Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Crisis Papers


"The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong." ~ U.S. President Barack Obama, 2015 State of the Union Address.

Marie’s Crisis

There’s a piano bar in the West Village of New York City called Marie’s Crisis Cafe. I’ve been a couple of times, years ago now, with my friend Kathy, a voiceover artist. It’s fun. Sort of. If you like that sort of thing.

“To walk downstairs into this old West Village bar is to step out of time a bit. As an amicable regular might tell you, the room first opened in the 1850s as a prostitutes' den, became a boy bar by the 1890s, and lasted through Prohibition, when it was known as Marie's (the ‘Crisis’ came from ‘The Crisis Papers,’ by Thomas Paine, who died in the same house). For the past 35 years, it's plowed through as a piano joint in which neighboring gay men and musical theater performers gather round the keys nightly and sing solo—numbers like ‘Stranger in Paradise’ or ‘You're the Top’—to create a mood of both giddiness and longing.” ~ Karen Hudes, NY Mag

Miss O’ wants to like Marie’s Crisis more than she tends to do. It’s about singing show tunes, for heaven’s sake, and drinking a fine malt beverage in comradeship with show queens, after all. But there’s a kind of competitiveness that sets in, as well as a copious fumbling of lyrics, which, combined with (in my limited experience) an out-of-tune piano and sticky floors, left this barfly more than a little depressed.

Marie’s Crisis, as you see above, took part of its name from none other than Thomas Paine, author of the famous federal documents and essays now known as The Crisis Papers. After hearing President Obama’s SOTU Address, as it’s known, I began thinking about that word, crisis. So I started thinking about crisis, and who better to help me along than Thomas Paine himself, who would have been 278 years young on February 9.

Here is Thomas Paine from The Crisis, beginning with the line that is perhaps its most famous:

THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.
~ Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, December 23, 1776

What exactly are “these” times, in the year of our (over)lord 2015?

On the blog recently was an excerpt of a larger work, called “The Spectacle of Illiteracy and the Crisis of Democracy” by Henry Giroux. He writes:

 “C. Wright Mills argued 50 years ago that one important measure of the demise of vibrant democracy and the corresponding impoverishment of political life can be found in the increasing inability of a society to translate private troubles to broader public issues…. What this decline in civility, the emergence of mob behavior and the utter blurring in the media between a truth and a lie suggest is that we have become one of the most illiterate nations on the planet.”
by Henry Giroux.

Every year it seems that everyone I know is living more and more in a state of crisis—whether with illness, finances, longer working hours, or no work at all, everywhere we turn there is a crisis looming. The deeper tragedy, which is the fallout of each horrible new thing, is acted out in halls of power of the right wing of America’s political system, a wing too many people vote for with the hope that in vilifying the victims of crises and heaping larger burdens onto the most vulnerable, the crises will be buried for good and all under those mounds. The people of the United States—we, the People—have just that “inability” Mr. Giroux speaks of to recognize that “private troubles” are in fact not private, but rather “public issues.” Bankruptcies from health care costs—usually from crises such as cancer or other life-threatening illnesses—should lead us powerfully to gratitude for President Obama’s realization of the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s dream of health care insurance for all Americans. But this is not the case. Miss O’s Republican friends, who heatedly debated her on social media with abandon, claimed that if you can’t afford insurance, you should simply die. They wouldn’t take the argument, of course, to its logical conclusion, but felt that as long as they personally had insurance, no one else should have it if it meant paying a little more. The end. The result, of course—death—is nothing to do with them. They got theirs.

Similarly, white right-wing (mostly) friends on Facebook denounced the outcry over Mike Brown and Eric Garner, whose deaths at the hands of police made international headlines. “They should have complied,” and besides, “now these protests are ruining my commute.”

THOSE who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it. The event of yesterday was one of those kind of alarms which is just sufficient to rouse us to duty, without being of consequence enough to depress our fortitude. It is not a field of a few acres of ground, but a cause, that we are defending, and whether we defeat the enemy in one battle, or by degrees, the consequences will be the same.
~ Thomas Paine, The American Crisis: PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 12, 1777

Jon Stewart recently announced the end of his 15-year tenure on The Daily Show. America is a nation that has come to rely on a Comedy Central cable entertainment program for trustworthy news, because the writers of actual “news” programs fill the airwaves with so much garbage. Puppy stories. Punditry. One of my favorite segments on Stewart's program over the years was “Moments in Punditry, as Read by Children.” Out of the mouths of babes, the inanities of these “writers” became powerfully comic, revealing that their concerns were never about the betterment of mankind. But did we learn anything?

"What's in the name of lord, that I should fear
To bring my grievance to the public ear?
UNIVERSAL empire is the prerogative of a writer. His concerns are with all mankind, and though he cannot command their obedience, he can assign them their duty. The Republic of Letters is more ancient than monarchy, and of far higher character in the world than the vassal court of Britain; he that rebels against reason is a real rebel, but he that in defence of reason rebels against tyranny has a better title to "Defender of the Faith," than George the Third.
~ Thomas Paine, The American Crisis: PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 13, 1777

Whom should we love? Whom should we care about? Whom should we write about? In Lorraine Hansberry’s classic play about blacks coming face to face with the importance of the civil rights movement, Walter Lee Younger makes a tragic decision about how to use the life insurance money awarded at his father’s death. His sister, Beneatha, professes her profound disgust, calling her brother "a toothless rat".

BENEATHA: Love him? There is nothing left to love.

MAMA: There is always something left to love. And if you ain't learned that, you ain't learned nothing. Have you cried for that boy today? I don't mean for yourself and for the family 'cause we lost the money. I mean for him: what he been through and what it done to him. Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most? When they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain't through learning - because that ain't the time at all. It's when he's at his lowest and can't believe in hisself 'cause the world done whipped him so! When you starts measuring somebody, measure him right, child, measure him right. Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is.”

But Americans don’t like hills and valleys. They like “a level playing field,” that mythical arena where every single human born gets to start playing the Game of Life with all the same money, looks, health, family connection, resources, and support systems as every other single human being in the world. It’s the greatest, most fantastical and sickest story Americans tell their children and their fellow citizens, and until the Myth of the Level Playing Field is debunked for good and all, nothing like progress can occur.

But this is exactly why the right wing embraces it. So why does the progressive wing trot it out, too? Because it’s such a wonderful fantasy of “the great equality.”

In a recent op-ed for the New York Times, “Who Loves America?”, columnist Charles Blow had this to say:

"In a way, this is an ideological battle. Conservatism is rooted in preservation; progressivism advances alteration. These are different love languages. These languages turn on your view of change itself: When you think of America, do you see a country struggling to be maintained or one striving to be made better?"

Tom Paine reflected on progress and what that means, and why stasis cannot be the goal of living, nor can it be practical or useful in political life.

