Archive for the tag 'Barack Obama'

5 August 2012: Clint Eastwood Makes Mitt’s Day!

August 5th, 2012

Clint Eastwood’s endorsement of Mitt Romney in Idaho last Friday did not really surprise me.  The endorsement probably made Mitt’s day, but whether this will have any SUDDEN IMPACT on the electorate, or raise A FEW DOLLARS MORE for the billionaire’s presidential campaign, remains to be seen.

Actually, I have a confession to make.  I have NEVER liked any of Clint Eastwood’s movies (neither the ones he’s appeared in, nor the ones he’s directed), so now in my book he joins the ranks of two other Hollywood gun-toting Republican icons, John Wayne and Charlton Heston, all of whose movies I can not bear to watch either.

If Barack Obama wins the presidential election this November, Clint Eastwood might have to remake some of his movies—“Million Dollar Baby,” “Play Misty for Me,” “True Crime,” etc.  And he’ll have to rename some others if he chooses to remake them as well—“Every Which Way But Lose,” “White House Black Heart,” “Magnum Farce,” “Dirty Barry,” etc.

Can Democrats with elephantine memories ever forgive Clint for choosing Mitt over Barack? Or will he now be banished to the Hollywood equivalent of ALCATRAZ, to remain forever among the UNFORGIVEN?


13 January 2011: All the President’s Children

January 13th, 2011

Not once during his lengthy and moving eulogy in Tucson, Arizona, at the memorial service for those whose lives were cut short by gunman Jared Loughner, not once in his many references to Christina-Taylor Green, the nine-year-old girl who tragically died alongside five others, did President Barack Obama mention his own daughters, Sasha (also 9) and Malia (12).  But we all knew what he was thinking. That’s restraint. That’s class. Last night, he embraced us all, and we were all his children.

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4 November 2010: Me-sogynist?

November 4th, 2010

I’ve always admired Hillary Clinton, but there’s no denying that, once the Republicans saw the handwriting on the wall and the glass ceiling breaking, our Hillary gave birth to their Sarah Palin, who then spawned such shrews as Sharron Angle, Carly Fiorina, Linda McMahon, Christine O’Donnell and Meg Whitman.

I don’t want to sound misogynistic, but if Louisa May Alcott were writing Little Women today, Sarah Palin would be the new Marmee Grizzly trying to raise her unruly cubs.  And in this new reality show, Marmee will eat her own young as she turns into Lady Macbeth. Barack Obama could stop all these weird sisters in their tracks by running with Hillary Clinton as his vice-president in 2012.

16 January 2010: Beware of Professors!

January 16th, 2010

Having spent nearly forty years of my life teaching in classrooms at the University of Kansas and elsewhere, it puzzles me that, on the one hand, Americans in general seem to believe in the virtues of a good education but, on the other hand, they ultimately also seem to distrust their teachers.

Barack Obama was a professor.  He taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004.  He was depicted by the media as the epitome of “cool” and “hip” on the campaign trail, through the inauguration, and through his first 100 days in the White House. But then, inevitably, the tides turned.  Now the same pundits are saying that Obama is much “too cool” and “aloof.”  Why does he seize every opportunity to give us “teachable moments” as though we’re still in school?  He’s just “too professorial.”

Is there something really intrinsically wrong or untrustworthy about our teachers and professors?  If so, let’s stop sending our kids to school, stop taking out student loans to go to college, stop funding universities and all higher institutions of learning.  We don’t really need a president who is “too professorial” and makes us feel stupid.  What we really want is a folksy leader whom we can chew tobacco and go to church with, hunt abortionists and four-legged animals with, go bowling or balling with, have a beer with.

Now is the time for the Republican Party to inherit the “cool” factor.  They should get “with it” and start wooing all the women and other marginalized voters in this country by bringing back George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in drag.  If “ignorance is bliss,” then who better to lead us in 2012 than faux females like Sarah Palin and Liz Cheney?  Who wouldn’t want to have a drink with these two charming Airheads of State? Well, perhaps not a beer.  Maybe an aperitif, or is that too European, too socialist, too liberal, too elitist, too professorial? Well, then, maybe a Screwdriver.  At least the orange juice will provide some healthy Vitamin C while we’re getting screwed into alcoholic oblivion.

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13 January 2010: How Dark Is Light?

