Frantic nation…

I use to be on Blood pressure medication, but it was doing weird things to me, particularly on the creative side. I would zone out and produce little if anything substantive. I couldn’t concentrate or focus, but I was calm and sedate, and nearly a shell floating through life. It also affected me physically, in a number of ways that were corrected, thanks to  a pharma-loving family physician, with, you guessed it, more drugs, that low and behold had more side affects, which were solved with…breathe! You get the picture.

So I got off the drugs, began to exercise more and began eating better. In the interim, I completed several paintings (Including one of my very best) wrote three books, a play that received critical acclaim, dozens of articles and now host a successful radio program. Help the homeless. All in the span of a couple of years.

And all would be peachy if I lived in a bubble, or in the northwoods, and not in a major metropolitan area. Moreover, sometimes I wish that I could simply ignore what is going on with our politics, the economy, the world. The curse of Plato’s parable of the Cave, in which society is deluded by the shadows upon the cave wall, and heap derision upon those who turn to face the sunlight as well as the shadow makers. Most people are comfortable with the cognitive illusion of the shadows and become hostile when forced from the illusion of security within the illusion.

Part of that is noting that our society has become increasingly frantic. The wife pointed out to me that since coming off the meds I am more agitated. That may very well be, and probably is true, but to a degree I have some cause. That was illustrated as I drove home from dropping her off at a friends earlier when this silver Suburu in front of me could not wait 20 seconds for the vehicle in front to make  a turn, and thus drove up onto the sidewalk. Let me say that again; drove ONTO the sidewalk.

It use to be maybe once a day or so, driving around the city and suburbs I would see something so egregiously obnoxious and dangerous. Now, simply running from here to the grocery store  a few miles away feels like running a gauntlet of survival, as people routinely blow through street lights and stop signs, weave at perilous speeds, cut others off without remorse or worse. And it isn’t just on the roads, it is in our politics. It has infected the instant profit economy, invades our shopping malls and poisons our religions. Now-nOW- NOW!!!

America has become a frantic nation of pushy, self-concerned, frightened and frantic people. Friends in retail and restaurants have noted the frantic up-tick to the culture. Customers curse, berate and assault clerks, cashiers and managers because a holiday line isn’t moving fast enough. Or they barge in the middle of other customers demanding immediate attention for THEIR needs. Less than a week before Christmas, with the USPS, UPS and FedEx all at or beyond peak loads, especially in the age of Amazon, this exchange between a store manager and a customer.

Customer: I want this shipped and I want it to arrive by Christmas Eve.

Manager: We can ship it, but I can’t guarantee this close to Christmas that it will arrive by Christmas Eve.

Customer: Can’t you overnight it?

Manager: UPS and Fed Ex is swamped this close to the holiday.

Customer: Well, can’t you make it a priority?

I so wanted to hear this beleaguered manager to shake this lady by the shoulders and snap, because the millions of packages everyone else hopes will arrive by Christmas aren’t nearly as important as yours!?!?? And, oh, by the way, lady, if you weren’t so pushy and frantic you might be happier, the people around you damn sure would be and I probably wouldn’t have to TAKE ALL THESE DAMNED MEDICATIONS!

Okay, part of that might have been me. Too frantic? Preachin’ to the choir, sister.

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Now was that so hard?

To My Democrat Friends:
Please accept, with no obligations implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non addictive, gender- neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasions of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the generally accepted calendar year 2018, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped to make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other countries nor the only “America” in the Western Hemisphere. Also this wish is made w/o regard to the race, religious faith, color, physical ability or sexual preference of our friends.

To my Republican Friends:
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

See, we can ALL get along!

The flaw in the American system, and the reason that capitalism is failing 89% of the population is that America starts with money and adjusts minimum standards of acceptible living to accommodate finance, rather than finance adjusting to those minimum standards of acceptible living. In other words, at some point you have to understand that you can only tighten your belt so far before your legs fall off, then it is too late to try a better approach…

A Progressive Summit: Thursday, December 28 8-11 pm

Val Leventhal and Linda Solotaire and friends, Bring you:

Progressive Summit: 

A Gathering of the Tribes

Thursday, December 28
8-11 pm
 
The OuttaSpace
An attempt to bring different groups together in solidarity to expand our work to protect our Democracy and our Diversity. There will be a sneak preview of a new Val Leventhal video from VR Sarti, live music all evening with songs to inspire activism and hope. There will be songwriters, there will be political enthusiasts, there will be a great venue with great local spirits for purchase, there will be no cover. This is not a fundraiser. Speakers will be limited to 5 minute presentations, after which they will invite you to come to their table to speak with them, take materials, sign up for petitions, and other upcoming actions! There is only one rule: No Arguing! We all love to debate our favorite issues. The mission of this event is to meet one another, learn from each other, and form solidarity! Let’s get busy networking to fix the mess we’re in! Whether you want to work on racism, sexism, immigration, the environment and animal rights, social security and medicare/medicaid, the creation of peace instead of war, voter’s rights, and the machinery and financing of elections, etc., etc., if we can’t get on the same page about some forward movement, nothing will get done.  All are welcome to join in the evening and find out what political action looks like! Hope to see some of you there. THere’s alot of work to be done in 2018!
 
