“I AM a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” That’s what Vice President Mike Pence announced at the annual Southern Baptist Convention earlier this week.
Pence has a penchant for referring to himself this way, which is fine, except….he never mentions that he’s oh, you know—an American! One who has sworn an oath, hand on Bible, to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Here’s how it goes: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”
When he evoked God, it was a promise to the Deity that he’d uphold America’s constitution—and its Amendments—not Genesis or Judges or Ruth or Leviticus. Not Matthew, Mark, Luke, Peter, John or Revelation. If Mr. Pence or any person of religion wants to live Biblically, go for it. But once one enters the swamps of politics, one’s first and foremost duty is to that of America, the country that gave you your job. Otherwise, become a pastor and preach to another flock—with my agnostic blessing.
On his speech to the Evangelicals, Pence lavished praised on the president, and his (the president’s) great feeling for the “sanctity of life.” (Translation—we’re going to make sure women no longer have power over their own bodies.) He also hailed the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, a much admired act to Evangelicals. Why? Because it increases tension in the Mideast, which, to them, brings the world closer to Armageddon and End Times, when everybody has to except Jesus Christ—even the Jews of Jerusalem. Otherwise, you’re a dead, cast-into-hell duck.
Jews don’t seem to understand this. Evangelicals are not their friends; they simply covet the land—for a very scary reason. But Evangelicals contribute a lot of money to Jewish causes, so why quibble over End Times—something the descendants of Moses don’t believe in anyway.
And people want to get rid of our current president and install Mike Pence! Well, just as we’ve never had a dictatorship here, yet, we’ve not experienced a theocracy. Yet. What a gleaming 21st Century looms.
|“Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it.” G.K. Chesterton.
I WAS never a huge fan of the “Oceans” movies. Not the early Sinatra Rat Pack entry or even the glossy Clooney/Brad Pitt reboots. In fact, I saw only the first of the newer versions. It was…ok. So taking myself off to the local Bow Tie Cinema in Hoboken to see “Oceans 8”– the new all-female version–was akin to approaching the franchise new.
It is a soothingly amusing romp that had no lows but not as many highs as I might have expected. Sandra Bullock plays the sister of presumed dead Danny Ocean (George Clooney), fresh out a five year jail stint, looking to make a big score and take her revenge on the man who did her wrong and put her in that orange jumpsuit. The first five minutes are exhilarating—Bullock, spanking fresh from jail, steals, cons, finagles her way into a luxurious hotel suite and pronto begins her master plan. Absurd but that’s what movies are for. She connects with an old friend (wildly alluring Cate Blanchett) and they proceed to collect a disparate crew of the needy and the daring—Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Awkafina. The plan? To steal a $150-million dollar diamond necklace from the swan-like neck of a deceptively vacuous actress, played deliciously by Anne Hathaway. Do they get away with it? What do you think? Are there problems getting there? Of course. (The snatch of the jewels is planned to occur at the annual Met Costume Gala—so all of that is visually ravishing.)
I kept thinking it should have been more fun than it was, although I was amused throughout. It just didn’t seem fizzy or snappy enough to do justice to all the talent. (And the if-you-blink-you-miss them stellar cameos.) But the movie’s got plenty, even if there might have been a stronger script or direction less languid. I’ll say this—“Oceans 8” made me wish I’d been a boy who had liked baubles rather than books—back when I could have collected a bauble or two– and convinced me it’s been far too long since I spent a long afternoon at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The movie is a big hit, at the moment—we all wait for the dreaded “second weekend.” And it deserves its success. It’s a distinctly luscious way to spend time. And with no disrespect to Bullock or the other ladies—especially the eternally dizzy Bonham Carter and the fiercely gorgeous Rihanna (my Hoboken audience broke into raucous appreciative applause when Rihanna appears dressed to the nines, or at least the bosoms at the Met gala)—the film belongs to Anne Hathaway, who approaches every scene with the vigor and wit of a luscious human cattle prod.
If there’s a sequel, I’d merely advise a more goosed-up script and perhaps a male character who is not a villain; maybe just a benign slice of eye-candy—after all, there’s more to life than heist. (Oh, James Cordon was usefully on hand. Normally, I find him unfunny to the max on his late-night TV show. He makes me want to do terrible things to my flat-screen. But he was really quite amusing in “Oceans” investigating the heist. I’d have him back for a sequel.)
