing her roll her eyes with disappointment while playing with her friends, when she see’s I’m there to pick her up. And I’ve seen her early love of Frozen, Annie, and nursery rhymes turned into a full-blown Hamilton obsession. I may not be a mom, but I’ve gotten a slice of it, and how the love grows with each breath. 

So when this school shooting happened in Robb Elementary, it took on a new dimension to me. My gift of imagination turned into a curse. I could see her in her classroom, eyes filled with fear from the sounds of gunshots. I could imagine her teacher, whose responsibility is to keep those kids safe, desperate to do anything to protect them while knowing there was little she could do. I could imagine the gunman coming in and destroying the precious lives of all those children I see every day when I pick her up. I could imagine the devastation I would feel if my little charge’s life was cut short. I could imagine how her parents would also be destroyed. With those imaginings, I gained a knowledge that I would do anything…. anything to keep that child safe and protect her from the horror those children at Robb Elementary experienced.

But what can I do? Every school shooting follows a familiar pattern. There are calls for changes to laws, mostly by Democrats. Republican then get mad at Democrats (not the shooter) and claim this isn’t the time and that Democrats are politicizing the events. But considering we have mass shootings every few days, when is there ever going to be a time that is acceptable to Republicans? And since politics is how we enact laws, how do you not politicize it? We need to work through the political system to enact change. And if Republicans don’t want to do that political work, I guess that means they’re fine with the status quo of children being slaughtered in their classrooms as long as they can keep their sacred weaponry. 

Most of these politicians know very well that there are laws that can be enacted that fall within the constitutionality of the 2nd amendment and would provide some protection to Americans. Ninety percent of American are in favor of universal background checks, yet politicians beholden to the NRA block that measure.

We aren’t allowed to own RPG launchers. We aren’t allowed to own functioning tanks. We aren’t allowed to own nuclear weapons. And there’s absolutely no reason to allow average citizens to own high capacity, rapid firing rifles with armor piercing rounds. No reason. None. Would outlawing these weapons stop all mass shootings? Nope. But would it reduce them? Absolutely. History and statistics prove it. 

Some would say we shouldn’t punish law abiding citizen and that criminals will always get guns somehow. Here’s the deal. This kid WAS a law abiding citizen when he bought his weapons… and then yesterday, he became a criminal by using them. 

To the cowards who say there is nothing that can be done, they are liars, and they know it.

Of course, limiting those weapons isn’t the whole answer. There are more steps needed that include access to mental health care and research on the issue to know what will keep it from happening again. So no, an assault weapons ban alone will not solve the problem, but it is one step. And we have to start by taking one step, and then the next, and the next, and the next. We’re Americans. That used to mean there wasn’t any problem we couldn’t solve. What happened to us? When did we just give up?

So often I look at these NRA shills and wonder if they have no heart. But maybe what they have is a lack of imagination. They can’t imagine their children or grandchildren in this situation. They blissfully ignore the suffering of parents as they lose the most precious thing in their life, because it hasn’t affected them. They prefer to hide their heads in the sand so they may worship at the altar of the gun.

But I do have an imagination. And I have a heart. I will do whatever it takes to make progress on this issue. I will call my representatives. I will use my words, as I am doing here. I will use my actions when I see a way to do so. Columbine. Sandy Hook. Stoneman Douglas. Robb Elementary. What school will next be added to the list. One near you? Will it take happening at a school your child attends before you take action? I hope not, because then it may be too late.

Don’t let the lack of empathy and imagination condemn more children to a brutal death. Look at the faces of these 19 children. What would you do to protect your child? Do it. Now. We, as citizens, need to let our demands be heard. Call your representatives and let them know what you expect from them and hold them accountable for their inaction. 

Not another child. Please. Not one more. Take the power from the gunman’s hands, and put it in your own. Don’t let a lack of imagination in how we might fix this take another life.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Finding my Way With The Artist’s Way

Over the past month I have had moments where I almost get back into a writing flow. Then I sit down, try to do the work, and quickly give up. It’s been frustrating!