IN THE progress of politics, as in the common occurrences of life, we are not only apt to forget the ground we have travelled over, but frequently neglect to gather up experience as we go. We expend, if I may so say, the knowledge of every day on the circumstances that produce it, and journey on in search of new matter and new refinements: but as it is pleasant and sometimes useful to look back, even to the first periods of infancy, and trace the turns and windings through which we have passed, so we may likewise derive many advantages by halting a while in our political career, and taking a review of the wondrous complicated labyrinth of little more than yesterday.
~ Thomas Paine, The American Crisis: PHILADELPHIA, April 19, 1777

Lately, though, Progressives have been using their big voices in the halls of power, and why they have been afraid for so long, who knows? Miss O’s personal hero this past week was retiring Senator Barbara Boxer of California—and maybe it’s the knowledge of "no more campaigns to run" (as Obama remarked, adding after the Republican applause, "I know, because I won both of them")  that is making her brave (and President Obama even braver). Of her colleagues in the Senate who hold up every bill at every turn and have nothing to offer in terms of actionable policy and so once again cry “GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN!” Sen. Boxer had this to say in response to their refusal to vote on an immigration bill:

So tell me, Republicans, how does it make sense to deport people like Anna, split her up from her parents, when all they want to do is contribute to the country that they love. How does it make sense?
How does it make sense? Because you're too incompetent to hold a vote on your immigration plan? You want to kick people out of the country? Put it to a vote! Let's go. You want to deport 11 million people? Put it to a vote. Don't hide behind the Homeland Security Bill, holding the President's work hostage. You never did it to the other presidents.
Our national security is at stake, our family values are at stake. And our economy is at stake here. So get over the fact that you don't like the president. We get it. You couldn't beat him. Too bad for you. But you're in charge here, in the Senate. Do your job!
Don't hold it hostage due to your hatred of this president, and I use that word because that's what I think. That's what I think….
So I say to my Republican friends. There's a presidential race coming. Forget this last one. Get over it. Okay? Let's work together. Listen, I served with five presidents. I'm a strong Democrat. Everyone will tell you that. But I respect the office of the presidency. If I didn't agree with Ronald Reagan, I came down here and said it. But we had the respect back and forth. If we lost, we lost. And we moved on. And that worked both ways. I know what it is not to like the policies of a president. I get it. But don't overdo it and make it so personal. Get on with it. Grow up. Do your job, you know? Do your job! Have respect for the office of the presidency.
Don't suddenly say executive orders are bad when the president you don't like does it, but you don't say one word when a Republican president does the same thing!

Middle school Student Government Associations are more effective. What will it take to get government going again? Vote Progressive. Is America ready to get moving? Or does it merely want to cry, “Give me liberty, and give me a great big fucking death”?

Tom Paine knew the price of idiots in power:

To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture. Enjoy, sir, your insensibility of feeling and reflecting. It is the prerogative of animals. And no man will envy you these honors, in which a savage only can be your rival and a bear your master.
~ Thomas Paine, The American Crisis: LANCASTER, March 21, 1778

Speaking of men renouncing reason, I give you the Anti-Vaxxers:

Dr. James Cherry, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California-Los Angeles, told the New York Times the current outbreak is "100 percent connected" to the anti-immunization movement.
"It wouldn't have happened otherwise—it wouldn't have gone anywhere. There are some pretty dumb people out there."

Here’s my truth, spoken for me by my friend GEORGE on FACEBOOK:

Bad enough too many Americans feel the need to keep pumpin' out dem babies into an irresponsibly consumptive and wasteful society whose hubris sucks up 3/5 of the world's resources to keep us swimming in plastic crap—while elsewhere, millions of orphaned children are dying for some care... (I'm sure your children's and grandchildren's last thoughts of you will be >kind< as climate change & overpopulation end their lives in hunger, disaster, despair, and probably violence over the next half century.) But that's not enough... Nope. Now you're letting your unvaccinated spawn infect the rest of us. Nice. How... American of you. Those of you whose personal morality seems to be in conflict with a hormonal desire to leave a mark on the world through spawn: Adopt. And then please vaccinate the little crawling germ bags. Have a GFD, Omelas.

Then there’s The Onion, which can’t even trump reality:

As a mother, I put my parenting decisions above all else. Nobody knows my son better than me, and the choices I make about how to care for him are no one’s business but my own. So, when other people tell me how they think I should be raising my child, I simply can’t tolerate it. Regardless of what anyone else thinks, I fully stand behind my choices as a mom, including my choice not to vaccinate my son, because it is my fundamental right as a parent to decide which eradicated diseases come roaring back.

THERE are stages in the business of serious life in which to amuse is cruel, but to deceive is to destroy; and it is of little consequence, in the conclusion, whether men deceive themselves, or submit, by a kind of mutual consent, to the impositions of each other. That England has long been under the influence of delusion or mistake, needs no other proof than the unexpected and wretched situation that she is now involved in: and so powerful has been the influence, that no provision was ever made or thought of against the misfortune, because the possibility of its happening was never conceived.
~ Thomas Paine, The American Crisis: PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 21, 1778

CrISIS: I personally think that most all violence/ unhappiness/ unrest comes down to wealth inequality. When people feel they have nothing left either to lose or hope for, the door is open for the (very few) power fanatics to begin the recruiting and conversions of the hopeless…and, boom: ISIS, which is just the latest in a series. I also suspect that too many rich people who cause this inequality love war because it keeps the peasants busy killing each other.

HAD America pursued her advantages with half the spirit that she resisted her misfortunes, she would, before now, have been a conquering and a peaceful people; but lulled in the lap of soft tranquillity, she rested on her hopes, and adversity only has convulsed her into action. Whether subtlety or sincerity at the close of the last year induced the enemy to an appearance for peace, is a point not material to know; it is sufficient that we see the effects it has had on our politics, and that we sternly rise to resent the delusion.
~ Thomas Paine, The American Crisis: Philadelphia, Oct. 4, 1780

And then there’s ISIS. Typically Facebook friends who never post political things expressed “outrage” that the U.S. was not over with full troop support fighting ISIS only when “21 Christians” were executed. In the past, when it’s been the kidnapping of African girls from a school, or the rape of Muslim detainees in the Syrian refugee camps, the outrage expressed from these same “Christians” was approximately zero.

Money. Freedom. I got mine: I try to imagine a world where people get up in the morning, walk gently to the water source, fill a kettle or a coffee pot, pour out the tea leaves or the coffee grounds into a steeper, place the vessel of choice onto a heat source, and slice the bread. Gather the eggs. Cook the breakfast. Eat it. Wash up. Wash their faces and hands and dress. Tidy up the place. Walk out into the world and amble to work. Greet neighbors and friends along the way. Notice the sky. Feel the weather coming.

In that world, there is no HURRY. Nature will give us, always, not only bounty and beauty but also real weeks of real crisis: drought, fire, snow, ice, wind, torrents of rain, earthquakes, tornadoes. And more than the snippets we allow ourselves to see on Fox News …

NOW IN CABLEVISION! Do you REALLY want your life to be lived like a Lifetime TV Movie? Melodrama, disease, betrayal, ruin, humorlessness at every turn of the life dial?