I SAW absolutely no major theater last season. So I approached the annual Tony Awards telecast just as if I lived far away from the big city and the show was my only exposure to the theater and it denizens. That wasn’t bad, actually! Having not experienced any of the nominated shows I had no preferences. I was charmed by Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles as hosts, dazzled by every musical number (I’m still astonished that Lauren Ambrose, who broke my heart week after week for years on “Six Feet Under,” has this wonderful voice and has made such a great Broadway success in “My Fair Lady.”) I was rooting for every nominee, pleased with every winner, having no prejudices or favorites this year. (Okay—one exception, while I am sure Tony Shaloub is marvelous in “The Band’s Visit,” he lost me years ago during the run of “Monk”—a show and performance I did not appreciate, despite three Emmy wins for him. Still, I’m certain his Tony is well warranted.)
I was impressed/moved by most of the acceptance speeches, and I for one don’t care how long they go on, who they thank, what intimate business they reveal. That’s show biz and humanity! There is no more human or connective art form than the theater—let them gush, ramble and meditate as they please.
As for Robert De Niro, he joins Kathy Griffin, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert and so many liberal pundits who think vulgar, stupid and unnecessary attacks on the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are helpful. Cursing to the choir—big deal. Concerned, Mr. De Niro? Take some time out from the mostly bad movies you make and look into viable Democratic or Independent candidates for upcoming elections. Work for them, contribute. Anybody can say “Fuck you!” There, I said it. And it means shit. (Since we’re in that mood.) Your expletive conveyed nothing but a lack of control, imagination and, frankly, intelligence. (And it was hardly a fitting introduction to Bruce Springsteen’s beautiful performance.) Those who applauded are equally bereft of sense. But there’s no use advising these people. I hope they are happy with two terms for the object of their displeasure.
Anyway, forget fools. I am now bound and determined to see as many of the major shows as I can, before they leave town. I’ve missed my theater-going.
Lastly, a great thank you to the Tony powers for including Liz Smith in the evening’s remembrance of those who have passed. Nobody loved or appreciated the theater more than Liz. I can still hear her when she sent me out to cover something—“Denis, if you don’t like it, don’t be mean, just don’t write about it. It’s not like movies. These people have to go out onstage every night.” Luckily, I never had to forgo writing about the theater. In everything I ever saw there was something to move, amuse or intrigue me.
“WHAT does Marcus Aurelius say about worry?” That’s a note I received from a reader. He’d observed my praise last week of the Stoic Roman emperor—how his clearheaded attitudes on life calmed me. I’d also mentioned a longtime dealing with depression (less now) and anxiety (not so much less, alas.) In the wake of the shocking suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain this reader was concerned. As were a number of others.
For years I had a personal blog, somewhat neglected now and absurdly called “Mr. Wow.” (Long story on how such an un-Wow guy like myself settled on that moniker. But it came to amuse me.) There I’d written quite openly about my childhood and adolescence and my sudden and shocking mid-life struggle with depression. I tried therapy with surly reluctance and I unwillingly agreed to medication. I was horrified by my “weakness,” which might surely be the reason nothing worked for me. I was stubbornly convinced I could “do it on my own.” I did, in a way. But during that time not only did I suffer, I made others suffer—mostly by alienating myself, because I was sure I was a great disappointment to those few friends I did have (I am always suspicious of people who claim “dozens” of “close friends”). I felt I’d let them down. Not to mention becoming what I saw was a burden to my significant other of many, many years. Luckily he has the patience of Penelope and a love I was—still am—positive I don’t deserve.
Looking back, I know I could have tried harder. I functioned, I even functioned well. But the pitch dark thoughts were always there. I was flippant last week, without meaning to be. Just because therapy and medication didn’t work for me—or more accurately I didn’t allow it to work—doesn’t mean those vital walls between depression and an abyss from which one can never return are not valuable, vital and life-saving.
I can’t write wisely or knowledgably about Kate Spade or Bordain or even add a pointless anecdote; I never met either. I don’t know what they tried, what they suffered, why they suffered. I can only offer personal intrusion, the narcissism and over-sharing allowed when one has a platform. I didn’t try hard enough. I didn’t let enough people in. I walked much too close to the edge. I suffered longer than I should have. Don’t be like me. Particularly if you have even one person who cares for you deeply—and if you feel you don’t that’s probably that old devil depression talking.
As for what Marcus Aurelius would have said about worry? Well, words to the effect of don’t worry be happy—or at least useful—because you’re going to die anyway. And there’s no need to worry over that, as death is simply a natural part of life. BUT no need to rush it; living well—for ourselves and others–is all we’ve got.
We all struggle. Let’s not do it alone. Or feel ashamed or weak or hopeless. Help is always closer than you think.