January 13th, 2010

In her autobiography Thursday’s Child, Eartha Kitt talks about growing up in the cotton plantations of South Carolina in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and how she was ostracized by blacks and whites alike because her lighter skin color made her neither black nor white.  So how did she go on to become a great celebrity not just in nightclubs and recording studios, but also in theatre, movies and television?  In 1950, Orson Welles called her “the most exciting woman in the world,” and cast her as Helen of Troy in his production of Dr. Faustus. 

Given the recent controversy over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s remark about the game-changing likelihood of white Americans voting for a “light-skinned” African-American in the 2008 presidential election,  I’ve compiled a partial list of African-Americans in Hollywood movies.  I’m presenting them not chronologically but alphabetically, making it harder perhaps to see if in fact there is any kind of  pattern or commonality in the pigmentation of black screen faces through the decades.

Here are the black women whose images flickered in our minds—Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Diahann Carroll, Dorothy Dandridge, Ruby Dee, Whoopi Goldberg, Pam Grier, Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt, Queen Latifah, Butterfly McQueen, Mo’Nique, Juanita Moore, Beah Richards, Diana Ross, Anna Deavere Smith, Cicely Tyson, Ethel Waters, Vanessa Williams, Oprah Winfrey.

And the black men whose names on the marquee brought us into the movie houses—Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, Sammy Davis Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Jamie Foxx, Morgan Freeman, Cuba Gooding Jr., Louis Gossett Jr., Dick Gregory, James Earl Jones, Spike Lee, Eddie Murphy, Sydney Poitier, Chris Rock, Howard Rollins, Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Paul Winfield. 

And then, of course, there’s Michael Jackson, in a sad class by himself, someone whose pigmentation changed with his every public appearance. 

Leaving Hollywood and the world of make-believe behind, how about the real world?  Do we have a different set of criteria for the pigmentation of blacks in sports, in academia, in politics?  As the nation gets ready to celebrate Martin Luther King Day next Monday, I find myself wondering—If MLK had been born decades later, with the same darker skin and the same oratorical skills, would we have elected him President of these United States?  And would all the “tea-baggers” and right-wing Republicans crucify the “dark-skinned” King even more than the way they’ve been crucifying the “light-skinned” Obama? 

Maybe Harry Reid was wrong.  Maybe we aren’t ready.  Maybe Hollywood needs to pave the way some more.  Maybe Quentin Tarantino needs to remake Gone with the Wind with Kanye West playing Rhett to Mo’Nique’s Scarlett and, maybe this time, quite frankly, my dear, we ought to give a damn.

The Beastly Beatitudes of the Chinese Zodiac

January 1st, 2010

After over half a century of reading and collecting paper place mats from Chinese restaurants all over the world, I’ve decided to collate my collection and share the Wisdom of the East with anyone who believes that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of by western horoscopes.

As you probably know, according to legend, the twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac are listed in the order in which they arrived for an important meeting called by the Buddha (or maybe the Jade Emperor).  Unknown to the ox, the rat had jumped upon his back.  As the ox approached the destination, the easy rider jumped off his back, and this is why the rat is the first year of the animal cycle, the ox second, etc.

It might amuse you to know that, because of their birth years, Mozart and Shakespeare are rats, Richard Nixon and Barack Obama are oxen, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are rabbits, Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin are dragons, and Dick Cheney is a snake.

My mother tells me I was born on the day of a year when the “sympathetic” sheep was being ushered out by the “manipulative” monkey, that I am neither one nor the other but both, inheriting and exhibiting not just the best but also the worst characteristics of these two creatures.  My mother doesn’t like people to know it, but she’s a pig.  I console her by reminding her that Alfred Hitchcock is also a pig  She loves his movies—Psycho, The Woman Who Knew Too Much, and, of course, Dial M for Mother.

What about you?  If you have the stomach for it, you might want to check out your own beastly beatitudes below, courtesy of all the paper place mats from all the Chinese restaurants through the years which have contributed to my hardened arteries.

Rat:  1900, 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008

Forthright, tenacious, systematic, meticulous, charismatic, sensitive, hardworking, industrious, charming, eloquent, sociable, artistic, shrewd.  Can be manipulative, vindictive, mendacious, venal, selfish, obstinate, critical, over-ambitious, ruthless, intolerant, scheming.

Famous Rats: Michelangelo Antonioni, James Baldwin, Charlotte Bronte, Truman Capote, Wilt Chamberlain, Prince Charles, Sasha Cohen, Eminem, Scarlett Johansson, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Plato, Robert Redford, William Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy, George Washington.