A few years ago, one of my dear friends died, suddenly, of congestive heart failure, the cause of which was a years-long addiction to alcohol. It was not until near the end that any of us even knew she drank. She was a closet alcoholic, a maintenance drinker, and she also binged when alone with her kids. Her life had been, it turned out, one long crisis, with breathers in between—loss of the custody of her daughter when quite young; death of her second husband to cancer—and that’s just for starters. But in the life, she lived with the greatest, best figurative heart, full of love and art and excitement for doing new things, learning, reading, running, and children. As I said at the end of my eulogy at her funeral, when my own life was in crisis and decided to move to New York, she was my strongest, best champion. When everyone around me was stage-whispering, “You know she’s out of her mind,” or “she’ll never survive,” or “who does she think she is?” it was this friend who said to me, “Lisa, don’t listen to them. Everybody wishes they were you right now. Everybody wants to be YOU.” In finally making the move, the shadow of the crisis passed. The state of my (internal) union is strong. For my friend, the crisis of her inner life and outer tragedies destroyed her. You see how easily—whatever your smarts, talents, beauty, or spirit—anybody can break given the right terrible circumstances.

The personal is political. The personal ills that beset us affect the world around us, and the crises of the world make our own healing almost impossible.

But who is really paying attention? President Obama gave a State of the Union Address wherein he took on all the stupidity, and here was a post for the ages: “I thought Michelle Obama stole the show. Forget about that speech! Look at what she’s wearin’!”



“Maybe we all live life at too high a pitch, those of us who absorb emotional things all day, and as mere consequence we can never feel merely content: we have to be unhappy, or ecstatically, head-over-heels happy, and those states are difficult to achieve within a stable, solid relationship.” 
~ Nick Hornby, from High Fidelity

One of Miss O’s greatest challenges in being a writer or a teacher or an editor or a citizen of the world, for that matter, is her hyper-awareness of her failings and shortcomings. Her gold standards are high, her taste exquisite, and it makes her all too aware of what she has not been able to accomplish. Enter modern dance pioneer Martha Graham, just in the nick of time:

 “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”
                ~ Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille

School says: If everything is special, nothing is special.
Artist says: If nothing is special, everything is special.
WikiLeaks says: If everything is public, everything is public.
NSA says: If nothing is private, nothing is private.

If everything is a crisis, nothing is a crisis?

No. Instead, when everything is a crisis, it becomes the mode in which we live. And die. EARLY.

169 million vacation days went unused 2013. That figure speaks to the entire problem in this nation. Everybody is working overtime for free (except Congress, who needs to), and taking no breaks to replenish (except Congress, who just shuts that whole thing down when they get the grumps). We are running on empty—physically, intellectually, morally, ethically. We the People literally got nothin’ to bring to our Game of Life, nothing to use to get over the hills or across the valleys. The shadow of the crisis is past, and it’s the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

That, and of course, “President Obama Doesn’t Love America.”

(I’d like to note, here, President Obama's Hate-Filled Agenda: Access to affordable health care for all Americans, access to quality affordable education, sustainable and renewable energy, protections for the last big wild places, economic growth, deficit reduction, a society free from gun violence--and all presented with intelligence, wit, diplomacy, respect, and without showing any hatred for others. And he took out Bin Laden. Yep--he's a dick, all right. You know who really doesn't love America? The narcissists like Rudy Giuliani who have no relevancy but say whatever it takes to cash a speaking engagement paycheck telling fat cats who care only about themselves exactly what they want to hear to justify their personal agendas. And what is President Obama's response? Class. All the way.)

The End of Crisis

But the president tells me “the shadow of the crisis is past,” and I’d like to believe him. Surely Tom Paine thought the victory of 1783 meant just that.

ADVANTAGES THEREOF. THESE are times that tried men's souls, and they are over- and the greatest and completest revolution the world ever knew, gloriously and happily accomplished. But to pass from the extremes of danger to safety — from the tumult of war to the tranquillity of peace, though sweet in contemplation, requires a gradual composure of the senses to receive it. Even calmness has the power of stunning, when it opens too instantly upon us. The long and raging hurricane that should cease in a moment, would leave us in a state rather of wonder than enjoyment; and some moments of recollection must pass, before we could be capable of tasting the felicity of repose. There are but few instances, in which the mind is fitted for sudden transitions: it takes in its pleasures by reflection and comparison and those must have time to act, before the relish for new scenes is complete.
~ Thomas Paine, The American Crisis: Philadelphia, April 19, 1783

And yet.

We carry crisis in the body. We carry trauma in the body. Lately I’ve been reading about the work of Moshe Feldenkrais and his revolutionary work on pain and the way we human beings have lost touch with our own basic body movements as a result. And we need to take that in. If a twinge of arthritis can destroy our body’s understanding of what it means to move freely, imagine what night after night of ISIS crisis and gun violence and disease epidemics and torture chambers and drone strikes and pictures of that drunken sod John Boehner and that walking robot of tyranny Dick “I will never die” Cheney are doing to our very cores.

A crisis passes. There is great rejoicing and a national holiday gets named for it.

But if everything is a crisis, is anything a crisis?

Is “crisis” the new normal? No biggie?

Calm the fuck down already? Miss O’ thinks not.

 You know what is a REAL CRISIS?


That is a crisis. (If you live in the middle of the country and think, “This doesn’t apply to ME,” you are doubtless the same people who want to rescue persecuted Christians in parts unknown, but not anyone else, and not anyone in your own country. THAT is the REASON for this crisis. This climate crisis is, in fact, YOUR FAULT. Tell that to your children with a smile.)

 And this is where Miss O' bows out.

Miss O’ has had about enough of crises as a lifestyle. The world has been, is, and will ever be, too much with us, and it’s time for this little blogger, on whose shoulders this too-much-world has been sitting, to bid you, faithful readers, farewell. I have in me but a very finite few years left on Earth, and while Miss O’ would never say never, she suspects strongly that it’s time to get off this Blogger horse and ride a different pony, one with a few more tricks, one that leads to a creative end that feels a little more hopeful than crisis analysis.

Will keep you posted. Maybe.

In the meantime, one could do worse than turn to Turner Classic Movies.  May I recommend it? We could all use a breather.

In a New York Times piece this weekend by Leon Weiseltier, “Letter of Recommendation: Turner Classic Movies,” the author writes, hopefully:

When disappointment has brought you low, or sadness has colonized you, or fear has conquered your imagination, you experience a contraction of your horizon. Your sense of possibility is damaged and even abolished. Pain is a monopolist. The most urgent thing, therefore, is to restore a more various understanding of what life holds, of its true abundance, so that the bleakness in which you find yourself is not all you know. The way to break the grip of sorrow and dread is to introduce another claimant on consciousness, to crowd it out with other stimulations from the world. Sadness can never be retired completely, because there is always a basis in reality for it. But you can impede its progress by diversifying your mind.