The event will be 8-11 pm. There will be a list for performers and speakers – first come first served. After 11, music and discussion till the joint closes at 1 am.
And don’t miss Val on Playtime with Sid and Bill, Featuring Kerri Kendall on Sunday Dec 17th between 1-3pm on AM1590 WCGO, on Facebook Live and at www.1590wcgo.com

Occupy My Heart, 6 years on. Where are they now?

This month is the 6th anniversary of my play, Occupy My Heart: A Revolutionary Carol. It was my very first foray into Theatre. I wrote the play in less than a week, and was joined by amazing talent.  The play went from first reading to first show in less than 3 weeks.We received national attention, standing room only audiences, critical reviews and changed the media narrative on Occupy Chicago for a time, and raised more than two thousand Dollars for the cause. But where are all of the cast members today, and what are they up to?

KEITH GLAB: lost himself to the international acclaim from the show. He became a Pez Addict, squandering his musical condom fortune. he lives in a cargo container in his north side condo conversing with some 3200 empty Pez dispensers.

ZACHARY JOHNSON-DUNLOP: went on to become Oprah Winfrey. Born a tall white man with fiery red hair, Zach says he has never been happier than as a proud black woman deeply, deeply in love with Stedmon. He was there when Barack Obama was sworn in, and now lives in LA with a family of undocumented Panda bears.

TERESA VEREMENDI: moved to Colorado to find God. She found God, then became God until last May when she was laid off due to budget cuts. She now is currently hunting the Great White shark on the snowy slopes of Mount Everest. Asked why on a mountain instead of the ocean, Teresa says, “Safety first!”

BABUR REALER: Played a protester in the play. Inventor and activist, Babur is close to perfecting a flute which when played a certain way causes the pants of police and politicians to fall down. No tear gas here. More like tears in my eyes, LOL! After a health scare, Babur will return to his native Turkey, climb Ararat and rehab Noah’s Ark into a luxury cruise liner. Can you say LOVE BOAT?!

DONIER TYLER: teaches the Ninja arts to her First grade class. her goal is to defend without guns their school from ne’re do wells, bursting from waste paper cans, popping from lockers or dropping from ceilings. Tyler confesses that it is a work in progress. Until someone opens a “Baby Ninja” store outfits only come in adult sizes, resulting in sheer stumbling chaos the moment Tyler commands her students to attack.

TIM CALDWELL: Initially moved to New Orleans and grew to a height of over 90 feet in an effort to battle the George Bush monster. Tim purchased the mineral rights while drinking one night to snowflakes. You can find him each stormy winter’s day in scuba gear and wool mittens trying to collect on his investment.

REBECCA KLING: is a very private person, except on Thursdays when she is dancing topless at the DMV. She spends most of her time following the Google Streetview vehicles with a sign that says “View this!” In 2017, Rebecca realized a life long goal of climbing the highest mountain in Indiana.

AGNES OTAP: With proceeds from the play, she bought Poland. In 2015, just days after the sale was final, we heard she had joined an elite unit for the fight against Terror. Turns out it was the fight against TERRIERS, part of a worldwide struggle against annoying little dogs. Agnes returned from the war on Terriers, and though she says the war will continue for some time, she says that she is …dog tired. Yeah, I went there!

HANNA FREIDMAN: My director. If you have ever heard the phrase “Like herding a bunch of cats, “well, Hannah in 2014 actually did just that. Using many of the same strategies employed with the cast of Occupy My Heart, Hannah organized 47 feral cats who now perform Shakespeare around the world, except in parts of rural Indonesia, where tragically several were lost to a wedding brunch.

Finally,

And I…I went on to become an itinerate vintage Elvis fan impersonator. Not Elvis Presley, Elvis Perkins, son of actor Anthony Perkins. It’s a virtual monopoly as I pioneer the act at Jiffy Lubes across the rural South. My motto, “Start small and be the biggest, fattest, hairiest fish in the little plastic kiddy pool in back of the trailer, out by truck tire sandbox where the dog was buried last year!” I am also pondering becoming a motivational speaker, as you can see.

 

Louis C.K. A Touching Tail

There was a time that I virtually worshipped comedian Louis C.K. Caustic and acerbic as he could be, he seemed to cut straight to the heart of things, deconstructing and finding humor in ways only comics can do. I should also mention here that I have a number of friends who are stand up comics, and I think it bears mentioning that for many comics the stage is a means of therapy.  There is truth that in pain comes creativity and Art, and stand up comedy very definitely is an art form.

