Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Five "Whole Truths" We Will Never Learn

I see lists, I click on lists, I waste time on lists... so why not waste time writing one and at least get some word exercise out of it...

1) The JFK Assassination
- There is no doubt that Kennedy had lots of enemies and an awful lot of people stood to benefit from his death. But does that mean there was a conspiracy? I don't think we will ever know.

2)What was Greek Fire?
- For hundreds of years, a substance some have described as "ancient napalm" was the greatest fear of a sailor going into battle. But the secret of making it disappeared. Some modern substances have similar properties, but there just isn't any way to learn what the original was. We may actually have the same thing today and just not realize it.

3)Did Shakespeare write everything Shakespeare wrote?
- I am not one of those people that have theories about this or that member of the royal family, nor do I think Kit Marlowe or Ben Johnson took Will's name. But this was at the beginning of theater as an art form and the plays we have are primarily transcripts of performances. How much changed during rehearsal? Didn't actors ad lib, even then? It's fun to wonder who would claim what if we could speak to the members of his acting company.

4) Babe Ruth's Called Shot
- A former Supreme Court Justice swore Ruth called it. The pitcher that threw the pitch says if he had, that pitch would have been in his ear. There are home movies, but the angle and quality makes it impossible to tell if he is gesturing at right-center field or the Cub's dugout. Ruth played the "you tell me" card for years before half-assedly saying that he did call it. And this was not a man given to doing things halfway.

5)Why can't Will Belegon finish a new novel? - Okay, maybe this truth we can learn. Or maybe not. But it probably has something to do with writing blog posts instead of fiction....Twitter may be implicated... and video games are definitely part of the problem.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Breakfast Club

I watched The Breakfast Club with my stepson today...

Such an iconic movie. A moment suspended in time, a single Saturday afternoon in the mid-eighties. It is a piece of theater that seems so dead-on specific to me... and yet, like all classics, it is so universal that thousands of others, and not only in my generation, think it is actually about them.

Breakfast Club came out the winter after I graduated high school, in February 1985. It was filming while I was actually where those kids are, time-wise. In high school, dealing with the little struggles that seem so large... because it is all we know. A failing grade, a trip to the principals office, a first kiss. A single Saturday can envelop the learning of a lifetime.

In 1985, I never would have thought that someone who would turn sixteen in 1990 would be able to relate. Let alone in '95, 2000, etc. It has now been 25 years and yet I think that every person who has been through a detention period in those 25 years finds something in the film that they relate to...

In my multiple endeavors, I work with people that cross many generations and a few cultures. There are only a few things that cross the gaps between oceans and generations. But I can hand a pair of sunglasses to a college kid at my day job and say "For better hallway vision..." and the kid gets it. Right away. He knows the line, he knows the movie and more importantly... he knows what the line means. Not what it says, but what it means.

We used to play the conversation game about "Which member of the Breakfast Club are you?" Which then gets inevitably expanded to which John Hughes character, etc. And someone that wasn't even an idea when I first saw the movie, who wasn't even born when I graduated college, let alone high school... they can play that game, too.

Is it a revelation to them, like it was to us? No, it isn't. The one thing that is true for us is that we were the generation that got to experience this first. Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Some Kind of Wonderful. And Fast Times, St. Elmo's Fire, etc. We sometimes forget that, with a few very small exceptions, this didn't exist before us. Before John Hughes, before Amy Heckerling.

There is no Juno or Scott Pilgrim without John Hughes first.

But still, that gives us a bridge. We can cross the years through these films. Not only the years between us and our own adolescence, but the years between ours and our kids.

John is gone now, died last year. Once again, thank you John.

Oh, and by the way, I'm John Bender. Because in high school, I wasn't fulfilling any of the artistic/intellectual potential that made me a published author, nor was I playing the sports I played in college. And I sure as hell wasn't the kind of guy that showed the kind of perseverance necessary to be achieving a black belt.

No, I was a regular visitor with the Assistant Principal, the guy who nearly got kicked out of school a few times and who was probably gonna work at Sears for the rest of his life.

Go figure, eh?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Stay Decision Seems To Say No Appeal Possible

The wait for the decision in California's Prop 8 case was long. Months, not weeks... a long time to wait. Especially considering it has been 22 months since the fateful thing passed in the first place.

Thirteen days of actual trial ended and the case went for decision in March. It has been six years since San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome fired his warning shot across the bow of bigotry by issuing licenses illegally. (Though I support Mayor Newsome's actions, there is no doubt that it was not a matter legally in the jurisdiction of the city.)

I think the wait has been long enough, although I understand the wait until Aug. 18th. But beyond that? NO.

When the decision was announced a week ago, it felt like I had won a personal victory. Because although I may be straight and legally able to marry, I have far too many friends who have been treated as second class citizens simply because of the gender of the person they love.

Still, I had that joy stolen once, when the voters of California approved Proposition H8 two years ago. So while pleased, I was cautious about releasing my feelings. As I said, I felt a sense of victory. But it was equivalent to the sense of victory I suspect may have been felt by the 20th Maine as the sun slipped below the horizon on Gettysburg's second day.

The line had been held against determined attack. But another attack was coming in the morning. I waited for the decision on the stay, feeling that this would be the first salvo of the next phaze of battle. I fully expect to see the opponents of equality lining up for their version of Pickett's Charge on the battle line of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

I did expect the opponents to be repulsed. I did not expect them to be so firmly defeated.

When I first read the stay on the decision, I was amazed. A few days before, I gaped at the strength of the legal language from Judge Walker. Legal decisions are written in shades of gray, despite the tendency of laypeople to think of a court's judgment as black and white.

Judge Walker punished the supporters of Prop H8. He paddled their behinds and sent them to the principal's office. He gave them not just an F, but an incomplete. He did everything but call their mother's and tell on them. I suspected the stay would be calmer, although I certainly expected it to be in our favor. It is not calm.

My reading (and the Judge has since confirmed that what I read was what he intended) is that not only is the stay not granted but also that, since they were not actual parties to the suit, the proponents of H8 have no right to appeal.

That right lies with the named defendants, The State and Attorney General of California. Both Gov. Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown have indicated they do not believe in the suit and shall not appeal. Indeed, the Governator twice vetoed bills from the legislature with a stated position that he felt this decision belonged in the arena it now occupies.

Hell, they refused to even defend the suit in court back in January. Imagine this for a second from a different perspective. Someone sues you and your response when called to court is to tell the judge that's alright, you don't need to come. Go ahead and rule the way you want. Can you imagine doing such a thing personally? It's asinine. But of course, so was Prop. 8.

The question of whether or not the Judge should have allowed others to speak in the trial on behalf of the Proposition may be the only thing that allows this case to be appealed. That and the weight of precedence. No court wants to establish a principal of law that could, under other circumstances, be used to further quite a different agenda.

Judge Walker was quite clear. To paraphrase, he said, "You bigots weren't the ones being sued to begin with, but I let you shoot your mouth off because it seemed like I needed to hear if you had a valid argument on behalf of 52% of those who voted in November 2008. You wasted my time and you used my court as a forum to expose your biased and selfish point of view. Enough. You hurt these people and I will not allow it to continue."

And then, in very unusual legal fashion, he slapped them down twice.

Wedding bells begin to ring on Wednesday.