So do that. Diversify your mind. See the hills and the valleys for what they really are. Solve a crisis. Make progress.

Will do same.

As ever, with love and deep gratitude for your goodness in reading along these four years, I remain,

Yours &ct,

Miss O’

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Lip Service: New Year's Resolutions and Revolutions for 2015

“Every New Year is the direct descendant, isn't it, of a long line of proven criminals?”

~ Ogden Nash, "Good-by, Old Year, You Oaf or Why Don't They Pay the Bonus?" in The Primrose Path (1935).

Happy Ever-Loving New Year!

Quinn on Second Avenue
Since the advent of the Julian Calendar, or at least since the dawn of the In/Out column of the Washington Post's New Year's Style section, there's been the need for some kind of annual summing up, some sort of taking stock, I guess. What happened, and what’s next? The putting away of the decorations is a helpful beginning, and as I face that task today (or, rather, avoid it by writing this) I think of a Facebook friend’s college-age daughter who wondered this year why people even bother with the, obviously temporary, decorating for Christmas. “Is it just to show you made an effort to impress others?”  By her reasoning, one might just as well ask, why wear decent clothes? You’re going to be grungy and almost certainly naked later. Why travel? You’ll only end up home again. Why live? You’re only going to die. So, in this vein: Why think about the events of the old year? You’ll only forget them as soon as you get your first winter cold and pull out the snow shovel. Come to think of it, why blow your nose? You’ll only get more snot. Why shovel? It’ll melt come spring. (Her mother says she is only being logical, though, having seen this young woman's prom pictures, something tells me she's won't be so "logical" when it comes to her wedding dress—the one she will spend thousands on to wear for approximately two hours for the whole of her life. Because there are these things called occasions, created to help us feel good. Maybe Christmas isn't your thing, but personally, I can't see enough candy lights.)

Seen on East 4th Street, NYC
But really, who has time for all this existential shit? 'Tis the season to don the layers of our gay apparel, find a friend, avoid Times Square (seriously—that dropping ball (heh, heh) closes every subway entrance, and there's nowhere to pee), and celebrate another year of goddamned living.

Miss O' likes to spend New Year’s Rockin’ Eve out on the town, the “real New York” of the East Side, with her friend Quinn, an annual tradition, since last year. This year, we met after work at the Barnes and Noble on E. 17th St, walked briskly in the cold, crisp air, as the sun began setting, from Union Square east over to 2nd Avenue, and down to 7th St for a divine dinner at Cooper’s (last year was at his namesake Quinn's barbecue!)—grilled gruyere cheese sandwich with thick bacon on homemade white bread, toasted perfectly, accompanied by smoky-flavored tomato soup. The beverage? A dry hard cider (for me) and the once-a-year vodka and 7-Up (for Quinn). The appetizer? A sharing of the Canadian treat Poutine, which is a dish of thick-cut French fries and cheese curd smothered in oxtail gravy. Got that? (Note: Possibly a kinder Miss O’, a more empathetic woman, would have warned the still-hung-over among you to skip the meal contents description entirely, aware of the stomach-churning costs of celebrating/ drinking to forget, but, and she says this with love, “You're welcome.” Now back to me. –ed.) Indulgence, comfort, warmth found in a long-cherished restaurant in the East Village, away from the madding crowds of Times Square, seemed just right after a 2014 fraught with necessary if often discomfiting Revolutions, both personal and political, all over America. 

After the meal, it was time to walk about and then see a show! 

We headed a few blocks further east, which used to be very, very mean streets, indeed, even as recently as when Miss O’ moved here 11 years ago, but though safer, it still feels like real New York, down to 4th Street between Avenues A and B, where the Connelly Theater has been an institution for years. We walked under scaffolding, over trash, and past piled-blanket-covered homeless men (reminders of the price too many pay to survive), heading toward an oasis of sophisticated enchantment.

Quinn with Lypsinka portrait, the Connelly Theater, NYC

Lypsinka! My closest work colleague for the past decade, Howard, has been telling me about this act of drag legend for years—the alter-ego glam lady persona of the astonishing John Epperson, son of the state of Mississippi, who created this character some 30 years ago in the East Village to which he has finally returned after taking his creation all over the nation for ages now. Howard said, “The first time I saw her, this must have been the late ’80s or early ’90s, some friends took me and I had no idea what it was, and I nearly wet myself laughing—I've never seen anything like it.” “It” is the genius mash-up of recorded lines and songs from female performers in movies, nightclub acts, and television. And you would swear that every line is coming from Lypsinka’s own mouth. You can see marvelous clips on the hyperlinked website above, or find her on YouTube, especially this item from BoyBar in 1993. (You must watch all 9 minutes, because at 2:55 the insanity really begins, and it just gets better.) (Here is one of the acts he lip-syncs: Fay McKay, “The Twelve Daze of Christmas.” You will will will die.) To say, "It's a guy in drag lip-synching" does not begin to do this justice. Sure, it's dazzling in the display crack timing and line-memorization, but more than that, the act reveals the ways that popular culture has portrayed women, or expected women to portray themselves—as well as the brilliantly subversive ways talented women have elevated themselves through art.

But his act got me thinking: What, really, is this Lypsinka lip-synching all about? Why does it fascinate, draw sell-out crowds (of gay men and artistic women—the great New York performer, Jackie Hoffman, right in front of me!—almost entirely), and be so vital still that poor Mr. Epperson cannot manage to let her go? (He performs another show, the autobiographical Show Trash, about that very subject.) I looked around the lobby of the theater. I said to Quinn, "Look at all this history." Surrounding us was a sea of slender, dapper, exquisitely dressed gay men of a certain age, mostly white, with salt-and-pepper hair, glasses, their bodies adorned in fine, tailored wools in total contrast to what was (most probably) the leather coats and pants of their youths. Not until we were seated in the house was Quinn able to look around and see just what I meant. These are the survivors of the AIDS epidemic. And Lypsinka is, too. (Someone needs to make that documentary.)

I think that for gay boys, especially those coming of age in the 1950s and 1960s (Epperson is 59 now, around the same age as my friend Howard and nearly all the men there, from the looks of it, including legendary choreographer and dancer Mark Morris, right behind me!), classic films starring dazzling women like Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, and Elizabeth Taylor, who expressed raw emotions without fear, as well as lesser-known film noir femme fatales and B-movie starlets, together with the Broadway belters of original cast recordings and television variety shows, kept these poor closeted kids from losing their minds. The outsized characters these gals so (melo)dramatically portrayed for audiences were invariably fighting for their lives!—fighting to have lives outside of the grip of straight men and their repressive culture, and of course gay boys could relate to that. Their own fears, tremblings, and deep sensitivities found release on the screen, on recordings, and could be relived through play-acting. Any sensitive kid who feels like a misfit and outcast knows the thrill of recognition that artists give to us by putting up that Hollywood-style tinsel mirror. 