Ox:  1901, 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009

Dependable, calm, methodical, born leader, patient, hardworking, ambitious, conventional, steady, modest, logical, resolute, tenacious.  Can be stubborn, narrow-minded, materialistic, rigid, demanding.

Famous Oxen: Pedro Almodovar, Johann Sebastian Bach, Napoleon Bonaparte, Charlie Chaplin, George Clooney, Marlene Dietrich, Walt Disney, Anton Dvorak, Jane Fonda, Clark Gable, George Frederic Handel, William Inge, Rachel Maddow, Yukio Mishima, Paul Newman, Richard Nixon, Barack Obama, Vincent Van Gogh.

Tiger:  1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010

Unpredictable, rebellious, colorful, powerful, passionate, daring, impulsive, vigorous, stimulating, sincere, affectionate, humanitarian, generous.  Can be restless, reckless, impatient, quick-tempered, obstinate, selfish, aggressive, unpredictable.

Famous Tigers: Emily Bronte, Fidel Castro, Sheryl Crow, Tom Cruise, Emily Dickinson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lady Gage, Langston Hughes, Jay Leno, Jerry Lewis, Karl Marx, Marilyn Monroe, Marco Polo, Beatrix Potter, Queen Elizabeth II, Jean Seberg, Jon Stewart.

Rabbit:  1903, 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011

Gracious, good friend, kind, sensitive, soft-spoken, amiable, elegant, reserved, cautious, artistic, thorough, tender, self-assured, astute, compassionate, flexible.  Can be moody, detached, superficial, self-indulgent, opportunistic, stubborn.

Famous Rabbits: David Beckham, Johnny Depp, Zac Efron, Albert Einstein, Eartha Kitt, Whitney Houston, Angelina Jolie, Rush Limbaugh, Arthur Miller, Brad Pitt, Frank Sinatra, Leon Trotky, Orson Welles, Tiger Woods.

Dragon:  1904, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012

Magnanimous, stately, vigorous, strong, self-assured, proud, noble, direct, dignified, zealous, eccentric, intellectual, fiery, passionate, decisive, pioneering, ambitious, artistic, generous, loyal.  Can be tactless, arrogant, imperious, tyrannical, demanding, intolerant, dogmatic, violent, impetuous, brash.

Famous Dragons: Edward Albee, Susan B. Anthony, Joan of Arc, Orlando Bloom, Sigmund Freud, Graham Greene, Bruce Lee, John Lennon, Florence Nightingale, Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin, Keanu Reeves, Ringo Starr, Mae West.

Snake:  1905, 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013

Deep thinker, wise, mystic, graceful, soft-spoken, sensual, creative, prudent, shrewd, ambitious, elegant, cautious, responsible, calm, strong, constant, purposeful.  Can be loner, bad communicator, possessive, hedonistic, self-doubting, distrustful, mendacious, suffocating, cold.

Famous Snakes: Ann-Margret, Joan Baez, Dick Cheney, Bob Dylan, Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn, James Joyce, John F. Kennedy, Imelda Marcos, Pablo Picasso, Martha Stewart, Kanye West.

Horse:  1906, 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014

Cheerful, popular, quick-witted, changeable, earthy, perceptive, talkative, agile (mentally and physically), magnetic, intelligent, astute, flexible, open-minded.  Can be fickle, arrogant, childish, anxious, rude, gullible, stubborn.

Famous Horses: Muhammad Ali, Ingmar Bergman, Jackie Chan, Davy Crockett, James Dean, Clint Eastwood, Ella Fitzgerald, Harrison Ford, Aretha Franklin, Janet Jackson, Ashton Kutcher, Ang Lee, Silvana Mangano, Paul McCartney, Sandra Day O’Connor, Teddy Roosevelt, Sonia Sotomayor, Barbra Streisand, Mike Tyson, Luchino Visconti, Oprah Winfrey, Boris Yeltsin.

Sheep:  1907, 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015

Righteous, sincere, sympathetic, mild-mannered, shy, artistic, creative, gentle, compassionate, understanding, mothering, determined, peaceful, generous, seeks security.  Can be moody, indecisive, over-passive, worrier, pessimistic, over-sensitive, complainer, weak-willed.

Famous Sheep: Jane Austen, Catherine Deneuve, Anita Ekberg, Jamie Foxx, Mel Gibson, George Harrison, Mick Jagger, Franz Liszt, Michelangelo, Sam Shepard,  Mark Twain, Rudolph Valentino, Barbara Walters, Bruce Willis, Orville Wright.

