Archive for the ‘ pop culture ’ Category

In Defense of Snowflakes

Image result for snowflake
If you have spent five seconds online recently–and I would wholeheartedly recommend less–you have heard a relatively new insult being bandied about like an emotional hand-grenade: “special snowflake.”
Isn’t that just a wonderful term?  It should slide right into the fifth grade bully’s lexicon, right between “give me your lunch money” and “are you gonna cry now?”
If you don’t understand the nature of the insult…well, aren’t you a special snowflake?  Your life has been so easy, the insulated bubble you inhabit so perfectly filled with your own self-delusion, that you haven’t even had the wherewithal to keep track of real insults out here in the real world.  See how it works?  A “snowflake,” apparently, is someone who thinks they are special.  That the normal rules of the big, bad world (might makes right, an eye for an eye, do it to them before they do it to you, etc.) shouldn’t apply to them.  Snowflakes are fragile, weepy, spoiled, child-like, ignorant, navel-gazing, sniveling, sore losers who are overdue for real life to kick them one in the teeth.  Snowflakes are the kids who got a participation trophy, the dreamers, the losers, the “save the whales,” “make love, not war” weirdos, the slackers, the ones who lacked the courage to take what was theirs.
Like most broad generalizations hurled at people who don’t agree with you, it’s full of crap.
Don’t worry, I am not going to lay out my point by point defense of snowflakes.  If you are someone out there in the cyber cesspool throwing this term around, none of my pontifications are liable to shake your unshakable belief in your own almighty rightness.  That’s fine.  Well, no it’s not fine, in fact it’s fairly horrifying, but my point is I’m not going to try to change your made-up mind.  What I would like to do is look a little more closely at what is lurking behind the snowflake rhetoric.
My first question is this: if you had kids (as many people do), what did you tell them when they were growing up?  That they weren’t special?  Did you tell them they could become whatever they wanted if they worked hard enough, or did you tell them to have realistic expectations about the limits of their talents?  Did you encourage them to dream, or did you tell them dreaming was for the weak?  Honestly, I’m asking.  Because when you call someone a “special snowflake” for believing that a better world than the one we live in is at least possible, you are espousing an incredibly nihilistic, pessimistic point of view.  Of course no one likes to have smoke blown up their ass–I mean, if your kid is 5′ 3″ and can’t jump maybe he or she shouldn’t be encouraged to follow their dreams of NBA stardom–but are hopes for the future really that delusional?  I’m assuming (though maybe I shouldn’t) that notions like equality, justice, fairness, freedom–you know, the notions this country were founded upon–are equally important across political and demographic lines.  If that is so, isn’t calling someone a “special snowflake” while actually intimating that they are NOT special, NOT unique, NOT deserving a voice, about as un-American a thing as you can possibly say?
More to the point: is your motivation just to get people to shut up?  If it is, you can just be honest about it.  Because the actual, realistic outcome of calling someone a snowflake is to immediately end all further rational discussion.  You’ve swung your arms and drawn a big black “X” over the recipient’s mouth.  You’ve made them a cliche.  And I know it makes it easier for you to believe what you believe when you are able to pigeonhole anyone who doesn’t agree with you as weaker, more precious, more fragile, more out-of-touch with reality.  It feels good, I guess, to lash out and release your pent up anger.  OK, mission accomplished, you shut up your “opponent” and ended the debate.  But you didn’t win the argument.  What you did was bully someone.  And let’s not mince words–that was your intention.  Silencing.

It won’t work.  As the venerable Dr. King once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  Pessimism is easy.  It’s easy to say the world is hard and cold and always will be.  That progress is impossible.  Optimism is harder, because optimism means seeing possibilities even in the middle of the darkness.  And being an optimist also leaves you open to all sorts of second-guessing from the sidelines.  You might even be called a snowflake.   But as my friend Lisa recently said, “Go ahead and call me a snowflake.  Enough of those snowflakes get together, that shit becomes a blizzard!”


Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom FREE June 6, 7 & 8



My ebook, “Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom” will be FREE on Amazon on Friday, June 6th, Saturday, June 7th and Sunday, June 8th!

“Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom” is a collection of blog posts from this very blog!  From the depiction of the author’s upbringing as a fat, shy Catholic school boy to the vagaries of family life to trying to live hand-to-mouth while on disability, “Sister Mercedes” is a sometimes hysterically funny, sometimes tragic and always human glimpse behind the veil of parenthood, marriage, pop culture and the world in general.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, please spread the word to anyone you think would be interested.  It’s FREE!