This Lypsinka revival is a Trilogy: The Boxed Set, The Passion of the Crawford, and the aforementioned, autobiographical John Epperson: Show Trash. Of the Trilogy, Howard told me to see (if I had to pick) “The Boxed Set,” which features many of the classic routines. I'd been remiss in doing this, and realized it would be closing this weekend; astonishingly, there were still tickets for New Year’s Eve’s 8 PM show as of Monday, and I snatched (so to speak) two. Quinn, who happily agreed to go, only knew of Lypsinka because he’d met her/him years ago when he was backstage working an awards show. Ben Vereen had greeted her—she/he was wearing full drag makeup, in a man’s suit—"Genius," Quinn said—effusively, and Quinn realized, “Lypsinka must be somebody…,” but he had no idea who. Last night, he learned. Miss O’ cannot encourage you enough to join our ranks. (See links above! Also, Joan Rivers was a huge fan, and there's a clip of Lypsinka on her old talk show. It's 2 minutes that will just make you glad you are alive. And it's all in lip-sync, from the entrance.)

Lip Synching as Lifestyle

Everybody lip-syncs, especially in the car. So the other night’s wonderful performance got me thinking: What is it about lip-synching? Why “go through the motions” of someone else’s expressed talent, as if it’s our own performance, our own talent? I guess since the beginning of recorded singing, it just became another extension of the game, "As If...": Fantasy, play-acting. But is that all there is to it? It came about as a real “thing” in the 1980s, turning up everywhere from drag shows like this, to parties, to TV shows—Tom Cruise built a whole career on one moment of it—and MTV rock videos, I’m sure, had a lot to do with it (though in elementary school in the early 1970s I remember little Jerry Bartee in the talent shows, year after year, lip-synching to Elvis). When I was in college, 1982-86, my friend Todd used to play Bruce Springsteen records (remember records?) at his parties, and Bruce’s songs can be kind of a downer, except that our fun was lip-synching to songs such as “Badlands,” turning these great working-class rock songs into performance art (we didn’t think of it that way, of course, but rather as more of a drunken entertainment, because though I was sober, they were all smashed—people at the parties who didn’t know me well would say to me on Monday, “Wow, you are so funny when you’re drunk,” not knowing my red plastic tumbler was full of ice water, and I’d just go with it, “Yeah…,” smiling even as I realized that they were saying I looked stupid without the excuse). David Lynch uses lip-sync to frightening effect in the movie Blue Velvet, where Dean Stockwell "sings" Roy Orbison's "In Dreams," with a light stand for a microphone. Lately, Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show has elevated the practice to exhibition-worthy stuff with a recurring segment of dueling lip-sync, wherein he and a guest performer, who is usually a non-singer, take turns lip-synching to a few current or classic songs of their own choosing. (One of my favorites was actress Emma Stone doing the fast riff from Blues Traveler’s “Heart Brings You Back.”) (When I'm on Jimmy Fallon's show, I am totally doing "Badlands.")

It’s always really fun. Why?

It is Lypsinka (with her lip-synching, from some film, the refrain “Who am I? Am I going crazy? Who am I? Who am I?” between segments) who really exploded in my head last night as to the reason for it—to understand the need for playing out the fantasy of living the lives of the speakers of the lines, the singers of the songs.

And I got to thinking about how people in this country (and others, but I'm doing America here) are forever lip-synching along in ways that are not always, necessarily, fun. Or maybe it starts out that way, and becomes just sort of mindless. And then, sort of, or really, dangerous.

So true to New Year's tradition, how about a little ball-dropping—just six "seconds'" worth—of What was IN, lip-wise, for 2014. Here they are, America's biggest lip-sync-style cultural moments of the year. 

Lip-Sync’s Greatest Hits of 2014: A Countdown!

Lip-Sync #6: I’m-Ins, or, “The Ice Bucket Challenge Cometh”

If anything showed that human beings will do almost anything for the betterment of all if there’s a chance it will go viral on YouTube, it was the Ice Bucket Challenge. All over the world, people from all walks of life filmed themselves taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which was created to raise money and awareness for a really awful disease that doesn’t get much research funding. My initial reaction to this, as to all such challenges, including Breast Cancer Runs, for example, is, “Why, in the richest developed country in the world, are we holding the equivalent of a bake sale to find cures for diseases that can afflict anyone at any time, regardless of race, gender, creed, color, or income?” And then I try to remember how healing these events have been for so many survivors and the families of victims. And then I get mad again at charity being the way we get the bulk of our important research funding. And then I try to get over it again.

Am I going crazy? Who am I? Who am I?

But the Ice Bucket Challenge was a phenomenon of imitation upon imitation of the dumping of ice water onto the heads of humans from every walk of life, an equalizer, a moment that brought out, too, some enormous creativity, as when Patrick Stewart wrote out a check and signed it, and then tonged cubes from an ice bucket into a glass, poured Scotch, and drank. It was the ultimate lip-sync competition, where true to the lip-sync experience, the competitors had not one thing to gain or prove except that they were willing to put themselves out there, and ALS won. Even if most of the people who did the challenge didn't know what ALS was, may or may not have contributed money, and will probably never (unless that ice water was a literal wake-up call) think about ALS ever again.

Except maybe when they see that computer-voiced scientist in the wheelchair.

So, what's it all about? In part, lip-synching is about taking the risk to perform, knowing that one will look ridiculous, in the name of a good cause, or in good fun. Okay then...

Lip-Sync #5: Chime-Ins, or, Pardon My Burning Bra’s Lateness, But I Wasn’t Born Yet

I had an idea months ago for a blog on feminism, which I never wrote, and my title was, “Emma Watson Waves Her Wand: Casting Political Spells on Young Feminism in America.” 

“I don't want the fear of failure 
to stop me from doing 
what I really care about.”
~Emma Watson, Actress, 
U.N. Good Will Ambassador,

Actress Emma Watson, who made a fortune and earned life-long fame playing Hermione in the Harry Potter movie franchise, took a massive risk by addressing the United Nations body and proclaiming her feminism. She personally had nothing to gain, much to lose. (Just ask Ann Coulter and every other Republican in America.) Emma Watson is white, young, rich, successful, educated, adored. However, she is also, most visibly, a woman. And she knows it. And she realized that her privileged woman's life is not the norm. You can watch her very fine speech at the link: Emma Watson’s Speech

The speech received a lot of praise from disparate quarters, but around the time I caught the story, on the Huffington Post, I also happened upon two paradoxical pieces posted on that same site within days of each other: 

"Can This Marriage Be Saved? Awful ‘50s Marriage Advice": This post is absolutely worth reading, and contains the kinds of stingers that sent women into deep depressions, or turned them into addle-pated doormats of frenzied denial, for all of their lives. The upshot: It’s all HER fault. And this was the lip-synched messaged of every advice column and doctor in America for decades. The stuff movie melodramas are made of!

Am I going crazy? Who am I? Who am I?

