I’d planned to watch the show until the bitter end while sifting through the #OSCAR tweets for today’s post.  Well, I still plan to sift and winnow-but it won’t be ’til the bitter end.  My head would have exploded and then you’d get no tweets and I wouldn’t have a column.  So, these tweets finish after Christopher Plummer’s Award.  I really did try



@Ethan_Anderton: “Let the next five hours crawl by!”

@tinch: “We’re still here with people entering a building.”

@lizzwinstead: “As bad as these red carpet questions are, they are better than John King during the debates.”

@dustinj: “The best dressed at our house tonight will be our 3 kids in clean pajamas after bath time.”

@james_priya: “Here is Sacha Baron Cohen as The Dictator spilling Kim Jong-il’s “ashes” on Ryan Seacrest.”

@shutupbuck: “That awkward moment when Melanie Griffin tries to snort ashes off Ryan Seacrest’s jacket.”

@GailPennington: “Big mushroom buns on top of women’s heads. No.”

@michael_epps: “All of these borrowed jewels. Not impressed. Elizabeth Taylor, and the old Hollywood stars rocked their own bling.”

@swish: “Why is a Brit doing Red Carpet interviews on ABC? Brits should steal our difficult acting roles, not superficial small talk roles.”

@waitwait: “Colin Firth’s wife’s dress looks like it was designed to catch food that falls out of your mouth. This is a dress we need.”

@barbarachai: “Nick Nolte kills me. “If I knew what you said, I’d be able to answer you.””

Capricecrane: “The only thing sadder than being 2nd choice host tonight is everyone’s telling Billy Crystal to break a “hip” instead of a “leg.””

@pourmecoffee: “Billy Crystal may be a little late. He’s coming all the way from the 80’s.”

Josh Hara @yoyoha: “who’s that?” – best follow up question to “who are you wearing?”

@LizB: “My first outfit change! eberjey pajamas, purple with pink trim. the 2010 collection.”

@LouisPeitzman: “Really grateful to Glenn Close for bringing matronly chic back.”

Imogen Lloyd Webber@illoydwebber: “Nothing like a “red carpet” show to remind one that actors need writers.”

@DamienFahey: “Every Oscars red carpet interview is as graceful as running into someone you kind of know at the supermarket.”

@SteveHuff: “We’ll all be happy children in the sun again when this is over, right? “I was lying in a burned-out basement…””



@BorowitzReport: “If a black-and-white silent film wins Best Picture it will give hope to surveillance cameras everywhere.”

@seanoconnz: “Billy Crystal is sitting through a power point presentation about who now works in Hollywood since he stopped working 13 years ago.”

@hulu: “Take a drink if you’ve got Sammy Davis Jr. and Justin Bieber making a Hitler joke in your Oscars drinking game.”

@alyssabereznak: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the music is drowning out billy crystal’s voice.”

@slackmistress: “Oscar gift bags this year include a week-long trip to the Catskills, a Viagra prescription and a selection of hard candies.”

@Zap2itRick (about the winner): “I did not know Gregg Allman had a second career as a cinematographer.”

@SteveDahlShow (about the winner): “I bet that cinematographer gets REALLY good pot!”

@DougBenson: “Billy Crystal is at Octavia Spencer’s seat, begging her to do some one armed push-ups when she wins.”

@tohoscope: “Is it me or is Billy Crystal looking more and more like Bela Lugosi?”

@StevenAmiri: “In case you were wondering, Billy Crystal is old and Jewish.”

@lizzwinstead: “Guess Jennifer Lopez thought this was The Golden Globes.”

CJ Werleman@rationalists: “I can see Jennifer Lopez’s nipples. They taste like TV screen.”

@chrisburlingame: “A film from Iran just won an Academy Award as Rick Santorum throws together some ill-conceived talking points.”

@dbrauer: “Think any Republican presidential candidate will rip the Academy for the Iranian film beating the Israeli one?”

@NotBillWalton: “Responsibilities of Oscar volunteers: Fill empty seats, direct traffic in the aisles, and remind Nick Nolte that he’s still on Earth.”

@DamienFahey: “If you miss the Oscars, catch up on the show by heading to the nearest Home Depot and staring at a beige paint swatch for 3 hours.”

@MarinaGipps: “Every year I’ve watched #oscars i kind of felt like these people were gollum & whatever unlikely award was “my precious”…”

@AntDeRosa@KeithOlbermann: “This is the WORST EPISODE of Downton Abbey EVER.”

@DeathAndTaxes: “Is Cirque Du Soliel what it’s like to be French and on acid at the same time?”

