“I do not concede.” A remarkably thoughtful and defiant response by Michael Cerveris to last night’s election .

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This morning, a guy — me — who quite often and much too easily comes up with an embarrassing surplus of words to babble, was speechless.

It’s not that my mind wasn’t racing with rage, frustration, and the realization that so many voters — regardless of how they might now try to spin their vote — selected a man they knew was an enthusiastic supporter of loathing, sexism, racism,homophobia, and Islamophobia.

It’s that no words came.

And then I read the short essay below written by Michael Cerveris, a distinguished actor, singer and musician whose remarkable performance in the musical Fun Home,  along with the  the rest of an astounding cast, shed a blindingly bright light on the universal struggle we wage with all our “selves,” our families, and our memories to discover meaning and identity.

I do not concede.

Michael Cerveris

November  9, 2016

I do not concede.

I will not make nice with bigots and racists. I will not “reach out” to those who would oppress my brothers and sisters and take away their hard-won rights.

I will not cooperate with those who have shown their disregard for the laws of decency and civility and compassion.

I will not reward those who traffic in the politics of fear, hate and brutality in act or speech or thought with my allegiance or loyalty.

I will not forget, excuse or dismiss the despicable things you have said and done on the way to this ‘victory.’

You lied and scared people enough to win a statistic popularity contest. You did not win my heart or spirit or good will. You have done nothing to deserve it, and unless and until you do, you will NEVER have it.

Instead you have my promise that I will look for ways to defeat you at every turn. To whatever extent I can, I will not give my money or my patronage to those who support you or applaud you or think like you. I will stand between you and those of my brothers and sisters you mean to denigrate, disenfranchise and disregard. I will work for and look to celebrate your undoing–legally, but steadfastly. I will support all those who will stand in your way.

I will speak up and defy you.

I will call your sins by name.

Racist

Bigot

Misogynist

Elitist

Liar

Cheat

Huckster

Narcissist

Buffoon

I will hold responsible all those who followed you and made your rise possible by their collaboration–including the media and others on our side who neglected their responsibility to the country, profited by your ascent, and refused to stand up to you sooner

I will not “heal and mend” with the very people who have sickened the country, planted and fed the disease at its heart.

I will work to make a new one

I will remember and I will watch and I will wait and I will work.

I will never be united with you.

“Authentic acts of political courage are like blazing comets in the sky. If we are lucky, we might see one or two in our lifetime. We should be ready for those moments, because even more rarely we just may see the civic landscape suddenly illuminated by the blinding brightness of truly uncommon courage. And that is when — armed with moral clarity, our path showered in light — we can escape pettiness and celebrate the beauty of selfless, sublime decency.”

Two Acts of Political Courage

1. Joseph Welch, 1954

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Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty, I would do so. I like to think I’m a gentle man, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me. …. “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

Joseph Welch, Chief Counsel for the United States Army, US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Washington DC, June 9, 1954, confronting Senator Joseph McCarthy,  who had cruelly and recklessly accused a young lawyer, Fred Fisher, of disloyalty.  This confrontation set  the stage for McCarthy’s eventual censure and defeat.

2. Khizr Khan, 2016

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“Let me ask you: Have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy … Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities … You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

Mr. and Mrs. Khizr Khan,  parents  of US Army Capt. Humayun Khan, Democratic National Convention,  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 28, 2016, asking that Republican leaders repudiate the virulent anti-Muslim hatred of a cruel and reckless Donald Trump.

Great Songs in Film #12: Ginger Rogers Sings Irving Berlin’s “Let Yourself Go” in Mark Sandrich’s “Follow the Fleet” 1936

In her ten films with Fred Astaire, the luminous Ginger Rogers only did one solo tap dance.

That dance was in the 1936 Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers film “Follow the Fleet” and the song was “Let Yourself Go,” one of three Irving Berlin songs that made it into the top ten of the  1936 hit parade.

Only five years ago, I learned that my grandfather bought my mom a replica of the Ginger Rogers costume so she  could  perform the song and dance  from the film.

This is an extended excerpt of Ms. Rogers singing the song, followed by a dance with Fred Astaire.

The energy.

And this is the solo tap dance:

Remembering Joe Viskocil: a great friend, Academy Award winning master of special effects, and lifelong maker of joy.

Giuseppe V. Academy Award

Joe Viskocil  1951 – 2014

Note: In August 0f 2014, we lost our good friend and Academy Award winning master of special effects, Joe Viskocil. Today I reprint my earlier post below, on what would have been his 65th birthday. The graphic above was shown on the air at the 2015 Academy Awards, during the portion of the program when luminaries from the motion industry who have passed away are honored and remembered.

Rest well, Giuseppe 

Yesterday, we lost an uncommonly talented artist, a gentle soul, and powerful life force who – through his work on so many major motion pictures — freely gave joy and pleasure to millions around the world. He was a true master of his craft.

He was the recipient of many honors, including an Academy award, yet my guess is that those who knew and loved him are probably not thinking very much about his credits or distinguished career. We only hear his infectious laughter, see the joyous smile with which he greeted his friends and colleagues, and sit around struggling to imagine a world without him in it. Because when all the lofty words about his talent have been exhausted, many of us will be left with his simple legacy of joy that easily transcends any awards or movie reviews or glowing magazine articles.

He created joy. He inspired gut-splitting laughter.  He was capable of absolutely glorious mischief, jokes, and teasing.  He relished the kind and generous gesture. And – most importantly for me, at least — he lived a life in which the ability to make, have and share fun was virtually a sacrament.

Who knew that, in all this fun, he was actually teaching us a lesson? Because in the way he lived his life, you slowly came to see that fun and laughter, shared generously and with love, was deadly serious business, nothing less than one of life’s fundamental fuels.  And, trust me; this was a guy who knew fun and laughter like nobody’s business.