But in that same section of that online publication, there was a column called “11 Bridal Parties That Totally Killed It,” a cutesy little article that essentially tells women that not only should they see the wedding as the high point of their lives, but that these eleven women had a better party than YOU did, or ever will. Look at the pressure on the idea of marriage:

Who am I? Am I going crazy? Who am I? Who AM I???

But more interesting to me than even those little pieces was the inevitable Emma Watson backlash by feminists, especially black feminists of an older generation. What's a good thing in America, without a backlash? Ammirite?

That headline pretty much sums it up. The inevitable and necessary loss of "white privilege"—and the desire of feminists of color to hasten that—precludes any support they might give to a young white woman discovering her feminism. I get so pissed off by this. First of all, speeches cannot be all things to all people. Second, I am always saddened by women who, even sort of, bash other women as this author, Mia McKenzie, does here—and as I am doing in bashing, sort of, Ms. McKenzie—for doing something to play a part in a movement that is important. The critic's points, however condescendingly they are made, are certainly worthy of note, as Ms. Watson is indeed still learning to be a woman and is still growing into her feminism. However, I see that Ms. McKenzie's real issue is with the press and its reactions, especially their incessant use of the term "game-changing" to describe Ms. Watson’s speech; and McKenzie, who has no such Watson fame, is eager to snatch away any praise from a young (white) woman—and this appalls me, because Watson not only rose to an occasion, but quickly began suffering a vile male-driven backlash as a result. Rather than dismantle this young woman's heart-felt and highly moral speech, Ms. McKenzie might instead ADD her OWN voice. This kind of splitting of feminist hairs and semantic deconstruction is why, over so many years, women hold other women back. I'd like to say this then, in, of course, a pleading, Joan Crawford-Elizabeth Taylor style voice: Rejoice, why don't you, Ms. McKenzie, rejoice, for the love of god, and ADD OTHERS TO THE CAUSE rather than frighten them off with your slut-shaming criticism! WHY DON'T YOU LOVE ME?

I’d also like to point out that, due mostly to Rush Limbaugh’s anti-woman campaign—beginning with his coining of the term, Femi-Nazi, which was all-too-readily embraced by the media and, sadly, lip-synched along to for years by the majority of American women to the tune of "I'm Not a Feminist!"—Emma Watson has had no real role models to look to. It’s been a slow slide back to the 1950s, exemplified in Victoria’s Secret catalog advertising aimed even at sixth graders, so women of Emma Watson’s generation are, more or less, having to reinvent feminism as if for the first time.

Writer Neha Chandrachud did a nice summary of the backlash Emma Watson encountered, laying out the very reason, I think, that young women today avoid doing anything that might resemble leadership. But then she did the thing I always shake my head at (seen in bold):

When I saw Emma Watson's UN speech begin to slowly infiltrate my newsfeed, I cringed. As with most socially-conscious viral videos, I knew I was about witness the same, reliable formula unfold.
The first 24 hours were a barrage of YouTube clips of the speech paired with exciting phrases like "feminism at the forefront!" and "courageous!" and "game changing!"
Then came the second wave: the critics and the ego-driven arguments. Many long-winded comments chasing one another down my Facebook page, spiralling into heated debates about class, race, world politics and of course, celebrity culture.
And finally, the third wave arrived. Several days after her UN speech, the inevitable quiet after Emma Watson was dethroned from atop the 'trending now' list and was replaced by something far more banal (to be specific, the latest Budweiser puppy ad).
I watched Watson's HeForShe speech about two days after it was released. I found her obvious nerves to be earnest and her resolve to be admirable. I certainly didn't agree with everything she said in her 12 minutes, but I was moved by her willingness to take on the daunting task of being a UN Goodwill Ambassador.
What I was less impressed with though, was the overwhelmingly antagonizing reaction of many of her critics.

Miss O’, while appreciating Ms. Chandrachud's summary and calling out of the backlash, cannot help but query this line: “I certainly didn’t agree with everything she said in her 12 minutes…”. It’s the adverb “certainly” (and the lack of specifics that follows the statement) that really pisses me off. You “certainly didn’t agree” with everything? Seriously? It’s hard to find anything, really, that a feminist would “certainly” disagree with (just listen to it—much of the speech is autobiographical, for the love of McGonagall) but Chandrachud, if she wants to be embraced by those same McKenzie-style feminist critics in future, had to be political, still, didn’t she? Miss O’ SIGHS (a big, giant sitcom mom type of sigh!). God forbid ANY woman with a published column have the spine to give Ms. Watson unqualified support and thanks for bringing feminism to the fore again at the United Nations. 

At least these discussions and debates are better than this little headline:

Who am I? Am I going crazy? Who am I?

Women's Rights: Is it just Miss O’, or does this record keep skipping? Or maybe lip-synching is also about showing off one’s ability to mouth the words of an old song, while trying to look fresh and unique doing it. Just because it just has to be fucking re-sung, over and over and fucking OVER again, because we are stupid like that.

Lip-Sync #4: Lie-Ins, or, Faux-Fox “News” Exposed

That science guy in the wheelchair with ALS.
(That is, HE has ALS, not the wheelchair. See what happens when you dangle your modifiers?. -ed).

For years, since the advent of Rush Limbaugh, ca. 1992, and the rise of Rupert Murdoch and Chairman Roger Ailes’s Fox News, closeted right-wing bigots of America have come OUT, so far out they are IN—highest-rated news in America!mouthing along to the pundits who espouse the homophobic, anti-feminist, anti-immigrant, anti-black, anti-poor vitriol that three decades of the Civil Rights Movement had long repressed, and their cacophony of News-speak became such a relentless drumbeat, that the genius Stephen Colbert realized that the only way to combat it was lip-sync along, with a twist, creating his own show, The Colbert Report, in 2005. There is a fundamental difference, of course, between the real followers of Fox and the faux follower, Colbert, and that is self-awareness. And inherent decency.

Mr. Colbert, recently offered the job of replacing the retiring David Letterman on his Late Show on CBS, played out his last poseur-driven episode this past December, closing out 2014 at an auspicious time, I'd say—in the wake of nationwide protests against the grand jury decisions that favored the perpetrators of irresponsible, criminal acts, the two law enforcement officers in two major American cities: Officer Darrell Wilson in St. Louis and Officer Daniel Pantaleo in New York City. (The victims’ names are far better known, however: Mike Brown and Eric Garner, and this is precisely as it should be—whole Wikipedia entries are devoted to them.) Colbert’s lip-sync to the lies and libelous bullshit of the pundits on Fox took satire to a new level, because his character was so convincing that right-wingers like my cousin Bill in Iowa actually posted clips on Facebook, sure that finally, a comedian agreed with him. (Note to the Masses who were duped: That Colbert made you laugh should have been a hint. Republican comedians are not funny. See “Dennis Miller.” See also, “P.J. O’Rourke.”) (Note: Dave Barry is the only exception I can think of, and that’s because he sees the idiocies of both parties and writes about that, though simplistically for easy laughs. (See Dave Barry Slept Here.) I gather that Dave’s one of those wildly wealthy “don’t touch my taxes” Republicans, the ones who put on voter-blinders when it comes to the amorality of the party platform in order to save a few bucks personally, making him the most discouraging kind of Republican, really. But funny!)