@brentalfloss: “And that’s what you do when you fall off of another man’s upside-down-feet on live national television.”

@LaurelSnyder: “This is the part where they dangle Chris Rock in front of us, and we laugh, before we trudge back to Billy Crystal.”

@JillMorris: “I think Hollywood is still too depressed about Heath Ledger to focus.”

@PhilCokesBrain: “People introducing the people who introduce people to make a speech makes Tony LaRussa’s bullpen usage seem normal.”

@bengreenman: “If Hugo picks up some major awards along with this tech-award sweep, will the headline be “Huge-O”?”

@vulture: “You’re only two years older than me, darling. Where have you been all my life?” Plummer to his Oscar.

@DougBenson: “I have a plumber named Christopher Actor.”

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.- George Carlin





When I first sat down to write this post a number of ideas flashed through my mind, but I just didn’t feel like heavy this week.  So I’m doing what a ton of bloggers get shit about.  That is, writing about what they had for breakfast.

But I’m not gonna write about breakfast.

When I got my new eye prescription, I put the lenses into a pair of frames I’d been using for years.  I like them, but it was also time for something different.  Really different.  Then a Groupon coupon that would save me some serious shekels sealed the deal.  I committed myself to a store where I’d seen odd and wild frames in their window.  Hey, spring is just around the corner.  The greening of Zach.

This “new image” idea actually began a few years ago when I spent a week with Sue’s relatives in an Adirondack cabin where Calvin Coolidge used to summer.  Twelve year old Bella had blue frames that I adored.  Problem was, I worked with lawyers then and spent a fair amount of time in court.  I always removed my earrings, but still played fast and loose with turtlenecks rather than shirts and ties.  But blue glasses…way out of bounds.  I’d hate to have any jury affected by my questionable fashion sense.

But I don’t go to court anymore.  Which made it time to stretch.  To find those blue frames, or their 2012 equivalent.  Sue graciously accepted my invitation to come along.  Perhaps it was a defensive move.  In other, similar, circumstances she had let me shop alone, then greeted me and the results with a sadly shaking head. (I never brought home a leisure suit, I swear.)

You gotta love Harvard Square.  Hell, if we melted down all the silver and gold attached to the bodies we’d all be rich, though I’m not one to cast aspersions given my earrings and bracelets.  The young women in the eyeglass store were also loaded with facial (and I’d guess body) piercings, still, they looked at me funny when I said I wanted something a little outrageous.  Couldn’t blame them–I was a sixty-three year old in a store meant for twenty-somethings.

After those initial glances, the two youngsters took me on. I guess there’s enough strange in Harvard Square to allow for mine.  Along with Sue, they cheerfully pitched in.  I felt like I had three personal shoppers all bringing me frames to try on.  Which was incredibly helpful.  Despite my vision of blue, I had no real idea about what I was looking for.

Odd how often that happens.  I knew I wanted something different, but when it came right down to it, I felt like I’d walked into a room to get something, but was stopped cold in my tracks upon arrival.  I was there for a reason–hell, I could taste it–but for the life of me couldn’t figure out what.

Here, it was did I want round fronts?  Go for a 1950s look with dark on top of the lens that fades to grey as it circles the bottom?  Was I interested in a return to the 70s with “aviators?”  So many questions and a whole lot of choices.

Went through the blues (surprise, surprise), but either they weren’t the shade I wanted or were the wrong shape for my face.  Moved on to green, purple, and even mustard.  Same problems.  Either the color or shape didn’t quite cut it.  I was beginning to think my quest was gonna end in disappointment.

Sue and the clerks saw the beginning of my funk and suggested I slowly, methodically go shelf by shelf instead of taking the kid in a candy store approach I’d adopted as soon as we’d walked in.  Off I went, this time looking carefully at each frame.  Wouldn’t you know it–about halfway around the track, an oversized fuchsia caught my eye and found its way onto my face.  I liked them, liked them as much as Sally Fields believed the members of the Academy liked her.  I thought I had finally found my frames until the younger and more metallized of the women slid next to me.  Aware that I was beaming and also aware that Sue had simply shrugged, she carefully chose her words.

“It seems you like this pair.”

“I do, actually.”

“They are pink, you know.”

The pink was what had attracted me.  And I was old enough to be secure of my sexuality.

“I know,” I replied.

“The shape works, but they really look Elton John.  Want to try them in tortoise shell?”

I shook my head, watching the color catch the light.

“And I think I have a pair you’ll like better.  Wait here and I’ll get them.”