After much thought, I have begun to understand that I am, for the first time in my life, dealing with… (duh duh duuuuuuh)… Writer’s Block. I always thought writer’s block was when you couldn’t think of anything to write. There are lots of things to write, I’m just no longer sure there’s any reason to bother. 

Even my imagination isn’t helping. One way I used to fall asleep easily at night was to start imagining a story. Before long sleep would take me. But now when I try to do that, I quickly revert back to thoughts about my own life. I used to spend about 80% of my time in my imagination as a kid, and now I can’t get it going at all. 

Imagination drove stories and hope for me. I could see the possibilities of life out there, and they made for good stories. But as I’ve been worn down by life, the possibilities seem less and less. 

For the past two years I have gone to work, while others were paid to stay home. And for the past two years I have stayed home, while others went out to play with little regard for the role that might have in transmitting a virus that was deadly to some. So all work, and no play, has led to a blocked me. Covid, my finances, my age… all are working against me, and my ability to see possibilities. 

In trying to figure out how to combat this situation, I pulled out my copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I had first used it in the 90s. It had survived my yearly culling of books, and still sat on my shelf. I decided it was time to return to the program. It mentioned that you could do it on your own, or with a group of people, and suddenly doing it on my own seemed empty. I got a group of friends and we invited a few others, and we now meet weekly on Zoom to discuss what we’ve learned and the progress we’ve made. It’s so fun to share this journey.

We’re on week one, and already I feel a lightening of spirit and a sense of play I’ve been missing. I bought a paint by number kit, which I know isn’t really artistic, but it’s something I’ve never done as an adult. Also purchased, some watercolor and acrylic paints to try to make some original art when the paint by number is done. My final purchase… decent snow boots so I can take walks even when it’s cold and snowy. Imagining doesn’t feel quite so futile. It feels like there are things I want to accomplish. It feels like maybe I could accomplish them. I’m finding my way with The Artist’s Way.

Have you ever had writer’s block, or whatever art you practice? What did you do to get out of it? If you’re blocked now, give The Artist’s Way a try.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Trimming the Sails

Happy New Year! The new year is always a time for reflection, and sitting at home, waiting for the results of a covid test to see if I had a cold or omicron, gave me even more time to reflect and think about where I’m going. So let me post about what I’ve reflected on. Perhaps you can find some parallels to your struggles.

Last year everyone was so happy to put 2020 behind them. I kept wondering why they thought 2021 would be different. It wasn’t. More masks. More misinformation creating more division. More financial struggles. 

My personal year was a mixed bag. I started out with the high of planning to self-publish my first novel. I hired an editor and went back to work on the manuscript. Just as I finished that, I was suddenly forced to look for housing in the worst market in decades. I got lucky and found a place not yet listed, but because of the rushed need for a place to live, I didn’t look into things as well as I should have, and am stuck with a house which I love, but has some real problems that will cost me a great deal of money down the road. Money I don’t really have. It was an emotional blow.

The pandemic began to take its toll. I wanted to reconnect socially – have some fun and rediscover the joy of living. But every time I considered a solution, because of my work with vulnerable people, covid seemed to stop me. The desire to write seemed to fade away for the first time in my life and I decided to let it go.

A slide into depression followed. I felt disconnected, distrustful, defeated, exhausted, and hopeless. Little slights were magnified. I lost all confidence in myself. It isn’t the first time I’ve struggled with depression (I am Scandinavian after all), and thankfully I’ve developed tools to recognize and deal with it. It took time and there were more lessons learned from this battle. Even after the depression faded, I found it almost impossible to write, though ideas kept forming… niggling… speaking quietly that my calling hadn’t left me.

On the first day of 2022, the test came back negative. Despite my sniffles, I am once again free to move about without worrying about the consequences for others. I am now poised for action and while I can’t say I make resolutions, my time of reflection made me realize I do want to trim the sails on my boat and capture the wind to move in a different direction. 