I’d say that Colbert left his self-made host post at an ideal time, because the Revolution has, finally, begun. I’d say our Stephen—a progressive liberal Roman Catholic in the guise of a right-wing pompous evangelical "idiot" (his Word)—had a lot to do with it. Global warming, er, “Climate Change,” was a continual subject, for example. So were poverty, race, feminism, and politicians. Colbert gets it, and a lot of people who mouthed along, finally, are getting it, too.

So, in part, lip-synching is about taking the risk to perform, behind the safety of low, or worse, no, expectations of being good or right, so at least you get noticed. Sometimes for the right reasons, both ways. And this leads your Miss O’ to Lip Sync winners 3, 2, and 1. 

Lip Sync #3: Tie-Ins, or, CIA Torture Reports and The Great American Shame

Too many Americans and their media mouthpieces mouthed along with the Gitmo arrangement, lip-synching to songs led by the bandleaders President “Decider” Bush and Vice President “Go Fuck Yourself” Cheney and Secretary of Defense “Boom-Boom” Rumsfeld as they droned on (pre-drone) about the need for extracting “information,” and it turns out they were torturing, and we all knew it even back in 2005, but we tuned out, what with the falling into their beat in the name of "freedom", and all. Fuck US.

Finally, a COMMITTEE! They investigate! Should they tell us what they learned?!

“Release the report for the good of the nation!” “Don’t release the report for the good of the nation!” “Release the report!” “Don’t release the report!”

They release their single! And…outrage. Then crickets.

Who am I? Am I going crazy? Who am I? Am Iiiiiiiii…...

No one, of course, will be prosecuted. Though, sure, former President Bush will never be able to travel outside the U.S. again for fear of being arrested for war crimes. That’s something. And you’d think I could take solace in having seen Rumsfeld stand up in the audience of the Metropolitan Opera and get booed (and I helped!), but I don’t, because other people clapped. And sure, one day, one day, Dick Cheney will finally die, but it won’t be from the effects of rectal force-feeding, so it won’t mean anything. 

The lesson here is that if you lip-sync a bunch of counterclaims in a steady enough rhythm on American news outlets, you can get the audience to tap along to the beat so hard that no one moves to change one goddamned thing. White noise. And speaking of white noise...

Lip Sync #2: Die-Ins, or, #blacklivesmatter, Finally, to Whites

Though cops still don’t realize it. And neither does Ann Coulter.

Blacks have been dying for years and years and years, by lynching and bullets, and the police declare that it's all been in the name of self-defense and public safety. They might have guns! And guns are a menace!

A menace! Do you HEAR ME?

Then this happened this week. Did you see? A shooter on a rampage! With a live gun! A woman in full body armor, driving like a maniac, gun in hand! She must be dead, right, chased down by American trigger-happy cops?

The police never fired a shot. True story. She was white, you see. But maybe, after firing all those rounds and evading law enforcement at high speed, she complied with the cops. (Because it's all about complying. That's what the defenders of police brutality say.)

This incident did not make national news in anything like a big way because, for can we be honest, the police made gun owners across this great land really happy, recognizing that white people have a right, under the Constitution, to just shoot the shit out of stuff sometimes. 

But if you are black, more specifically a black male, unarmed especially, police will shoot the shit out of you just for being, and breathing, and that is totally okay. Public outrage! Kill another black man. Public outrage…at the black man! Kill another black man. Public outrage…at the black man! Kill another black man.

Who am I? Am I going crazy? Who am I?

Ferguson, MO, and New York City, though, were real game-changers. Somehow we knew it couldn't stand, because most of us really are decent after all. The lip-sync of cricket chirps has changed to “Black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe” and the chants are catching righteous fire across the land, inconvenient though the protests have been for oh so many of my white friends. “My commute!” “It’s unlawful!” And Rosa Parks should have given up her seat on the bus. One friend said to me, “Well, that was okay because it was about transportation.” Oh, dear GOD. No, sweetie, it was about INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM. And that’s exactly what these protests are about, too.

But a black former student said on Facebook that she is weary, that nothing will change, ever, and a black friend of hers commented, in essence, “And whites and immigrants need to stay out of it.” Huh? Fortunately, this response came in from another black friend:

Whoa. It is not the time to discourage "non-blacks" from being up on arms. Better late than never. Asking "where have you been?" and/or violence will not unify anybody. Trust me I get it, but am personally more angry with those - of any race - that can bug me to type Jesus or Amen, play Candy Crush or hype their Buzzfeed results on FB every time I turn around but go MUTE after a thought- provoking event happens. FB can be a catalyst for discussion and may reach folks that would otherwise not hear a differing perspective. As a practical matter, we all can't march, but if we can remove fingers from ears and get more involved in the conversation we are all better off.
~ Zaneta (who wanted to craft this better for my blog (I don't see how it needs improving, but that's me), but said I could quote her, so I’ll just leave off her last name in case--thanks, kid!)

Here is the big point in all this:

Institutional racism. Rampant income inequality. A broken justice system. America may never be a great society

... The police officers who shoot teenagers for the crime of stealing cigarillos, the cops who choke men to death and beat women, along with the police administrators and county prosecutors who protect them, are not from Mars. They are not lizards in disguise, as some of the wildest conspiracy theorists suggest. They are Americans. They are products of American institutions and culture, and they staff and supervise the enforcement of our laws.

Article and essay, after article and essay, Fox News bullshit notwithstanding (special note to former New York City mayor and constant pundit and old supporter of NYPD corruption—Bernie Kerik, anyone? anyone?—Rudy Guiliani: everyone in New York City HATES you) are sounding off, and the protests, for once, are not abating. Blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians; young, old, educated and not—we can agree that America must cease to be a police state. And this is NOT about police-hating. It's about BAD policing, RACIST policing. Sing it, Kareem:

Here’s a good read on that same subject. Because Miss O' is all about the links, 'bout the links...

P.S. On the shooting deaths of the two officers in Brooklyn by the psychopath, the blame falsely and conveniently linked to protestors:

And P.S. to the NYPD officers turning their backs on their city's elected mayor during a funeral for one of the slain officers:

So, in all this rage, let's look at the GOOD: The good thing about lip-synching is that we are reminded of the joy of the rhythm of a shared music, a righteous lyric, and the feeling of all of us sharing our lips with the voice and words of a singer with an important song. And if enough of us are involved, no one will notice the ones who have no idea what the song even is. "I hate rap music!"

Now if we could just all fucking lip-sync, GUN CONTROL AND BACKGROUND CHECKS! GUN CONTROL AND BACKGROUND CHECKS! And not let UP. Why don't we?

