Tag Archives: Mel Brooks

Remember The Smoking!


Grab your guns; we’re heading for the Alamo! On October 19th gun enthusiasts will be participating in a “Line In The Sand” armed rally in St. Antonio, Texas. Participants are encouraged to carry their “long guns” and the event is billed as family friendly. It is not a protest in the traditional sense, as Texas has some of the most lenient gun laws in the land; it’s more of a show of arms if you will. The assumed intent is to create a powerful visual of gun slinging American families. To encourage a wholesome atmosphere participants are asked to remove bullets from chambers before marching.

Once one gets past the image of a John Wayne (or Mel Brooks) movie, the conceit is not that strange. People often march to express strong feelings, and clearly people feel very strongly about their guns. What is strange is that as a nation we seem to have bought into that sentiment. We continuously elect representatives who hold gun rights sacred. It’s challenging to conjure any other “right” that directly impacts the rights of others as dramatically as gun rights. We think nothing of restricting individual rights that have little if any impact on larger society. We set restrictions on; who can marry, female reproduction, child safety, and the right to die. In the past few decades we have begun to set limits on individual rights which affect the public. You can no longer drink and drive with impunity. Smoking is so restricted as to be unrecognizable as the American pastime it once was.

Smoking was once ubiquitous. People smoked in movie theaters, buses, planes, and even elevators! Ashtrays were everywhere! Freestanding ashtrays were in doctor’s offices, factories, office buildings, and schools. The smoke cloud emerging from most teachers’ lounges rivaled that of a nuclear test. Once upon a time cigarette smoke was everywhere. About twenty-five years ago C. Everett Koop (U.S. Surgeon General) published a report equating the addictive nature of nicotine to that of heroin. You’d be forgiven for not considering this a “Eureka!” moment. But keep in mind that the tobacco industry was (if not is) one of the more powerful lobbying groups in the country. Shortly after the report’s publication cigarette packaging had to include a warning box. Dr. Koop later published a report regarding the hazards of “secondhand smoke.” The first restaurant smoking sections then cropped up. Some readers might remember the bizarreness of smoking sections; everyone seemed to pretend that smoke doesn’t move. But as behavior change motivation goes, baby steps are often the way to go. Fast-forward to 2013 and most of us live in a practically smoke-free environment. Smoking is considered a private behavior and as such cannot infringe upon the larger population.

So why haven’t we been able to treat gun ownership this way? Secondhand smoke couldn’t possibly kill more people than guns. Why have we not set limits on how many firearms a registered, licensed and certified owner can possess? Where are the laws about which kind of weapons are allowed outside of a registered, licensed and law abiding gun club and which must stay secured? Why do we tolerate gun show loopholes? How can a household that includes children be allowed guns, but apartment residents with children must have window guards? There are gun enthusiasts in favor of reasonable restrictions. Not all gun fans cling to the 2nd amendment like it was an out of context bible passage. Not every person who enjoys guns holds fast to rhetoric and flag waving. So where are those voices? Where is our C. Everett Koop?

People will show up to the Alamo with their guns and children. Even if the showing is paltry the imagery will be startling. Once again we will be lulled into thinking that gun owners are monolithic. Once again the issue will be framed as all or nothing. Color me a pessimist, but once again our capital will be noticeably silent.

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Posted by on October 15, 2013 in Cultural Critique


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Springtime For Galliano

The Producers

The fashion industry isn’t exactly known for its high ideals. It is an industry that maintains its mystique with a finely orchestrated and rarified air of exclusivity. It is an intricate web of people and professions with a handful of uniquely talented people. At the very center of the web are the design houses. There is usually one person (perhaps with the same name as the label) at the core of the house and hundreds if not thousands surrounding him/her. The work is done by; designers, merchandisers, buyers, sewers, fitters, publicists, and so on and so on. The larger web of the fashion industry consists of media, models, hair & make-up technicians, event planners…and so on and so on. It is a vast industry that’s profitability is dependent upon the marketability of those few at the center of the web.

If the (buying) public doesn’t believe in the unique fabulousness of a designer or brand the brand fails. Nobody needs a designer garment. Unless you are a collector (of which there are very few) a high priced item is not an investment, in fact it is most likely a seasonal item. What the industry relies on is the profitability of its glamour. Consumers are not buying an expensive shirt they are buying a (insert designer name.) The result is an entire industry predicated on being cool. In every area of the fashion world people are vying to be the coolest kid in the class. And just like high school, the pursuit doesn’t bring out the best in people.

Models engage in some dark behavior, as do the people who hire them. Media can make or break careers and often do. This power can result in some unattractive goings on (young have been eaten.) The media are of course the most closely aligned with designers & labels. They’re the head cheerleader and the quarterback if you will. Together they are a beacon of popularity and power. Intricate and unseemly relationships are forged and maintained and all their minions profit from the alliance. And at times the alliance can be wholly unholy.