One priority is my health. I’m starting out with a reset for my liver and taste buds with a cleanse. (I hate the click bait title, but the cleanse is great.) I want to eventually get the pandemic stress weight off and go back to where I feel good in my body. I don’t want to overwhelm myself with the end goal. I want to think about today and what needs to be done today.

Another priority is my writing. Yesterday I pulled up my first book and looked at the editor’s notes. There was so much positive. I started to edit again and felt the embers flicker into a small flame. The love is still there. There are several ideas I’d like to flesh out a little more and perhaps get started on them as well. I’ve realized that self-publishing is the way to go. I want two things. I want to write. And I want my stories to be read. Self-publishing accomplishes that, without the stupidity of the publishing industry.

And my last priority for 2022 is social. I have to find a way to reconnect. One barrier to that is the very, very thick walls I’ve constructed after years and years of hurt. This last depression revealed how easy it is to reopen old wounds and those walls do nothing to prevent that. I need to figure out how to take the walls down and find a way to trust, and I believe forgiveness is the key to that so that I can form closer bonds. I’m hoping that omicron will bring the end of the pandemic and make it an endemic disease that isn’t nearly so serious for so many. I want to get out there and have fun with people. Find joy, fun, spontaneity. 

With the sails trimmed, I hope my boat sails through whatever 2022 throws at me.

That’s my year in review and what I’m looking forward to. What have you learned from 2021? What do you hope to do in 2022? Leave me a comment and share your experience. 

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Moving On

Writing is a journey, and there is so much to learn along the way. One of the things you must learn is when it’s time to move on. I knew the odds of publishing my very first novel were slim. It didn’t stop me from loving the book and trying my best. It has been through many revisions, and no one has shown much interest. I still believe in it, but know it needs help that I don’t have. So I had to take a hard look and decide it was time to move on. Doing that in the midst of the stress of a pandemic and social unrest made me feel a bit like this.

While querying, editing, and querying again, I also wrote two other books. One is another children’s book that I have yet to even begin editing. The other is my memoir, detailing the 25 years I spent in the entertainment industry. I was able to use the stay-at-home order to find more time to finish it and finally pare it down to find its form.

I thoroughly enjoyed going through my work orders, reading my journals, and falling deep into the memories of the time spent with Kevin Costner in South Dakota, or with Bob Hoskins on a soundstage at Television City, I relived the infamy of turning off Bill Clinton’s mic in the middle of a speech, and the sublime feeling of standing on the field of an NFC championship game with my eyes closed, imagining what it would feel like to have the roar of the crowd be for me.

Professional Eavesdropper takes the reader behind the scenes in Hollywood and leads them on a journey from naïvely wanting to be a part of celebrity culture to the realities of the toxic environments that culture encourages. With help from beta readers and wonderfully honest critique partners, the memoir began to take its shape. It likely still needs a lot more work, but I think it’s a fairly entertaining read.

Tomorrow, after finishing the polish on my query letter and synopsis, I will send out a couple of queries, testing the waters. I am cautiously optimistic that I have something people beyond my friends and family will find interesting, and something that can begin a dialogue on what celebrity culture does to society.

Some day I hope to return to Fear Unleashed and find the missing pieces to it. Until then, I am moving on with renewed optimism and excitement where this memoir might lead. Wish me luck.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Rhyme of History

If you live long enough, you begin to see history repeat itself, or at least rhyme with itself. Almost 30 years ago a black man was beaten on camera, though unliked George Floyd, he lived to tell his side of the story. But the lack of justice, the years of pent up anger over police abuse, and systemic racism, boiled over into the streets of Los Angeles. Businesses were burned. Lives were ended. Society unraveled. The conversation on systemic racism went national and so many promises were made after the violence ended, because sadly, it’s only after a paroxysm of violence that political leaders tend to take notice. But obviously those promises were left unfulfilled and nothing really changed, because here we are 30 years later, experiencing similar events in a different city. Making things worse this time, these riots are now packed with outside agitators.

Here is a section of my memoir, Professional Eavesdropper: The Adventures of a Teleprompter Operator in Hollywood. It will give you a small glimpse into what it was like to live without the peace and safety most of us take for granted.