Monkey:  1908, 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016

Inventor, motivator, improviser, quick-witted, inquisitive, flexible, innovative, problem solver, self-assured, sociable, artistic, polite, dignified, competitive, objective, factual, intellectual.  Can be egotistical, vain, selfish, reckless, snobbish, deceptive, manipulative, cunning, jealous, suspicious.

Famous Monkeys: Julius Caesar, Daniel Craig, Bette Davis, Federico Fellini, Jake Gyllenhaal, Louis Malle, Eleanor Roosevelt, Diana Ross, Will Smith, Elizabeth Taylor, Harry S. Truman, Leonardo da Vinci, Alice Walker, Naomi Watts.

Rooster:  1909, 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017

Acute, neat, meticulous, organized, self-assured, decisive, conservative, critical, perfectionist, alert, zealous, practical, scientific, responsible.  Can be over zealous and critical, puritanical, egotistical, abrasive, opinionated, given to empty bravado.

Famous Roosters: Catherine the Great, Amelia Earhart, Paris Hilton, Rudyard Kipling, Groucho Marx, Britney Spears, Peter Ustinov.

Dog:  1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018

Honest, intelligent, straightforward, loyal, sense of justice and fair play, attractive, amicable, unpretentious, sociable, open-minded, idealistic, moralistic, practical, affectionate, sensitive, easy going.  Can be cynical, lazy, cold, judgmental, pessimistic, worrier, stubborn, quarrelsome.

Famous Dogs: Brigitte Bardot, George W. Bush, Mariah Carey, Cher, Winston Churchill, Bill Clinton, Doris Day, Benjamin Franklin, Jean Genet, George Gershwin, Jane Goodall, Herbert Hoover, Michael Jackson, Akira Kurosawa, Sophia Loren, Madonna, Shirley McLaine, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Donald Trump.

Pig:  1911, 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019

Honest, gallant, sturdy, sociable, peace-loving, patient, loyal, hard-working, trusting, sincere, calm, understanding, thoughtful, scrupulous, passionate, intelligent.  Can be naive, over-reliant, self-indulgent, gullible, fatalistic, materialistic.

Famous Pigs: Lucille Ball, Humphrey Bogart, Hillary Clinton, Alain Delon, Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway, Alfred Hitchcock, Mahalia Jackson, Elton John, David Letterman, David Mamet, Keith Olbermann, Elvis Presley, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tennessee Williams.

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10 December 2009: Just Me, Justice

December 10th, 2009

President Obama, in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech at Oslo, spoke at length about “a just peace” and, of course, “a just war.”  He uses the word “just” only as an adjective, meaning “honorable and fair in one’s dealings and actions…consistent with moral right; righteous…valid within the law; legitimate…based on fact or sound reason; well-founded.”  But, the word “just” is not just an adjective; it is also an adverb, meaning, among other things, “merely, only.” 

At the end of the day, how many among us think about the war in Afghanistan as “a just war,” or that it’s “just war,” no different than some of the video games that our children play?  As for peace itself, why must it ever be justified? Do we need to continue to sell the idea of “a just peace” to the families and relatives of all those who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki?  Is it possible that “a just war” would, in the end, bring “merely” and “only” peace?

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27 November 2009: I’m Black, You’re Green

November 27th, 2009

It’s Black Friday. Merchants are seeing Green as consumers continue to dream of a White Christmas in a Red economy. 

The English language is nothing if not colorful, and the word “black” is the one which evokes the greatest range of polarities and emotions. On the one hand, we blackball or blacklist people for being blackguards who practise black magic or sell stuff on the black market and give other folks black eyes.  Although juvenile delinquests are the black sheep in their families, even they dread the onslaught of blackheads.  In medieval times, people died of the Black Death and, in our own time, we disappear into Black Holes. But, on the other hand, we copy down useful information which our teachers write on blackboards.  We give out black belts to people who excel in judo or karate.  And Barack Obama cannot live without his Blackberry. 

Some years ago, the University of Kansas Theatre Department decided to cancel its production of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by black playwright August Wilson because they couldn’t find enough black actors to play all the parts in the play.  In its place, the department substituted The House of Blue Leaves, a dark comedy by white playwright John Guare.  When the department sent out a press release announcing the change, it quite accurately described the play as “a black comedy.”  But, not surprisingly, the local paper in its confusion decided to label this whiter-than-white play about a dysfunctional white family in Queens, New York, as “an African-American comedy.”