When those in a position (they have carefully cultivated) of power defend, support and protect a man convicted of anti-Semitic and racial remarks no one should be all that surprised. That so many people have had a hand in aiding and abetting Mr. Galliano is a bit of a surprise however. In 2011 when the news broke and a video was produced of Galliano’s vitriolic tirade, it was not surprising when Natalie Portman spoke out and dropped out of a Dior campaign. It was not surprising when Dior let Galliano then go. It wasn’t surprising when a stylist (aka professional shopper) known for her work in a Candace Bushnell franchise, rallied to Mr. Galliano’s defense comparing his actions to that of Mel Brooks. (The surprise would’ve been if she had said anything less outrageous.) In the two years since Galliano’s exposure Oscar de la Renta and Anna Wintour (and their followers) have been quietly and clandestinely grooming him for his comeback. It is reported that Ms. Wintour secured a mysterious position for Galliano with de la Renta. Together they have created a precise scenario designed to remind people of Galliano’s talent while keeping their hands technically clean. Galliano has no official title, but the (media created) buzz is that he was behind the Fall 2013 line.

People make mistakes and should not lose their entire lives because of a drunken outburst. But Mr. Galliano still denies just about everything and has yet to apologize publicly. It is unlikely that the tirade wasn’t a reflection of his true feelings. People rarely do anything drunk that they didn’t wish they could do sober. A person should be allowed to have their thoughts and feelings; as long as they’re kept private. If a camera had not captured the ugliness most people would never know, but there’s no unringing that bell. Instead what we have is an ousted and shamed designer who is having his popularity secretly rehabilitated by the head cheerleader and the quarterback.

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Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing


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Putting One Foot In Front Of The Other

Life is not a spectator sport. Life is to be embraced, battled, survived and celebrated. Yet there are times (perhaps long stretches of them) that life is barely tolerable. The world, if it must exist, is best viewed from under a blankie from the vantage point of the couch. There are variations on this lookout. Perhaps a box of Cap’n Crunch (crunch berries optional) is involved. There may be an 18-hour background chatter of Law & Order employed. The constant of course is the elastic waist pant. No respectable day of sloth can be had in real pants.

Self-imposed solitary confinement is nothing to aspire to, but it’s not shameful either. One need only be concerned if frequency or duration increases (like an erectile dysfunction drug side effect; after four days one should seek medial attention.) If we are relatively healthy people, our forays into fleece and foods of childhood are sporadic and strangely motivating. But what of the everyday less-than-fleece malaise?

If life is lived with any participation: sh*t happens. Things come up that are not of our own making and that make us miserable. Even good things (new; jobs, projects, relationships, etc.) can make us feel overwhelmingly uneasy. Dread, misery and anxiety are often lumped into the category of “stress.” Since “stress” can also result from happy things, we sill stick with specifics; dread, misery and anxiety.

  • Dread – Channel your Scarlett O’Hara
    • Don’t think about it until tomorrow. Dread is one of the all time biggest thieves of happiness there is. Weeks will be wasted dreading an event that at most will encompass 24 hours. Each time a lump in the pit of your stomach starts to form, grab your phone, notebook, slab of stone and write down your specific concern (i.e., my cousin-in-law will use the funeral as a platform for subtle anti-Semitic rhetoric) and go back to the business at hand. Trust that the specific concern has been properly mulled.
    • Focus on getting back to Tara. Yes that root canal or colonoscopy is going to be wretched. Nothing will change that. Focus on what you will do after the event (and after the narcotics wear off.) Plan something enjoyable.
  • Misery
    • Awful things happen, that is the burden of survival. Disease, death, desertion are often unavoidable. Sadness and often mourning is wildly appropriate, but should not become a lifestyle. There’s really only one way out; take a shower. Get up, put one foot in front of the other and fake it ‘til you make it. Pretend you are functioning and before you know it, you will be.
  • Anxiety
    • High anxiety (as it relates to a state of being not a Mel Brooks’ film) is a very uncomfortable state. Sustained non-specific anxiety (not related to an event) warrants medical attention.
    • The remedy for event specific anxiety is often directly related to the event:
      • Public speaking? Rehearse, rehearse & remember that most people aren’t really listening
      • Job interview? Research and keep in mind that you are interviewing them as well
      • Blind date? Have an exit plan
      • Socializing with people you do not know? Think of yourself as Jane Goodall and discover everything you can about these people and their ways

Often the best way out or through is to consider what we’d advise a friend. Most likely we would not encourage a friend to perseverate, we’d encourage them to get up and get out. We would lift the afghan from their shoulders, brush the crumbs from their chest, wipe the melted ice cream from their chin and whisper; step into the sun, step into the light.

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Posted by on September 30, 2012 in Well-Being


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