In April of 92, I was finally leaving the crime-ridden streets of Hollywood for the safer streets of North Hollywood. It would be a little further drive into Hollywood, but I looked forward to a quieter neighborhood. Weeks prior I had asked for the day off to move. As I was loading up boxes, my phone rang. It was work. The Rodney King verdict was in and going to be read soon. After that, the mayor would be speaking, urging calm. My boss needed me to go downtown and prompt his speech.

            I was furious. I had been promised this day off. I was going to be working the next few days, and wouldn’t have another chance to move. I had been in the business long enough not to feel the need to take every job offered, I refused the job. My boss was angry with me but finally convinced another operator to take the job. During the violence, he became trapped downtown. I felt bad for him, but as a woman amidst all the violence, I was grateful I wasn’t there.

            The verdict was read, and despite the pleas for calm, violence began to break out. People were being pulled out of cars and beaten. It was coming closer to Hollywood. I threw everything into my car that I couldn’t bear to lose, and fled to my new apartment in a part of town that was not erupting in violence. I had a little 13 inch black and white TV I had bought when I first arrived in town. It was one of the things I had grabbed. I set it up in my new bedroom, maneuvered the rabbit ears until I picked up the local stations, and watched the city burn. 

            I saw businesses just up the street from our teleprompting company go up in flames. I saw buildings not far from my old, only partially vacated apartment on fire. It seemed like society was collapsing. And yet somehow, the next day I got up and went to work. I think everyone expected the worst was over. There had been a spasm of violence, and now order would return. Oh how naïve we all were.

Edward James Olmos – Marina Del Rey – 4/30/92

            The memories of this shoot have been wiped away by the violence that started the night before. I remember it was outdoors on the marina. I remember Edward James Olmos couldn’t have been nicer. At one point during the shoot, he gathered the crew together and told us that everyone thought the riots were over, but they were just getting started. When the shoot ended for the day, he wanted us to go straight home and not leave. Things were about to get very bad.

            We wrapped at 12:30 p.m. and we all felt the urgency of Mr. Olmos’ words. I was out of the location by 1. I dumped the gear off and fled the shop by 1:30. There air was dingy with smoke, and I saw a few people running, but nothing too horrible. Another operator was driving back to the shop around the same time, and while stopped at a stoplight, several guys came and started beating on the hood of his vehicle. With an open bed pickup full of teleprompter gear, he had to run through the red light to get away.

            I felt lucky to have made it back to the shop unscathed. I went straight to my new North Hollywood apartment and watched my world burning on that little black and white screen. A cold fear started to form in the pit of my stomach. What if it didn’t stop? Right now average, everyday people, were rampaging through the streets, breaking windows, stealing, beating, and killing. There really was very little keeping us civilized. I came to understand how fragile the fabric of society is. Anarchy is nothing to aspire to. It’s terrifying.

            I didn’t work for several days as the city burned, and finally order was restored. National Guard troops stood on the street corners of Hollywood, armed with rifles, though we later found out they had no ammo. There was a curfew in place, but work was the one exception. I was never stopped on my way to a job, but it was unsettling to see soldiers on the street. That was not the America I knew. It was not the America I wanted to live in.

{Journal entry made at the time – It started with young, black men, probably gang members, pulling white motorists from their cars, beating, robbing, and shooting them. It soon went to looting and burning. In all of this, the police were non-existent. All this went completely unchecked.

            It started in South Central LA, a primarily black community. It quickly spread to areas previously thought safe from those kinds of disturbances. The area of Hollywood where I first lived, was heavily looted and burned. The area where I was living until the day the riots broke out, was looted and burned. Two stores on my block were destroyed. Even Beverly Hills was not unscathed. By the time the police and national guard were in place, it was all over. To this date, 58 peole died, almost a ½ billion dollars in damage was done. Over 2000 people were injured, 200 critically. This does not even begin to figure in those now homeless and unemployed because their businesses were burned.

