“You think what you think and I think what I think and there’s no way we’re ever going to convince each other, so my suggestion is that we just drop it.” This is Our Youth, a play about spoiled Manhattan kids adrift in their inertia, opened on Broadway last week to some acclaim. Starring Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin and Tavi Gevinson, the story doesn’t go anywhere – something like Waiting for Godot but with more of an actual plot – but offers oddly astute and amusing moments. Cera’s deadpan delivery and Gevinson’s overwrought performance flesh out the writing of Kenneth Lonergan with an effect that is surprisingly both grating and thought-provoking. While the message isn’t a new one – bombastic youth pontificating on truth at each other – it does remind us of our own confused aspirations, something best paraphrased by King Oscar II of Sweden in 1923. One who has not been a socialist before 25 has no heart. If one remains one after 25, he has no head.
My childhood home had a wide open front yard; there was a stone wall and a low bush that came straight across the front. That’s all been sculpted away.
Many years ago, my parents commented that all of our neighbors were landscaping like crazy. So now it’s come to where I used to live. But the biggest thing was that none of us were home; we had all moved – or died, leaving this place all but forgotten. Except for the fire hydrant; it’s not like any of us could forget that.
We were coming home from the airport last night, waiting for the E train at Jamaica Station, but the wait wasn’t bad. A street artist, in a helmet horned with fiberglass, performed a crucifixion of sorts with odd moaning music in the background, as the passing people gaped and laughed. (Click to view!!)The message was unclear, except that street art helps pass the time.
Kangaroo Court: Attributed to a the hastily carried-out proceedings used to deal with the claim-hopping miners during the Klondike Goldrush. Also attributed to the pouch of a kangaroo, meaning the court is in someone’s pocket. Scapegoat: In ancient Greece a beggar or criminal was cast out of the community, either in response to a natural disaster or crisis. In the Bible, the goat that was designated to be outcast in the desert as part of the Day of Atonement.
911 is an odd day in New York City. Police and fire fighters are out in full regalia, making the city look strong, more New York. But there is a weight, a weight people in the city have learned to bear. They move quietly, stoic, to their work, everyone already weary. The respect for the moment is intense and religious, as is the fear that something will happen again.
The public’s recent kangaroo court ruling on Ray Rice reminds me of one of the greatest scapegoats in memory: Ben Johnson. For years, Mr. Johnson was seen as Canada’s great hope in Track and Field. He was watched by millions as he trained for the 100 meter dash, sprinting, flexing and smiling day in and day out. He went on to set a world record in the event. Canada had the world’s fastest man.
He arrived at the 1988 Seoul Olympics with a country’s hopes on his back and won the gold medal – annihilating the competition, including hated rival Carl Lewis, and setting another world record. He was immediately coronated by the country, as much a Canadian sporting king as Paul Henderson or Terry Fox. And then…Mr. Johnson tested positive for steroids. Suddenly there was no medal, no record and no coronation. Mr. Johnson was transformed – in less than 9.8 seconds – into an immigrant Canada never should have allowed in. He was branded a traitor. In due course, the critical eyes turned to the doctors and coaches. However the spotlight lost focus when it came to the real problem, on why Mr. Johnson was on a mission to win at all costs. Whose idea was all that? The coaches? The Canadian Track and Field Association? The media? The public? As odd as it seems to me, even today, 25 years later, Mr. Johnson is considered with a collective shame. Even now. As guilty as Ben Johnson was, as guilty as Mr. Rice may be, the real crime committed here is not by these individuals, but by a society that craves blood, the crime of reveling in a public execution.
Ray Rice is guilty of domestic violence. No one, including Mr. Rice, disputes that. His guilt was established weeks ago when a video was released showing Mr. Rice dragging his unconscious fiance out of the elevator.
The National Football League subsequently did a video review and, after Mr. Rice supplicated appropriately, gave him a paltry two game suspension.
However this decision was dramatically reversed today when videotape was released – a reverse angle as it were – showing Mr. Rice actually throw the punch that knocked her out.
The NFL’s reversed decision was radioed down to the field and Mr. Rice was terminated by his team, the Baltimore Ravens, and suspended indefinitely by the league.
The odd thing about this reversal is that the second videotape does not reveal anything not already known; he had admitted to striking her and the videotape had shown her unconscious from that blow. However Mr. Rice’s crime of domestic violence is not in fact at issue here, but rather the perception that the league endorses the crime. The league understands that, if they didn’t take drastic action that it isn’t Mr. Rice who punched that poor woman and knocked her out, but the NFL itself. Which begs the question of Ray Lewis, a former NFL Baltimore Raven who served time for obstruction of justice – a plea deal to avoid murder charges – and yet recently had a statue erected in his honor.
Indeed what if Mr. Lewis’ crime had been videotaped? Would that statue have been erected or Mr. Lewis ever allowed in the television booth? The sad truth is that, as guilty as Mr. Rice is of assault, he is a scapegoat, someone for the rest of the league to heap scorn on, so that the NFL can be left to commit business as usual. (Fantasy Football owners will just have to bite the bullet and let Ray go.)