Friday, August 07, 2009

You're a mean father, you'll never give me anything I want! And I won't go to school till I have it!

You have one of those unruly 8-year old children for which Ritalin may be a good idea. The child is disrespectful of the rules of the house, insists that everything goes their way and has no respect for your things. Just recently the little monkey broke your heart and your grandmother's china set playing frisbee in the house.

Having had enough you put your foot down and send the child to his room for a time out.

He stomps up the stairs, slamming his bedroom door. Now you're forced to listen to him kick his feet against the wall of his room as he screams "I hate you!" and "I wish I'd never been born!"

Resigned to tough love you go back to your newspaper. Your only worry is that out of the corner of your eye you can see your husband glancing up the stairs and fidgeting. It's clear he's wavering even over this relatively minor form of discipline. You suspect that at any moment he'll run up the stairs, fling open the door of your son's room and tell the little monster "we didn't mean it." He is the weakest link.

To the bottom of your soul you know that if you give in to the tantrum you'll only reinforce the bad behaviour and make it worse. You'll probably also force a situation in the future where the discipline is going to have to be much, much worse to be effective. Perhaps you'll even need to get out THE BELT.

It's a terrible situation to be in made worse because your husband doesn't have your back and just wants to be liked.

(If you haven't guessed the situation above is pretty analogous to the health care debate as it stands now. The child is the political right, the time out would be the election, the tantrum would be the industry sponsored townhall riots and the wavering husband would be Obama/ Reid. )

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.

When I was younger I dreamed of being a movie director. In an effort to break into the business I did some PA work for a while working on a low-budget kung-fu flick and then a few national car commercials (which paid much better than the kung-fu flick in that they paid at all.) I gave it up after I interviewed for job on a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film they were shooting in Oregon and they wanted me to work for free. I'd been there, done that.

One of the reasons I wanted to direct was that I was such a huge film fan myself. There are tons of moments that I can think of growing up watching movies - when Luke Skywalker grabs Leia and swings across that chasm in the Death Star or the Little Tramp dreams that he entertains a gaggle of lovely ladies by doing the Dance of the Dinner Rolls or E.T. says a heart-wrenching goodbye to Elliot and his family - that have seared into my brain and actually moved me.

There are rare films in which the film itself have affected me so intensely that they've caused me to reconsider my worldview. Movies like Oliver Stone's "Platoon" which bored into my head it put the world into a different relief.

One such film was John Hughes' classic 80's flick "The Breakfast Club." I distinctly remember this movie being advertised as a teenage comedy with shots of the wacky teenage main characters as they slid around the empty halls of the school trying to avoid Mr. Vernon or doing an Egyptian dance in the library. The film was funny, sometimes bitingly so, but it was also a lot more.

Breakfast Club focused on a theme that Hughes would return to again and again: that we're much more than what our social status, dress or looks would define us as. Even the jocks or princesses in our society can be weird, even the geeks and oddballs can be beautiful. You judge others superficially at your own loss.

To a shy teenager seeing this movie it was like being hit with a sledgehammer. This was not the movie we were expecting but it was so much better. If you had tried to convince me after seeing Breakfast Club that the man who created it wasn't secretly in fact a pimply faced sixteen-year old I would've laughed in your face.

It's funny because I just showed this movie to my kids a couple of weeks ago and my sixteen-year old daughter was just as moved as I had been years ago when I had first seen the film twenty-five years ago. The clothes and some of the language may be goofy but the message of the movie is just as powerful. Some things never change.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention a couple of other Hughes' flicks that I think are great- "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Weird Science," both of which made stars out of their principles.

RIP John Hughes you magnificent bastard. There are a lot of hacks making movies but very few geniuses like you.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Poop, Poop! Oh, poetry of motion! Ohh, the bliss! Ohhh... poop, poop!

They're still shooting the television show "Leverage" a few blocks from my office. How do I know? Because I almost ran over star Timothy Hutton this morning on my way to work as I turned a corner.

Hutton was drinking a coffee, riding a bike the wrong way on a one-way street. I didn't recognize him until I rolled down my window to "explain" to the yahoo I'd almost killed how the one-way streets work. When I realized who it was I just started laughing.

It's actually a stroke of luck for me. If I'd squished Hutton my wife would've made my life very painful. Very painful indeed.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

...Say it!... Say it!... Say it!

Back to the real world after a wonderful vacation at the Washington coast with my family. From the sound of it we picked the perfect week to get out of town. 100 degree plus weather is atypical for Oregon. Six days in a row of that weather is unheard of. Yeesh.

There's a lot of crap going through my head right now. Frankly there's too much going on in the world to write about. I'm just going to share a memory that's forced it's way to the forefront of my thoughts as I've been reading about the faux industry-sponsored protests greeting democratic congressmen back in their districts for townhalls.

On July 23, 1994 I was at this rally (*) at Pioneer Square in downtown Portland. I had waited for several hours in 100-degree heat to see then First Lady Hillary Clinton speak as she kicked off the Health Care Express in the Clinton's doomed effort to modestly reform the health care system in this country.

Clinton was the key note speaker and the reason I was there. I really liked both Clintons and was eager for a chance to see either of them speak live. From what I had seen on the news I knew she had a commanding knowledge of health care and an ability to put a personal perspective on that complex issue. Unfortunately I didn't get to hear a word of what she had to say.

As soon as she took the stage a group of tractor rigs that had been circling the square for hours began blowing their air horns. Unless you were very close to the stage or the speakers you would only catch snippets of what Clinton had to say. (On a related note I had much the same experience a year or so later when I went to see Vice President Al Gore speak at PSU and some wingnut about 10 feet from me spent the entire speech screaming, ruining the experience.)

I struggle with this issue in the context of the First Amendment. On the one hand I loathe the sort of selective crowd control that became commonplace under the Bush administration. Does a bumper sticker on your car, t-shirt, sign or even a provocative question to the president when handed a microphone by organizers really mete expulsion and an arrest? Most of us would probably answer "no" to that question.

When you break it down isn't the difference between those who would shout down a congressman talking to his constituents about health care or a First Lady speaking at a rally and those who would wear an anti-Bush t-shirt to a Bush speech the difference between exercising one's right to free speech or trying to keep others from exercising that same right? Bush supporters may not have enjoyed having to stand next to somebody in such a t-shirt but at least they still had the chance to hear the incoherent babblings of the chimpanzee they lionized.

Does the First Amendment protect the right to shout down those you disagree with? Conservatives and their toadies on the court seem to think so. Much of the continued torpedoing of campaign finance reform laws on First Amendment grounds are based around this idea.

Personally I see shouting down the opposition, whether it's through smothering their message via the airwaves or yelling to the degree that they can't be heard, as a violation of their basic right to free speech. It makes speech solely the province of those who can afford it or those who are willing to be the biggest bullies.

In a larger sense our democratic society cannot function unless all participants are willing to listen. Those that are fighting against health care reform shouldn't be included in the debate at all unless they're as willing to hear as they are to be heard.

(* For bonus fun read through that contemporary account of the rally and see if you can catch the reporter's unmasked disdain for the event expressed through phrases like "...the populism has been carefully crafted." Then, as now, the establishment press tries to make it look like those that want to reform health care are just a front for powerful and shadowy forces. Of course then, as now, the exact opposite is the case.)