Since we lost the comic genius Robin Williams yesterday, you may think I am describing him. A number of these details do apply. But this blog post is actually about someone else, a friend of close to 50 years and someone I wish you all could have known.

JoeViskocil blockade runner

Today, I write about my friend Joe Viskocil, Academy award-winning visual effects artist and master of cinematic pyrotechnics, who died yesterday in California at the age of 63. There are many places you can find out about his professional accomplishments, from the explosion of Death Star in the early Star Wars to the destruction of the White House in Independence Day. My purpose here is simply to note the passing of one sublimely nice fellow, a bringer of joy par excellence, and share just how much he will be missed by so many.

Joe had many friends, friends that I did not know. To me, Joe was part of a small group of 5 high school friends who attended South Hills High School in Covina, California together. For decades we have competed for each other’s laughter (the more raucous the better), written sketches and parodies in which we were both the writers and sole audience members, and been there for each other when laughter was the last thing on the agenda.

Now we are four.

If my hunch is right, a lot of other people who knew Joe are also now doing the same, profoundly sad mathematics of loss, taking stock of their lives, factoring Joe into the equation, and trying to figure out just what the world will be like when so much joy is subtracted. I wouldn’t pretend to do anyone else’s math, but I’d be willing to bet just one more dinner with Joe and the gang at Musso & Frank Grill on Hollywood Blvd. that most of us – after all the subtracting – will still be left with more belly laughs and giggling than we know what to do with.

Rest well, Giuseppe.

MSNBC’s shame: How a sleazy prison reality show pushed aside coverage of the Planned Parenthood shooting

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We need a Pete Williams network.

The alternative is the two-hour mess on MSNBC “News” I watched on Friday evening, November 27, 2015, when the national news media covered the particularly tragic incident at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Clinic. I turned my television on at precisely 8:22 PM.

On to the mess.

I’m not sure I have ever seen MSNBC cover an incident of legitimate public interest with a more embarrassing hodgepodge of speculation by law enforcement professionals who were nowhere near the scene, goaded on by queries from MSNBC correspondents asking for guesses about what might be going on inside, how law-enforcement on the scene might have ended the situation, how the criminal justice system might play out for the perpetrator, and any other possible question into which “might” could be inserted.

Dear MSNBC: I know about your enormous news hole. I know you have to stay on the air. I know you have to fill the time. But I simply will not accept that newsgathering should ever be a process of gathering hypotheticals, mights, maybes, or possibilities, especially when not a soul could be heard uttering such old-fashioned, pre-digital curiosities as “Let’s wait and see,” “There’s no way of really knowing,” or the ultimate stone age newsgathering principle: “We have not yet been able to confirm.”

And the retired experts, for all they probably do have to offer in experience and expertise, seemed completely unconcerned that they were allowing the imprimatur of their experience to serve as a seal of approval for a guessing-game.

I know that guessing, speculating, gossiping, and passing on rumors are all quintessentially human activities. But since when does that mean that they should also be considered legitimate newsgathering tools?

I’m probably in the minority. MSNBC’s audience research must tell them that even in the midst of an ongoing violent incident, audiences want coverage modeled more on CSI then facts gathered according to broadly accepted professional standards.

Which leads to Pete Williams. Which always leads to Pete Williams, NBC News Justice Correspondent. There he was yet again in the middle of all this confusion and speculation offering confirmed facts, news gathered from high-level sources, and erudite legal analysis. The guy is a one-man integrity machine.

And then right back to the nonsense.

In fact, let me ask you a question: imagine yourself as the friend or family member of someone somehow connected to this incident, perhaps someone whose safety is in question. Now, imagine yourself filled with all that natural anxiety and concern, watching MSNBC and hearing a retired police officer begin to tell you about a case he covered a decade ago with some similarities. And then imagine yourself hearing a correspondent reporting rumors about the extent of injuries to victims that no local public safety official has confirmed.

It is a sad reality of the times in which we live that we do frequently need evidence-based, legally informed, moment-to-moment coverage of catastrophic violent events. But what we often get is one long episode of Law and Order, occasionally punctuated by a guess or a rumor.

I’ve been watching the same uninformed, speculative coverage for too many years to restrain my inner Howard Beale. And so, in the months ahead, I plan to highlight and even post examples of exactly the kind of speculation I’m talking about.

One last thing: most of the journalists and law enforcement professionals responsible for this coverage are smart, perceptive, ethical, and well intentioned. This is almost never a case of incompetence and negligence. These are good people who sincerely believe they are doing their job.

And that might be the scariest fact of all.

P.S. At 9:15 PM EST Friday night, while I wrote this rant, MSNBC switched over to Lockup, their regular Friday evening reality prison program. The coverage was over.

 The problem is that at that exact moment, the front page of the New York Times reported that they had finally confirmed that a “tragic loss of life had occurred during the standoff.” Yet when I glanced up at MSNBC, I saw two inmates brawling with each other, being pulled apart at the Sacramento County Jail.

 So finally, after hours of uncertainty, we had news. Sad news and confirmed news. And MSNBC, so eager to speculate just an hour before, was nowhere to be seen just when we began to learn the full extent of the tragedy. Now it wasn’t even speculation and rumor passing as news. It was no news at all.

 And so it was that until 9:30 PM EST, as the other networks and major newspapers focused on what we actually knew, MSNBC shared commercials for Kia, Biotene, Ford, and the Home Shopping Network.

 And, finally, yet another brawl on the reality show was interrupted with a 60 second update about the casualties of yet another act of tragic, shattering violence.

 Pathetic. There’s nothing wrong with entertainment. Just stop calling it news.