Life Imitating Art Imitating Life

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Every year I watch the Academy Awards, and try to see the movies nominated for Best Picture before the show. This year I saw Selma, The Theory of Everything, Boyhood, and Birdman beforehand.  I watch the post-Oscars E! Fashion Police episode too because, let’s face it, the Oscars are as much about fashion, hair and make-up as they are about movies.

After Joan Rivers unexpectedly passed last summer, I wondered what would happen to her show. The new E! Fashion Police launched in January and seemed like a success until the fateful Oscars show. Giuliana Rancic made an inappropriate joke about Zendaya’s dreadlocks (watched it twice and it gave me pause both times), which started a Twitter war. Zendaya was offended and Instagrammed it. Kelly Osbourne tweeted “Don’t put me in the middle. These are my friends. I said not to do the joke.” 

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For those who don’t follow entertainment or Twitter, the Oscars were Sunday, February 22; Fashion Police aired February 23; said Twitter war was February 24 – 25; and by Friday, February 27th, E! announced Kelly Osbourne was departing Fashion Police “to pursue other opportunities.”  That’s generally code for got canned, but reports went back ‘n forth: some said she quit, others reported she was asked to leave. Given the intensity of the week, it kind of made sense either way.

The following week I saw some online comments from Kathy Griffin, but it was her March 12th announcement she’s also quitting the show that really got my inner P.I. / psychologist going. Her “I Will Survive” manifesto made me sit up and take notice. To put Kathy’s statement into my own few words, it goes something like: “Hey E! I was successful before I joined your little show and I’ll be successful after I leave it.”  All of this begs the question:  Is something seriously wrong at E!?  With half of the shows’ staff departing two weeks post Oscars, most notably after these women expressed their opinions online, one wonders. Or are these women truly just standing up for what they believe in?

They say “Art Imitates Life.” So what are these movies about and how does it relate to the E! drama? Here’s my take:

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The planning and filming of Selma, a movie about the historic civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, began before Michael Brown got shot in Ferguson, MO, last August. This tribute was in the works long before the protests and riots in Ferguson; before #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter became lexicons of our culture. An amazing movie, it was nominated for Best Picture and Original Song. If you haven’t heard Glory, here’s a video of John Legend and Common performing at the Oscars; it’s as awesome as the movie and a tear-jerker in itself.  (The fact there are more black men in Corrections today than were slaves absolutely flabbergasts me.) Two weeks after the Oscars, President Obama marked the 50th anniversary of the Selma march on that very bridge with his own speech. POTUS speaks very eloquently; to summarize his half hour speech in my own few words, it goes something like: “People, of course we’ve made progress. If we hadn’t, I wouldn’t be standing here! Do we have a way to go? Yes, absolutely. But we’re still better off than we were 50 years ago. Keep fighting.” His speech is worth listening to; it’s full of faith and hope and love.

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The Theory of Everything is a beautiful movie based on Jane Hawking’s memoir: Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen. It depicts Stephen and Jane falling in love in college at the same time his ALS was diagnosed; how she married him despite his illness, bore his children, and took care of him, the kids and the house so that he could do the amazing work he has done. It’s a movie that accurately shows the trials and tribulations of life as a handicapped person and caring for one, particularly with a chronic disease that worsens over time. The movie was nominated for five Oscars: Best Picture, Leading Actor, Leading Actress, Original Score and Screenplay.  Eddie Redmayne won the Oscar for Best Actor.

Boyhood

Boyhood is a phenomenon since it was filmed in intervals between 2002 and 2014. It’s the story of a boy growing up with divorced parents, told from the child’s perspective.  It’s a gritty, too-true-to-life story of a father too young to be a father, and a struggling, single mother who remarries a man who ends up being an abusive alcoholic. After she has the courage to leave him, she gets involved with another man who also turns out to be controlling. The boy tries to successfully navigate growing up among these quite imperfect adults. Boyhood received six Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Supporting Actress/Actor, Directing, Original Screenplay and Editing. Patricia Arquette won for Best Supporting Actress.  Her inspiring acceptance speech is a rallying cry for equal pay.

Her speech was not only in response to her character, but in response to the Sony email leak last November that outlined the disparity in pay among male and female actors. Many cheered Patricia on afterwards, but some complained that actresses make millions and have nothing to complain about.  News flash: That’s why it’s called “Equal Pay for Equal Work” –> it applies regardless of the type of work.

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Birdman is a wonderful movie about a middle-aged actor who was once a huge success, who is trying to return to his former glory. In his journey back, he realizes he still loves his wife and builds a real relationship with his daughter, with whom he’s never been close. Birdman is a movie about never giving up, coming back after adversity, and remembering what is truly important in life after your ego gets out of the way.  It received nine Oscar nominations and won four: Best Picture, Best Director, Cinematography, and Original Screenplay.

Each in their own way, these tremendous movies boil down to two things: Love and Sacrifice. But if I were to hashtag them, they’d be: #BlackLivesMatter, #HandicappedPeopleMatter, #WomenAndChildrenMatter, #MiddleAgedPeopleMatter.

Courtesy of Dr. Wayne Dyer

Courtesy of Dr. Wayne Dyer

Anyone who works in marketing, market research, politics, TV ratings and other big data analysis, knows that the world is often sliced and diced into: age, gender, race, education, income, religion, geography, sexual preference and anything else folks think may be important to a buying, voting or watching decision. It might make ‘business sense’ but it’s a soulless way to interact with people.

It’s these categorizations and stereotypes that permeate society to create underlying and unconscious biases. Soccer mom, anyone? One could suggest Birdman won Best Picture because the majority of Academy voting members are over 40. Or Patricia Arquette won because America loves its long-suffering single mother who will do anything to raise her kids. All you have to do is watch football, American Idol, The Voice, or any other sport or reality show to hear the praises of single mothers being sung often and loudly. Did Selma win Best Original Song because, well, you know, black people grow up singing in church?