On my MP3 player I have a stand up comedy file with better than a dozen different comics and  an untold number of short comedy spots. But Louis C.K. held a special place. He seemed to speak from the middle aged white man’s point of view, speaking on rape, homophobia, sex and marriage, marriage, Cinnabon, airports, getting older and more. Louis C.K. had his own separate file. Then…well, I neither can or will listen to another Louis C.K.  stand up ever again.

Jon Stewart knew, and said nothing. He’s done in my view, as well. People knew that Louis C.K. would act like some sort of animal predator, inviting female comics to his room only to begin masturbating in front of them. Who does that? Well, according to my wife and female friends, far more men than polite society wants to admit. Here is a guy who could and did have everything; money, notoriety, financial security, family, films, access, and who certainly would not have had any trouble meeting women, provided he wasn’t an absolute freak.

I found out about it last week when the news broke widely, though, as I said, apparently lot’s of people knew this was happening. Everyone around Harvey Weinstein knew about his perversion and even violence only to keep quiet as long as they got paid. And all of this moral outrage by an industry that facilitated Weinstein, Spacy, Louis C.K. and others like them is reprehensible in it’s own right. Roy Moore, a prosecutor, was trolling a high school in his 30s, and was banned from a mall for predatory behavior against under age girls! Now that the once mighty Rhino has been stumbled, finally all those long intimidated by his judicial power and bullying behavior has stepped forward. I risked my home and job speaking out against an egregious injustice committed by an airline CEO after September 11, 2001. Stand up, men, or you are just weak!

And please, Louis C.K.,  don’t attempt to explain this away as some sort of sickness. You failed to control yourself when you knew better. The quickness of your public apology confirms that. There is no apology Louis C.K. could offer. Forever what ever he does will be tainted by the specter of what he did to those young and only too trusting women.. How could you, Louis C.K. ? How could you do that to those women, first of all, and how did you ever think that fans would ever get past that in a million years. I’m not sure I would even want to buy a cup of coffee from you.

Angry? Yes, but more heart broken and disappointed more. You had bits that were more than stand up, but were brilliant transcendent observations of the human condition. What you did destroyed all that. It made that brilliance instead plastic and false, and there simply is no redemption except to take your millions and start from this moment striving to redeem yourself, quietly and anonymously, and where no one ever has to be reminded what they believed you were and what you actually turned out to be.

A touching tail? Sure, but not the one I ever wanted to tell.

Crazy vs Evil: can we get some consistency please! (Caution, slightly strong language)

This isn’t an argument for or against pornographic levels of gun proliferation in America. That ship has already sailed. I’ve heard it up to here from both side, each locked in their own trenches, with no common or reasonable ground between them. America doesn’t care. It feigns outrage and drops immediately into their respective well-rehearsed attack-defend diatribes. America even seems to get some sort of bizarre schizophrenic entertainment value, whether for the shock value in an emotionally stilted and burnt out society, for the money in gun sales or political contributions, or just to see if we can one-up the last “deadliest” shooting. And I say all this knowing full well that I or someone I know and care about may be a victim of pop-up gun violence at some point.

What I want is some consistency. Right away, Trump and others, somber and shocked all the way to their Oscar acceptance, began a tacit defense of guns, (because guns don’t kill people, and they apparently can’t defend themselves in the media either) by describing the Texas Church shooter this week as “crazy”, “demented” and “Insane.” never mind that he was legally “sane” enough to guy guns, despite having a history of beating his wife and being tossed from the Air Force for violence and just being a general sonofabitch. But being a sonofabitch isn’t a mental disorder. Neither, by the way is a sonofabitch flippantly described as crazy.

One person who should have been considered “crazy, or at least an idiot and a sonofabitch was the mope who drove a truck onto the bike path in New York last week, killing eight with a rental truck. He wasn’t carrying a gun and was Muslim, and so he was a terrorist and evil. Even if he had a gun, he would still have been called evil and a terrorist, while our gun toting sonofabitch, who is not Muslim, and happens to be Caucasian, is simply crazy, misguided…

The Texas sonofabitch apparently did not spend aa great deal of time planning, unlike the NYC sonofabitch, who spent many months, numerous notebooks and who knows what else planning a caper that could have been planned in three minutes on a post-it note:

THINGS TO DO TODAY: RENT TRUCK. RUN OVER PEOPLE.

But no, this criminal mastermind, who needed notebooks to pull off his crime was characterized as the tip of the proverbial spear of ISIS. Please. A little consistency. America doesn’t have a gang, ISIS, terrorist, gun, white supremacist problem. It as an asshole problem. Funny that the same people who are outspoken against so-called identity politics, are the people who immediately want to parcel crime into religious, racial and national buckets for their own, dare I say, identity-driven political expediency.