Wait here?  Of course I was going to wait here.  Wait and think about whether I wanted to look like Elton. “I’m not the man they think I am at home. Oh no no no, I’m a rocket man.”  Hadn’t he been recently honored at the Kennedy Center Lifetime Achievement Awards?

The young lady returned and fidgeted.  “I would feel like a used car salesman if I let you buy that pair of frames,” she said earnestly.

“Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone…”

She handed me a pair of absolutely clear, round frames and suggested I try them on.  Truth was, they fit my face perfectly.  And their clearness was definitely outside my normal groove.  Still, with the pink, I could be Rocket man.

As I stared hard into the mirror it eventually dawned.  I wasn’t Elton John, was never gonna be Elton John, and I don’t really enjoy burning out my fuse alone.  Plus, I never even cared about Lady Di.

But I was the reflection I saw behind those clear frames and knew it.  I guess pink, blue, green, purple, and mustard are just going to have to wait.  Maybe when I’m 64.

The Boy Wondering:  “I’m at an age where I only use the word ‘hip’ to describe an ongoing medical condition.”


When reviewing last week’s post, I noticed part of a sentence that read “the dystopian violence depicted in movies and television, either a reflection of what is or a harbinger of what’s to come” and began to think about art and the media.  It also made me think about the large number of people I know who believe that violence in movies, television, and video games (they rarely talk about it in regard to books or plays, which I find curious) reflects and adds to the violence in our country.

Yet according to the New York Times, it turns out that the number of violent crimes in the United States dropped significantly last year to what appears to be the lowest rate in nearly 40 years.  (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/24/us/24crime.html?_r=1).

And Time Magazine reports that,from 1993 to 2010, the violent crime victimization rate decreased 70 percent. “This means the human dimension of this turnaround is extraordinary: had the rate remained unchanged, an additional 170,000 Americans would have been murdered in the years since 1992. That’s more U.S. lives than were lost in combat in World War I, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq—combined. In a single year, 2008, lower crime rates meant 40,000 fewer rapes, 380,000 fewer robberies, half a million fewer aggravated assaults and 1.6 million fewer burglaries than we would have seen if rates had remained at peak levels.” (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1963761,00.html).

Both articles say that the reasons for this plunge are unclear and suggest a number of possible explanations.  But bottom line is bottom line.  Violent crime is down not up during a period of time when the reverse should be true according to those who believe current movies, TV, and video games lead to more a more violent culture.  It just ain’t so.

I grew up with cartoons that were not at all shy about violence.  Tom and Jerry, The Roadrunner, Mighty Mouse and all those episodes where Porky Pig tried to blow away the wabbit.  Grew up with comic books that had no qualms about blood and gore either–Superman, Batman and a whole lot more.  Try Zap Comics on for size.

Our culture has never been lacking in the media’s artistic expression of violence.  Dime store pulp books with hacked female bodies, True Crime magazines with bloody, bodacious blondes on the cover, black and white movies that stirred the same emotional fear and repulsion as do today’s “slice and dice” like Psycho, 13 Women (1932), and Peeping Tom (1960). Some of those “classics” were even able to engender some serious ugly without spilling a drop of blood. Think Cagney mashing a grapefruit into Mae Clark’s face in The Public Enemy.  Different presentations than today’s cinema, but the same feelings provoked in those who watched them.

Or consider detective fiction, a wonderfully American genre of writing. (I’m biased. Duh.)  Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett is regarded as one of best.  That book leaves dead bodies all over the place.

Or think literary fiction.  Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.  Not for those with gentle stomachs.

Violence is everywhere we look. Genre fiction, literary fiction, science fiction, graphic novels, and, of course, movies.

I’m not a horror movie fan.  Never saw any of the Texas Chainsaw Massacres and never will.  But Raging Bull is often listed in “best of the generation” lists.  As are a couple of The Godfathers, Taxi Driver, Casino, and, of course, Pulp Fiction.  Certainly the spaghetti westerns and all the great westerns were locked and loaded.  And while it’s true that there’s a distinction between a single shot to the heart rather than a spray from an automatic rifle, I’m not sure I could pick the more chilling.  Or the more “realistic.”

The list of great books and great movies is filled with those that contain bone-chilling violence. And while I can’t say much about video games because I don’t know anything about them, the inescapable fact is that we are living in a country with the lowest violent crime rate in the past forty years.  Not exactly a ringing condemnation of those who do play them—at least as far as violence is concerned.

So I’ll say it again: I don’t believe that today’s media and art forms generate more violence within our population despite its increasingly graphic detail.