Welcome to the Fishbowl


I am not a celebrity, nor do I have any ambition to become one. Of course I’d like to become a wildly successful playwright whose plays are continuously showing around the world 24-7. But how many of those can you name who aren’t Neil Simon? Mostly I like to try to do good work and take that wherever it leads me.

I mention the topic because three “celebrities” have made the front page of the tabloids lately, three men whose work I’ve appreciated for many, many years. “Trust the art, not the artist” is a motto to live by, especially in this age when “celebrity” and “talent” rarely cross paths. Honestly I care about the product, and I have very little patience for the cult of personality surrounding most actors, directors and singers. To say I “know” someone because of a character they’ve played or a novel they’ve written is at best delusional and at worst dangerously misguided. Yet we all seem to know so much about the people who entertain us, and there seems to be an unending desire to consume more and more, to lay them bare and swallow them up and, ultimately, bring them down a peg.

The three men I’m speaking of are Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Allen and most recently Alec Baldwin. Very different men with very different talents, united in my mind by the fact that I almost always found them interesting to watch and supremely good at what they did. One of them is dead of a drug overdose, another has had his reputation forever tainted and the other is so fed up with the paparazzi merry-go-round that he declared an end to his public life.

I don’t pretend to know what demons drove Hoffman, or what Woody did or didn’t do, or whether Baldwin really used an anti-gay slur when he was chasing a persistent reporter. I wasn’t there. I don’t know any of the parties involved. What I do know is that an AWFUL LOT of people who also weren’t there have an AWFUL LOT of opinions about what happened. And in the reactionary fishbowl we call America, what we think happened and what really happened are often confused. We get our messages in quick flashing headlines and tweets, encapsulated in 140 words or less. The sources for these messages have become less and less reliable, and more and more urgent to capture our attention. “Reporting” has become “scandal mongering”, and it’s only getting worse.

I saw a documentary recently about the Watergate reporters Woodward and Bernstein, about whom was made the classic journalistic triumph film “All the President’s Men”. The story of how these two men methodically and rationally connected the dots to a conspiracy that ultimately led to the resignation of a President is riveting stuff. But what stands out for my purposes here is how careful they were. They knew the consequences of what they were doing, and so they (and their editor) insisted on two sources for every item of news, and they made judgments about the veracity of those sources. In other words, they acted in a sober, responsible manner, with the goal of ultimately revealing the truth behind this Watergate break-in and who knew about it when.

The documentary interviewed a current editor and asked him what would happen if the story broke today. He said it would be tweeted around the world immediately, and the worst would be assumed about the Republican’s motives instantly. All the parties involved would immediately assume a bunker mentality and make sure they got their stories straight. There would be a spinned response to the report and an effort by those involved to deny further information to leak. All this would happen in the space of a day, and ultimately the in-depth reporting that Woodward and Bernstein did over several months with phone calls and interviews would never happen.

Is this what journalism has evolved into? Is “first” more important than “thorough” or even “factual”? The answer to that question, of course, is yes. In the age of instant pictures on cell phones and instant video on YouTube and instant messages on Twitter, instant news is what we seem to crave. Where it comes from and how it is procured seem immaterial. If someone makes an unsubstantiated claim, that’s news. If someone posts an opinion about, oh, anything they feel like having an opinion about, that’s news. Innuendo? That’s now called “speculation” and it doesn’t need to be corroborated. And if a reporter sticks a camera in the face of a celebrity’s child and jostles his wife, then films the celebrity flipping out, guess what? He’s made news.

I know the impulse is to say boo-hoo, poor rich celebrities who have to deal with autograph hounds and paparazzi, cry me a river. OK, I get that. But how far does that go? Would you want people writing stories about your drug habit, and how you’ve left your children fatherless? Would you want people dredging up a case of your alleged sexual misconduct that was dismissed by the police fifteen years ago? Would you want someone whose only motive is to besmirch your character to publicly label you a homophobe?

Like I said, I wasn’t there and I don’t know what really happened. But I know that the sources for “news”, especially when it comes to people in the public eye, has become ever more questionable. Their motives are suspect and their methods are borderline illegal (and over-the-line immoral). And the scariest thing is that no one seems to mind.