All this leads me to wonder, when the season of Red and Green is over, how Barack Obama will deal with all the other hues in the spectrum of American society.  Will he hear the hue and cry of the LBGT coalition who contributed to his campaign and helped to elect him the President of these United States? Will 2010 finally see the White House flying the colors of The Rainbow?

25 November 2009: Hell Happens, But Heaven Prevails

November 25th, 2009

This past weekend, after 21 years of mostly good and wonderful memories, English Alternative Theatre presented its final production of an original script by one of my playwriting students at the University of Kansas.  But, thanks to the awful temper tantrums of one of the actors, who had earlier asked me if he could also design the set and the lights for the show, and which I was foolish enough to agree to, I am now going to remember this final show as THE PRODUCTION FROM HELL.

Just as I was thinking this, I picked up the latest issue of Newsweek, and saw that its cover story on a journalist’s captivity in Iran is titled 118 DAYS IN HELL.  And then I saw that, not to be outdone, the latest issue of Time shows on its cover a bawling baby bidding bye-bye to THE DECADE FROM HELL So what’s going on?  Is this Armageddon?

Just out of curiosity, I did a quick check on, and discovered that the word HELL appears in the titles of 968 movies you can watch…3,452 songs you can listen to…and 474,641 books you can read.  Thankfully, also shows that the word HEAVEN appears in the titles of 1,016 movies…5,911 songs…and 523,445 books.  Thus, it would appear that God is winning over Satan in the world of popular culture, but not by much.  Going Rogue or Going Rouge, take your pick.

In the playwriting classes that I teach, in order to encourage the students to focus on each and every word they’re using, one of the early classroom exercises they have to write is a short monologue which would incorporate two very special words—the first, their favorite word in the English language; and the second, the one word in the lexicon which, if they could, they would banish forever from everyone’s vocabulary.  You’d be surprised what words show up on either side of the fence.  But, as far as I can remember, in the 21 years I’ve been assigning this exercise, I don’t think HEAVEN or HELL has ever popped up on anyone’s list.  And, just as I’m writing this, I remember hearing on MSNBC recently that PRE-DETERMINED seems to be one of Barack Obama’s favorite words.  To date, he has used it over 900 times in various speeches and public forums.  I wonder now if it’s all pre-determined, whether he knows where we’re going to end up when it’s all over.

Meanwhile, back to THE PRODUCTION FROM HELL.  Drop in on me sometime and, if you’ll bring a case of Pete’s Wicked Ale with you, and you’ve got a couple of hours to spare, I’ll tell you all about it.

18 November 2009: The King Must Die

November 18th, 2009

One of my favorite novels is Mary Renault’s The King Must Die (1958), a compelling portrait of Theseus, the mythical Greek hero and King of Athens who danced with bulls and slew the dreaded Minotaur.  For me, the title says it all.  Don’t ask me why, but people in America all seem to have a need to create heroes from among our politicians, movie stars, athletes, rock musicians, etc.  We build up “the chosen ones,” I think, just so we can knock them down, to prove to ourselves that they are, after all, no better than we are.  At one end of this horrific spectrum we have Abraham, John, Martin and Bobby.  I live in fear, daily, about the safety of Barack Obama, what with all the crackpots running around the fringes of our society. And then, on the other end of the spectrum, we have the media circus surrounding the likes of O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, and all our other erstwhile gods as they topple down the lofty firmament that we built for their temporary residence.

Here, at the University of Kansas, I am amused by what’s happening to football coach Mark Mangino.  When he coached his team to an Orange Bowl victory two years ago, the man could do no wrong.  The school rewarded him with a $1.5 million guaranteed yearly salary through 2010; built him a new football stadium for his team to practice in, then planted trees around the new stadium so no one can spy on his team practicing; and, according to one news report, he was absolved of all his parking tickets, even after he had tracked down a student employee from KU Parking and Transit who had written one of the tickets, and launched a 10-minute expletive-filled tirade against the terrified student.

But that was then, and this is now. After losing five football games in a row this season, Mangino is suddenly undergoing “an internal investigation”  because he allegedly poked one of his football players in the chest several weeks ago.  This particular football player is willing to suffer all sorts of physical punishment and abuse on the playing field, but being poked in the chest by the coach simply isn’t acceptable or tolerable—especially with 2010 around the corner, with no more guarantees of any sort for the coach.

Well, this is just the beginning of the end.  Sit back and watch KU Athletic Director Lew Perkins whittle the Mighty Mangino down to normal size.  It’ll happen.  Mark my words.  The King Must Die.

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