Because 26 people gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School were killed by a WHITE MAN.

That's why.

Lip Sync #1: Buy-Ins and Vie-Ins, or, My Time Is the Right Time to Turn Left, or, 
If It’s Good Enough for Pope Frances, What the Fuck Is YOUR Excuse? 
I. Can’t. Breathe.

Let me take a moment to point out good things in the religious world, of which Miss O' is a frequent critic, because when Muslims and Catholics, especially of different genders and generations and nationalities and stations in life, can have equal fame, and most important, be on the same side of morality and goodness, you know a new day can dawn

·      First, MALALA. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace at the age of 17, Malala Yousafzai is all about education for women, and I kneel to her. Humble, focused, empathetic, and devoted to her cause and to women everywhere, she is a model feminist who is also comfortable in being a Muslim. It’s about EDUCATION, irrespective of gender, race, creed, religion, nation, or socio-economic status. She's the Planet's Princess!

·      Second, a pope—a POPE, for chrissakes!—who loves actual poor people (!) and raffles off Vatican treasures to prove it! Embraces gays! Fires crummy bishops! Demands that Catholics take action on global warming! Brokers peace deals to normalize relations with CUBA! It's about FAIRNESS, irrespective of gender, race, creed, religion, nation, or socio-economic status. He’s the Planet’s Pontiff! 

And in the world of entertainment, as a counterpoint to religion, and, so, what could turn out to be the most useful thing of all… Cosmos has returned to television! Thank you, Neil deGrasse Tyson (who, by the way, note to NYPD, happens to be a black man). SCIENCE is COOL again. Remember back in the '80s when the whole world was lip-synching to “Billions and billions…”? I’d like to see the joy again in lip-synching along to scientific facts, and hear that song take off like a big-ass bird. (My acting teacher, Greg, used to tell us that before a performance: “Take off like a big-ass bird!” Sure, the initial effort is enormous and the movement is awkward at first, and you don’t think a takeoff can happen, but then, it just DOES. And once that ass is in flight, the wings hardly have to beat to get that bird somewhere, and lordy, what a sight!)

What song, what movie, what lines are you mouthing the words to this year? What gets your little shoulders in a shimmy? I'm vying for a new song to give us a dance explosion. For what will you vie, where your life-song is concerned, in 2015? World peace? The end of hunger? Doctors Without Borders for all? (Please don't tell me all you want is a new car.) As ever, Miss O’ is, clearly, vying for your outrage, appealing to your ethos, mugging to winkle into your minds and extract your moral code. But maybe what I’m vying for is your sense of vie, in the French sense, your “joi de vivre,” your “esprit de corps,” your “je ne sais quoi”! 

For while Googling around to find a meme with the English word “vie” in it, I happened happily upon the homograph “vie,” as in “La Vie En Rose,” the song made famous by the French chanteuse Edith Piaf. And what a perfect little accident, because here is what I found:

First this, but it's not what I wanted. 

Then I found THIS. It turns out this is a famous photograph.

Plutôt la Vie literally translates, “rather life,” which doesn’t make a lot of sense only because English doesn’t have an equivalent for this expression. Of the word translations I’ve read, I suspect, “A lot more like life,” or “If anything, life” hits at the phrase’s meaning. This sounds so much more hopeful than the French shrug that is the famous “c’est la vie,” though while true, could turn a person to wine and forgetting rather than the more ambitious sobriety of rolling up the shirt sleeves. And also worth noting, in a big way, I think, is the "la" before the "vie," meaning that LIFE is feminine

Another big part of la vie, human being-wise, as seen on Facebook in recent years, is the having of babies. The U.S., in fact, has been in the midst of the largest baby boom of all time, and no one is reporting on it as a boom. Why is this? Mostly, this media blackout, Miss O’ suspects, is because if people really realized how many babies were being born, they might start to get scared about, for example, the fact that man-made, corporate-creepy disasters like drilling, spilling, polluting, and fracking are heating the earth, destroying soil quality, and decimating potable water supplies at unprecedented rates, thus leaving a future of horrible suffering for their babes to look forward to. These parents might, you know, wake up, politically-speaking, and demand the heads of, or at least a vastly increased taxation rate on, the 1%.  And livable wages. And single-payer healthcare. And realize that black man Barack Obama is one hell of a great president, after all. 

Am I going crazy? Who am I? Am I going crazy? Who am I?

Despite the midterm election results (94% for Republicans), I see a shift in the zeitgeist, one person and one policy change at a time: Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Prize for Peace. Did I mention that? And, interestingly, her polar opposite, Vladimir Putin, had a seemingly unstoppable march toward a new Russian empire now halting in the face of economic collapse. That's something. China, surprisingly, signed on with President Obama to combat climate change. Astoundingly, Governor and general disappointment Andrew Cuomo banned fracking in New York State. Inspiringly, Wal-mart workers and McDonald’s workers alike are striking for higher wages, and they are making real inroads in public opinion. Beautifully and rightly, Obamacare is a whopping success. Finally, jobs in renewable energy fields have surpassed the number of jobs in the coal industry. And, happily, entrepreneurs are starting to open up dance clubs again, and that is not a small thing in this world of device dependency. And, fabulously, we're all goin' to Havana for cigars, thanks to the Pope!

There’s more to do, more to hope for, and frustrations abound. But when New York City finally has a mayor now willing to take on the corruptions of the NYPD, you know that something is changing for the better. Thank you, Bill di Blasio.

It’s not the same old record, is what I’m saying. I know who I am. I am NOT going crazy. 

I'm NOT crazy!!!

"Don't fuck with me fellas. This ain't my first time at the rodeo."
~ "Joan Crawford," Mommie Dearest, a line performed by Lypsinka via Faye Dunaway

OUT is what's IN: I'm-Ins, Chime-Ins, Tie-Ins, Lie-Ins, Die-Ins: To what do you Buy-In? We enjoy mouthing along, sure, but really, how hard is it to stop sometimes, at intervals, and ask WTF? (RECTAL FEEDING? What are we? More disgusting than Mr. Handy in a South Park episode. How is THAT something to mouth along to?

Too often in this nation, too many good people are made to feel, through the awful actions of their public servants and media affiliates alike, like Lypsinka, mouthing, wildly, as Joan Crawford, screaming as into a telephone: "WHY can't you give me the RESPECT that I'm entitled to? Why can't you treat ME like I would be treated by any STRANGER on the STREET?" 

Lypsinka, "The Passion of the Crawford"
I’m thinking that for 2015 we might take a chord off Lypsinka’s soundtrack and rethink the contexts for all this SHIT we hear, invent our own remixes, make deliberate mash-ups, put on a decent wig, for the love of god, do our eyes up to the skies, put on a dress to knock their nuts off. Hit play. And then perform the fuck out it. SAY something about being a goddamned human being in a world of confusion, noise, hatred, and powerlessness. Sing it, hard. With a band! With integrity. In a lip lock.

Giving you lip it into 2015,
Miss O’