Which brings me back to E! Fashion Police. I loved Joan Rivers; grew up watching her on Carson and watched her nip and tuck herself to stay relevant. Some could call her a crusty old broad or tough old bird. Perhaps Joan had a free pass on making inappropriate jokes because of it. Kelly, you’re right, the joke shouldn’t have been told. Kathy, you’re right, you will continue to be successful. Go forth and prosper.  E! Fashion Police, here’s an idea:  Stick to fashion and let the snark go. People will still watch. Just like people kept reading Perez Hilton after he decided to be nice.

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Some who study cycles say we’re experiencing the same cycle of change we did in the 1960’s; 20th century’s decade of the civil rights, women’s lib, sexual revolution, and anti-war movements. In addition to my hashtags above, gay marriage, LGBT rights, mental health awareness, body acceptance and many other rights are currently in the news. Demonstrations on college campuses protesting how rape cases are handled (and dismissed) and the twenty women accusing Bill Cosby of sexual harassment (or worse, rape) are more examples.

If we refocus the lens and zoom outside of the United States, we see the same trends. Democratic uprisings. Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani woman who demanded an education, and who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her work on behalf of women, children and education. In the Middle East, where we’ve been handing out guns like candy for over a decade and training people how to fight; now some of those same people are banding together to make their voices known worldwide to ask us not so politely to cease and desist.

It’s almost like all of those held down are lifting their heads up out of the mud (to quote Teri Garr), raising their faces to the sun like flowers, and saying, “Hey, people! I matter.”


Opportunity

January 30th Small Stone

Courtesy of American Idol Facebook Page

Courtesy of American Idol Facebook Page

Watching Idol tonight I was reminded

why I love that show so much

when Nicki Minaj said,

“All of the stars aligned to bring you here in front of us.”

Truth is, none of us knows if

that email, that phone call, that tweet

blog post, book, song, audition, smile

or chance meeting,

will open the door to our dreams.

Yes, America, Idol or not,

we are still the land of Opportunity!

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60 Words

January 28th Small Stone

Truth is stranger than fiction

Looking at the pictures,

watching video,

the truth leaks out

camera lenses:

He’s truly going to miss her.

She, ever the Good Wife,

will continue to stand by her man.

But in her heart she knows

he loves her;

and recognizes it for the gift it is.

All around the world,

truth is stranger than fiction.

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Fear

January 25th Small Stone

Fear can rear

its ugly head

up from subterranean depths

even in those who consider themselves

“Enlightened.”

Always the fear of loss:

losing love

or money

or some ego attachment.

Only love can cure it.

Everything else,

ego and money and titles and things,

keep fear captive in the basement

of our souls.

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Residue

January 16th Small Stone

Waiting in line at the Costco pharmacy a long time, feeling the impatience of customers and stress of employees, the woman at the register was still kind to me.  I’d transferred a prescription from CVS after they raised the price again … “Could you please step to the other window to fill out some paperwork?”  At the new window I asked the woman if they were short staffed and we started small talking about seasonality, snowbirds and cost structures, when she said, “The address we have for you is Marymont Place.”  I laughed and said, “That was 1996 – 1998.”  She replied, “I lived in San Diego then too.”  We both agreed that San Diego was freaking gorgeous and freaking expensive and chatted about which Coscto we shopped at then.  She commented, “I raised my kids there; we were in Oceanside.”  I asked if her husband was in the military at Camp Pendleton and she said, “We were together 25 years, went to our Jr. and Sr. proms together, raised our kids, I thought it was great and he goes and falls in love with someone else.”  She still looked relatively young, so I could tell they had been together since 15 or 16.  Then she started telling me about the other woman and how two of her kids followed their father’s footsteps in the Marines and send her pictures of places they lived while growing up there asking, “Remember when we lived here Mom?”  I told her she looked great, landed on her feet and to stay strong: “It wasn’t about you; it was about him.”  She replied, “Thanks for the pep talk.  You know, I try not to let it change me, but … but it leaves a residue.”  All I could say is, “Yes, it does.”

Waiting in the grocery check out, I wondered how many women who’ve been divorced for years still wonder why they weren’t enough?  Good enough?  And blame themselves?

Walking out of Costco knowing I saved money (always a good thing), I noticed some residue around my eyes and wondered if broken hearts heal stronger like broken bones do?  Or is there always the residue of fracture?

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Happy Birthday Martin

January 15th Small Stone

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I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.  August 28, 1963

Over the past fifty years that dream has been expanded to include: gender, all races, sexual preference, disability, size, etc.  We all have that dream; at least I always have.

But life, Dr. Brian Weiss, and yoga have taught me that our souls are here to learn and often our packaging, and the experiences part and parcel to it, are significant to what our souls want and need to learn.  Since said packaging is just that; our souls live forever, and each is on their own journey to learn what they’ve come to learn, why does this equality really matter?

It matters because until we all – in every country, of every race, gender, hair color, eye color, size, shape, religion, sexual preference, disabled, etc. – until we all see the soul, divinity, worth and value in each other, only then can we live on this beautiful heaven on earth in peace.  When we can do that, we all will have triumphed.

So thank you Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for your dream.  It paved the way for my life and my dreams.

Happy Birthday with love!

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New Moon

January 11th Small Stone:

New Heart

New, new, new:

each morning a new day,

new weeks,

every new month has its new moon.

New years, new decades.

With so many opportunities,

why are we sometimes stuck in the same ‘space’

for days, months, years or decades?

Until some event, change, understanding

occurs

and the world opens up again?

Open yourself up anew today!

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