Perk Up

Lately, it is only fair to admit that the Eldest is driving me a bit nuts. The spouse and I raised the kid to be outspoken, to sound off because her opinion matters. I don’t regret doing that, but I truly hope that she is simply ending the tail end of an obnoxious, sophomoric phase in which, basically, “everything sucks.”

Milk, not a great movie but a decent one, is “just a dopey biopic.” Now I admit, the movie isn’t as stirring as the great documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk, and Sean Penn seems to be confusing his Harveys, sounding more like Fierstein than Milk. It’s tough to play a charismatic, very funny guy, and Penn is actually kind of likeable for Penn, but at the end of the day, he’s still Sean Penn, and likeable isn’t really in the guy’s vocabulary. That said, Milk does touch a lot of buttons for someone who lived through a time when being gay inspired public jeers at best, and when you could be beaten to death just walking home at night. It also can’t help but bring to mind the looming horror of AIDS on the horizon; even though the people in the movie have no idea that it’s there…it is.

At the same time, there is something great about a person’s ability to inspire other people and to just plain get shit done. Sure, Harvey Milk became a spokesperson/icon similar to MLK. Both acknowledged that there were hundreds of people in the trenches that history will never remember. But being inspired is a rare thing, and it’s easier if you have a face to pin that to. And why not?

But to the kid, none of it matters. Dear Lord, I do sound like a crank. “In my day….,” etc. I know I was as solipsistic as she was, and I wasn’t nearly that smart. I had natural intelligence, but I didn’t push myself very hard; if it wasn’t in a play when I was 17, I didn’t want to know anything about it. So it’s hypocritical of me to blame the kid for not bothering to read a damn thing about the world, to have such a narrow viewing aperture.

But then again, I hope I wasn’t this big of a downer. A dance company from Israel was here today, one of the month’s ushering gigs. She and I can go for free to pretty much any cultural event that comes through the university, but when I asked her, she said, “I don’t want to have anything to do with anything from Israel.”

Now look. The government of Israel has done horrible things lately, as do all governments on a regular basis. But obviously one can’t know every dancer’s political views. I certainly don’t want the current or past U.S. government’s views to be projected onto me. Only about half the dancers are from Israel, and the work isn’t overtly and even subtly political; if anything, there’s an anti-corporate bias to it. In one memorable piece, a whole series of suited people thrash and flail in chairs until eventually all have ripped away their jackets, hats and shoes to stand, free, in tank tops and boxer shorts – except for one guy who stays buttoned up and repeatedly collapses on the floor. Meanwhile, these were the best dancers I’ve seen this year, and in a long, long time. The commitment, artistry, and athleticism of the movement hasn’t been matched by any of the other visiting companies, not because there haven’t been some really good companies, but just because this one was so good.

The Eldest’s “won’t see it” list goes on and on. She doesn’t want to see any movies because “they all suck.” Getting her to take advantage of a free seat to Yo-Yo Ma, her one-time idol, has been about as easy as pulling her teeth, and I still don’t know if she’ll do it. Overall, she just doesn’t seem to like much of anything lately. I can get that, but what I’m more worried about is that she seems to be disgusted, even contemptuous at the very idea of artistic inspiration.

As said, I hope it’s a phase, and I’m trying not to be too much of a jerk about it, as I imagine I was just as insufferable, probably a lot worse. But yoink….I’ll be glad when the kid gets excited about something again.

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