In fact, it’s my speculation that violence exhibited in all our different media probably helps reduce it in the “real world.”  We live in a nation born of violence, a nation whose history has spilled blood by the barrelful.  Against Native Americans, Blacks, Irish, Italians (who suffered biggest mass lynching in U.S. history) and I’m just skimming the surface of domestic.  We go international and it’s off the charts.

Violence is simply sewn into the fabric and nature of our culture.  I wish it weren’t so, but we are who we are.  The only question is how and where that violence manifests itself.  And if it can live within us without our acting it out.  This, I think, is the way that violence in media and art ameliorates rather than promulgates.  It is, and has always been, a way for that part of our cultural identity to express itself without inflicting any actual harm.  Violence in the media and in art is the pressure cooker’s release valve.

I’m not denigrating those who recoil at what they might read or see, or make decisions about where to draw their personal lines.  Those individual decisions are healthy.  Hell, I spend a fair amount of time in the movie theater covering my own eyes.  But they are individual decisions, and to argue that we are a more violent society because of our books, movies, games, and art is flat out wrong.



I’m the last person to write about the quality of anyone’s poetry, though I did go through my e.e. cummings, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Hughes, Bukowski, and Emily Dickinson phase many, many years ago. Still, every once in a while a poem, or even a snippet of one whacks me upside the head.

That’s what happened the other night.  Went to see Superior Donuts at the Lyric Stage Company in Boston. (http://www.lyricstage.com/)  In the front of the playbill, the poet Countee Cullen was quoted:

So in the dark we hide the heart that bleeds,

And wait, and tend our agonizing seeds.

At first I naturally applied the words to the play’s action and meaning.  The bottled-up pain each of the characters carried–the bottled-up hurt, desperation and hidden hopes each of us carry.

Then I flashed on a recent post (three before this one called WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME–01/23/2012) where I wrote about my concern for the Third World and the tragedies people living there face every day of their lives.  Do they harbor “seeds?”  Do they dream of a time with a better life?  A time with more?  Then I looked up Countee Cullen’s life and decided that Third Worlders must.  Cullen obviously had a different kind of struggle, a Black man born in 1903, abandoned by his mother, orphaned at nine when his grandmother died, became a recognized poet whose work lives on to this day.  That could not have occurred without the man clinging to his ‘agonizing seeds.’

Many of us Progressives who have more than either Cullen or people in the Third World, still live with hearts that bleed plenty–for ourselves and our times.

Many of my friends believe that we as a nation have no place to slide except down.  They see our economy as buttressed by smoke and mirrors, the hopes we held in the 60s shattered, the dystopian violence depicted in movies and television either a reflection of what is or a harbinger of what’s to come.  That sooner rather than later the ‘haves’ will have completely, swallowing those that don’t–even the middle class.

I understand their thinking.  It’s the part of my heart that “bleeds.”  But I prefer tending to my “agonizing seeds.”

I believe our world can and will become a better place for those with less.  It’s happened before.  The Great Depression were cataclysmic years where most people had little in which to hope.  Yet here we are, economically and even culturally better off.  True, the basic power paradigm of the country remained the same, still I doubt you’d find too many people who preferred living in the 1930s than the late 40s, early 50s.

It might be more difficult now to tend our “agonizing seeds.”  We are no longer isolated from the rest of the world, in fact, so closely intertwined with other nations that a troubled European economy has the potential to tsunami us.  And even with these interlocks we continue to consistently ignore or abuse countries that have the greatest needs.

Only, what if we turned the preceding paragraph on its head?  What if we take the word ‘difficult’ and replace it with ‘possible?’

Yes, it’s a gargantuan task.  Progressives live in a society that still rejects evolution, censors textbooks, continues its institutional racism (despite a Black president), and shovels money to the rich and powerful at a ferocious rate of speed.

But has there been a better time to realign the paradigm?   Certainly the Internet brings the people of the world together–not simply governments.  Just look at its effect upon the course of the Arab Spring or The Occupy Movement.  Change is in the air.  The only question is what kind of change will it be–floating with Greenpeace boats or…

And when Progressives put our voices together and no longer allow minor ideological differences to keep us apart, to speak to those who, up until now, we have ignored, this country will change for the better.  And progressive change here means change throughout the world.

So in the dark we hide the heart that bleeds,

And wait, and tend our agonizing seeds.

We need not simply “tend to our agonizing seeds.”  It’s time to plant.  We need not “hide the heart that bleeds,” but show it to everyone we can.  Each of us to do and say who we are, what we believe in.

It’s too late in the day to suffer in silence.

Cory Booker: Enthusiasm doesn’t come by chance, it is generated by choice.