            Even worse is the fear and mistrust that have tripled since the rioting started. Rather than try and solve these problems as human beings, our leaders are pointing the fingers and saying, “It was the whites who held us down.” “It was the black gangs and criminals.” “It was rude Korean shop owners.” Etc. 

            After things settled down and the damage was assessed, there were lots of promises made about how the city was going to step up its services in black communities. They talked about police reform, more black-owned businesses, an end to food deserts, and more opportunities. As usual, there was talk, but the racial-socio-economic divide in Los Angeles continues to this day, with some of the worst homelessness in the country.

Will anything really change this time? Or will we just put a bandaid on it as usual. Tell ourselves it’s not our problem. Or will we all step up and make the Declaration of Independence finally ring true, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (ahem, and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Because it should be self-evident. George Floyd has every bit a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness as anyone else. I don’t know if he was truly passing counterfeit money. If he was, I don’t know if he knew he was. What I do know is that no human being deserves to die for 10 or 20 dollars.

I think about my friend Jeff, who years ago, was stopped for DWB (Driving While Black) in Burbank on his way to work at NBC. Jeff was a skinny, sweet, African American guy who loved to ride his longboard, meditate, and was about as non-violent as they come. Yet, because of the color of his skin, the police thought he looked suspicious. They kept him in handcuffs, sitting on the curb as cars drove by staring at him, repeatedly asking, “Who do you run with?” meaning, what gang do you belong to. He showed them his NBC credentials. It didn’t matter. “Who do you run with?” He had been tried and convicted in those officers eyes. He was black, therefore he belonged to a gang. Eventually, after verifying his employment, they let him go. Can you imagine having to wonder every day of your life, if this will be the day you get pulled over? And then wonder if it’s the day you might just die because of it?

Something has to change and as Benjamin Franklin said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Well, I’m not affected directly, but I’m outraged. So are many others. Are you? Will this finally be the tipping point? Will you finally step outside of your comfort zone and stand up to ensure the systemic racism built into this country is exposed and reformed? Will you vote in leaders who work to unite and repair our rifts instead of casually firing off incendiary tweets that divide us? Will we all finally step up?

We must, because a change is gonna come. It must, or our divided country will fall to the injustice we have chosen to perpetuate.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Boredom Update

By this time each year, most people have let their new year’s resolutions slide into oblivion. So, it made sense to wait six weeks before reporting on how my boredom experiment is going.

It’s been an abject failure.

Let me explain.

My life has improved dramatically in just a few weeks. Last year I read 16 books over the year. More than one a month. I considered it acceptable, though for a writer, less than stellar. This year, on Goodreads Reading Challenge, I committed to reading at least 50 books. With largely TV free evenings and weekends, I read 9 books in January. (So far, Beneath a Scarlet Sky – a true story of a 17 year old Italian boy during WWII, is my favorite.)

With more free time away from screens, I began meditating regularly again. I decided on the schedule of 20 minutes, twice daily. Yes, it meant getting up earlier, which I am loathe to do. There have been many mornings when I thought about going to just 1 evening session a day, but I wanted to stick with it until it was a habit — give it a fair shot. I’ve reached that point. I look forward to the time on the cushion, and am reaping the benefits of a regular practice, though some mornings, I would still rather sleep another 20 minutes.

It’s great I’m reading so much more, after all, I recently heard that every hour of reading is like an hour of studying writing. But, I also have a shelf full of writing books, many of which I’ve never read. It made sense to add more academic endeavors to my reading regimen.

After looking over the titles, I picked The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass, of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. In just the first chapter I saw things I could do to improve both books I’ve been working on. It felt like my opening chapter of Fear Unleashed didn’t grab the reader like I wanted it to. My intention was to create a slow build of getting to know the main character, but I don’t think that helped sell the story. It has inspired me to rethink much of my first novel, and since I have a lot of passion for those changes, I think I’m jumping tracks and letting my current work in progress go for a moment while I rewrite Fear Unleashed.

The truth of my boredom update is this… I have failed miserably at being bored in 2019. I now see that I already was bored and screen time was just a lazy way to fill the boredom. So I guess I am sort of breaking my resolution. I no longer resolve that 2019 is the year of boredom. Instead I resolve it is the year I switch boredom off and reengage with the things that give life meaning. It’s an easy resolution to keep.

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? Have you also tried less screen time? How is that working for you?

Read any good books lately? Please tell me about them, as I’m constantly looking for my next book.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

I’m bored.

I remember whining “I’m bored” from time to time when I was a kid. Most of us over the age of 30 did. Apparently kids today are saying it less and less often, because they’re never bored. They pick up their phone, their tablet, their game controller, or the remote control.

Back in the olden days, you know, the 70s, do you remember what happened shortly after uttering those words? Our parents would either suggest something to do, which sounded good, and we did it. Or, they would threaten us with chores if we continued to complain about boredom. And with that, we would evaporate from their presence before chores could be unleashed. Out on a farm, 12 miles from a town of 400 people, there didn’t seem to be a lot of choices, but the sheer weight of boredom would force out some creativity. I would go work on my fort in the trees, maybe build something, or pretend I was on some adventure in the barn or pastures. Much of my love of writing comes from being bored and losing myself in a book, or being bored and playing out some story I’d invented in my head. Obviously, being bored isn’t fun, but it makes me sad that today’s kids aren’t enjoying the adventures that come out of boredom.

The problem is, I now feel sad for myself, as well, and doubly so, because I’m trying to launch a creative career. You see, I, too, have ceased being bored. There’s always something to watch on Netflix, or Amazon, or Hulu, or Sling. And if that’s not enough to entertain me, I’ll play a game on my phone while watching. Then there’s Flipboard, which lets me read all the news from so many sources and viewpoints, that it’s a black hole that can suck me in, leading me from one story to the next. I might sit down to write, but then YouTube seems infinitely more interesting than pounding out the next chapter. I mean, you can tour abandoned sites, learn about cults from those who’ve left, hear inspirational Ted Talks, watch a video on history, telling yourself it’s research for future ideas, watch music videos… again, a black hole that can suck one in for hours.

And then I complain that I just don’t have time to read. I just don’t have time to write. LIAR! I do have the time for both those things, and if I were bored, I would be clamoring to do them. My mind would be filling the boredom with ideas, just like it did when I was a kid.

So, I am doing something I don’t know that I’ve ever done before. I am making a New Year’s Resolution.

I do hereby resolve to be bored in 2019.

Often and frequently.

I will be getting rid of several of my streaming services. Not all of them. I am not a troglodyte, after all. I will be removing the games from my phone. The iPhone OS now lets you monitor your screen time, and I will keep an eye on that, perhaps creating time limits if I feel that’s necessary. Anybody have any other suggestions?

How often are you bored? What distracts you from boredom? Want to join me in my New Year’s Resolution and get your boredom on in 2019?

Let’s get bored!

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Weaning Myself off Amazon

Before I get to the main topic, I want to speak to any writers who read my blog. There is a terrific podcast out there called Write or Die. Authors are interviewed about the road to publication and it is eye opening. I knew it was a long process, but until I listened to these authors, I had no idea how long. A part of me thinks it would have been good to know it can take 8 or 9 years to get a book from written to published before I took my leap. My 3 year financial cushion wasn’t nearly enough. On the other hand, it’s a good thing I didn’t know, or I never would have taken the leap. Give it a listen. It’s great information about getting published.

Now to the title – I’ve made the decision to end my Prime Membership and wean myself off Amazon. It’s something more Americans might want to consider. Let me lay out the reasons.

  1. Brick and mortar stores have long warned that Amazon hurts local businesses. Local businesses employ local people, giving them money to spend, and building thriving local economies. I’ll admit there have been many times I have ordered products through Amazon that I know I could get locally, but it seemed so much easier to have it show up on my doorstep, rather than drive to get it. There was a good chance the price was better too.
  2. Amazon’s policies are impossible for smaller businesses to compete with, and are creating entitled customers who expect the same service. No shipping expense, and if you don’t like it, you don’t pay to ship it back. Package stolen – Amazon refunds it fully or sends another, without many questions asked. When a business isn’t doing the volume Amazon does, they lose all profit with those policies. But if they don’t provide them, they lose all customers.
  3. Amazon is the poster child for corporate greed – Recently, on the same day they announced huge profits, blasting through all expectations, they also raised the fee for Prime Membership citing rising costs. Riiiiiiiight. Jeff Bezos has so much money he’s using it to go to space, but he can’t pay his workers a living wage, and provides horrible working conditions. When Seattle tried to tax Amazon to help the homeless population, which has grown due to the high cost of living in the area, partially due to tech companies, Amazon fought back and killed the tax.
  4. And for me, there’s a final kicker. They broadcast extremist views that are contributing to the deaths of Americans – NRA-TV.

I’ve got until December before my Prime membership renews, but I’ve already begun the process. I can’t get my cat food anywhere in town, but I can get it through PetCo. I’m searching out item after item and am finding it locally, ordering it directly from the manufacturer, or at the very least, another distributor. That doesn’t mean I won’t use Amazon from time to time. In fact, if I’m trying a new product, that’s exactly who I’ll go to, precisely for the free shipping and easy returns. But once I know I like something, I’ll buy it elsewhere.

Greed is not good, and right now neither is Amazon.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

This is America

I’m going to go a little off the writing topic here. Last week a really interesting piece of art entered my consciousness, and I feel compelled to comment.

Last weekend, I watched Donald Glover host Saturday Night Live. As usual, I fell asleep long before the second song performance by Childish Gambino. The next day, everybody was talking about the video of This is America – the song from that second performance.

 

In case you haven’t seen it… (warning – some graphic violence)

 

If you feel a bit overwhelmed, you will probably want to watch it again at some point. There’s a lot to see.

I’ve read several interpretations, and you will likely have your own, which is only right when it comes to art. Some say that Childish Gambino is portraying America. He is showing how entertainment can distract from the chaos going on behind him. His jerky dancing is a reference to the contorted images from Jim Crow and black face.

I have a slightly different interpretation. i acknowledge that the above interpretation may come straight from the artist, but everyone has a right to see it through their own lens. I see Childish Gambino as representing the black experience in America, not as America itself. His contorted movements and facial expressions show the contortions black American go through in trying to live safely in America. Smile. Fight back. Look tough. Look weak. Comply. Resist. Subvert. Submit. Most of all, don’t get caught slippin’ now. And his struggle, the drama it creates, entertainment in general, becomes a huge distraction from the chaos all around – chaos created by a culture focused on greed, where profits matter more than people. The culture of celebrity that tells us money, power, and fame are what matter. All around is chaos. Crime. Guns. Drugs. Violence. Hopelessness. But, don’t look at that. No! Look over here!

Black man, black man, get your money!

Because in today’s America, money is what matters. You want respect? Get your money. You want privilege? Get your money. You want access to government? Get your money. You want equality? (at least on the surface) Get your money.

You take it by any means necessary…

When I first aspired to work in Hollywood, I dreamed of telling stories. I longed to make people feel the emotions I felt when I watched a movie. It was so idealistic. While pursuing that goal, I was as happy as I’ve ever been. But once I moved into chasing the security of a steady job and paycheck, the idealism fell apart.

No longer was I engaged in the idea of bringing people together with shared stories and experiences. Instead, I was simply paying the bills and attempting to save up for retirement. Our show wasn’t making a difference. Or saving lives. Or doing anything remotely noble. Some people tried to make me feel better by telling me that giving someone a laugh after a long day, or some entertainment to lift their spirits was a noble profession. But we were telling tired jokes in recycled sketches, and trotting out a never ending cycle of the latest ‘it’ actor. We were telling America, “This is what is cool. This is what matters. This is what you should aspire too. If you aren’t this, you’re nothing.” I could see it was working when I looked at the ecstatic fans lining up to see the show, or the questions I got peppered with if I admitted what I did for a living. Nothing was funnier than being ignored during a flight by my seat mate because I was a fat, middle-aged white woman, only to suddenly become the most fascinating person on the earth when they made chit chat before deplaning and discovered what I did for a living.

My disillusionment became complete when I realized that more than anything, what I was doing with my job, was making rich people richer. Rich people, who didn’t necessarily deserve to be richer. Then telling America, those rich people are the only ones who really matter… the ones they should emulate. Talk about a soul in crisis.

Don’t get me wrong, I think entertainment is important. I still think stories can bring us together. I think art can bring us together. I just think today’s entertainment industry has been subverted by corporate Hollywood into a money-making machine that doesn’t care about the damage it is causing to the fabric of society. After all…

Get your money. Get your money.

(I truly hope that because a 53-year-old white woman admits to being a fan of this video, it doesn’t mean that all the cool kids will now flee Childish Gambino. It doesn’t mean he’s over. This is art so powerful that it breaks age and racial lines. This is an artist to pay attention to.)Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Crossing Boundaries and Pushing Limits

A few weeks ago, I posted this meme on my Facebook page.

\

It made me think about artists and their progressive/liberal nature. Many conservatives look down on Hollywood for being a bastion of liberals… and it is. Without a doubt, conservatives are the minority in that industry. But it’s not some liberal conspiracy. We didn’t all get together and decide the best way to infect the world with our sickness is to go into the arts and insert our message into stories for the unwitting masses to consume.

In truth, artists are progressives because that is the very nature of art. Art is looking at the world in a new way. It is exploring the human experience, in all its dimensions, and reporting back. It has been my belief for some time that conservative thinkers cannot be true artists. They may engage in artistic endeavors, but they’ll never break free to create something truly unique. It’s impossible, because every time they step up to the boundary of what’s never been done before, they will retreat.

Last night I finally watched Moana and that message was reinforced. Moana’s father wanted her stay safely within the boundaries of the reef. It was dangerous out there. Bad things would happen. If she stayed home, there would be adequate food, and life would be pleasant. Yet Moana felt an irresistable pull to go past the boundaries. She refused to listen to those who held her back, and you know what? Her father was right… bad things did happen. There were moments of great despair and brushes with death. But he was also wrong, because by pushing her limits and going past the reef, she brought new life to her people.

Years ago I watched a documentary called The Lords of Dogtown. It was about the skaters who revolutionized skateboarding and took it from riding sidewalks to doing aerial tricks on ramps. They did this by breaking into abandoned homes in Los Angeles and skating in empty pools. They were trouble makers. They were jerks. They were at times, destructive. If it had been my home, I would have hated them. Yet, by pushing limits and breaking boundaries, they enriched our culture. They brought us a new sport and a new way of experiencing life.

It’s the outliers of society that move us in new directions. We generally despise them at the time, but looking back, we appreciate what they did for us. Just as many conservative women today, who at the time would have fought against women’s rights as ungodly, now enjoy and appreciate the rights those devil-influenced, rabble-rousers gave them.

I’ve never really understood the religious objection to the creative type, especially since one of the main worship-able qualities of God is creator. Yes, artists live lives conservatives don’t like. We live in a world of grays, not in the easily identified blacks and whites that they prefer, but our nature is God’s nature – one of creator. Satan is the great destroyer, yet so many religious people support war and despise artists. It makes me wonder who they are really following.

Right now society is in a time of retreat. Those afraid of what’s ‘past the reef’ are in charge. Now is when artists have to be most brave. We have to find the stillness in the cacophony of nay-sayers and listen to that still small voice of truth. We have to push past the limits and defy the boundaries they throw up in front of us. We have to move forward and bring new life to our people. As Howard Zinn said, we must speak to the world and wage the battle for justice. It’s what we do.

I’m proud of my tribe. It’s not an easy life, and it’s one lived on the edges. But we are creators, and we almost always find ourselves on the right side of history. If you are a member of that tribe, take heart. Be brave. Roll up your sleeves and get to work. There’s a lot to be done, and we need you to take us to the other side of the reef.

 Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

1 2 3