For the record, although I have seen the horrifying effects of drug addiction up close, I think the only people who can stand in judgment of Hoffman are his family. And although I am staunchly a supporter of victim’s rights and I abhor the use of homosexual slurs, I don’t think Woody Allen molested anybody and I don’t believe Alec Baldwin is homophobic.  Just my opinion, I know, and aren’t we more than cluttered up with those. But I base my opinion on the lack of reliable sources.

I think we’re cluttered up with those too.

The Super Bowl is the Straight Man’s Tony Awards


If nothing else, this blog has always stood for truth, acceptance and freedom from judgment. Well, mostly it’s stood for snarky comments and self-indulgent stories about my family, but stay with me here, I’m trying to make a point. When I see injustice in any form I MUST stand and speak its name. Only when we come to find intolerance intolerable will we ever break the shackles of tyranny and evolve as a species to the point where other intelligent life in the universe might want to hang with us and smoke a joint. It is in this spirit of mutual understanding that I make the following complaint:

My gay friends are bullying me.

I know, right? Who would have thought? Oh, it started out innocently enough. An arch of the eyebrow when I peeked at the TV to catch the score of the Mets game. A snicker when I was two years off guessing when Mame debuted on Broadway. That barely contained look of disbelief when I confessed my love for the comedy of Kathy Griffin. Words may hurt, but an askance glance from a gay man can kill your ass dead.

All this and more I could endure. But a certain day is on the horizon, a day myself and my kind celebrate as the holiest of holies. A day of reflection, ceremony, prayer and hot wings. Yes Virginia, I’m talking about Super Bowl Sunday. I’m not a football disciple like some straight men, but I would still rank Super Bowl Sunday in the top five were it a national holiday. Which it is in essence, at least every bit as much as Independence Day, and you don’t have to sit on a blanket in the heat getting bit by mosquitoes to celebrate it. Food? Check. Party? Check. Watching TV on a comfortable couch? Got it. Replace the turkey with a 6-foot Italian hero and it’s Thanksgiving with a better game. In fact it’s just a few presents and some garland around the flat-screen away from being Christmas.

So last year I’m enjoying myself, waiting for the game to start, when I begin seeing posts on Facebook with a common theme. No less than ten of my gay friends post something along the lines of, “Is there some kind of big game today?” The mocking tone was undeniable. Then I see five more that say, “I hope Mike Tyson hits a goal in that tennibasebasketsnookerball game tonight.” Oh, the lacerating drollness. The daggers keep coming: “Why don’t we just skip the game and make it a four-hour Madonna halftime concert?” “Know what I’m watching today? Real Housewives marathon on Bravo! Suck it breeders!” and the straightforward, “They’re just running around chasing each other. What’s the big deal?”

Needless to say, I began to feel…insecure. Am I really a mindless sheep, subsuming myself to the pomp and circumstance of this societal circus? Is the Super Bowl I’ve watched since childhood really sound and fury, signifying nothing? Am I now chronically uncool in the eyes of my cool gay friends?

Well, scratch that last one. I’ve never been cool to anybody regardless of their sexual orientation.

I lived shamefully with these doubts, being careful not to in any way reveal my straight-leaning tendencies. I hid in plain sight. I listened to top-40 radio. I became incompetent using tools. I got really bitchy about bad acting on TV, and bemoaned the current state of Broadway.

Wait, I was doing all of that already.

I tucked my love of sports way, way back behind the mothballs and the Christmas decorations. I became a closeted heterosexual. Until…

The Tony Awards! Spectacularness! Musical numbers! Choreography! Tony parties! Neil Patrick Harris! Radio City! Jane Lynch! Pippin! Complaints! Vicious, catty contempt! Sparkly gowns! Superiority! More gay men in one place than a Cher concert!

And then it dawned on me. The Tony Awards is the gay Super Bowl!

I immediately posted “Is there some kind of big awards show tonight?” on Facebook. Yeah, I’m a jerk.

But it got me thinking. Like Linus in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” or Stan in South Park, I’d like to sum up what I’ve learned today. We are all fags. All of us have that something they value that other people can’t understand. Whether it’s a love of baseball or a penchant for musical theater or a spoon collection, we have it. And we look at those spoons in judgment and think, what the hell is interesting about spoons, unless you’re trying to eat soup? What would possess a person to search ebay or a local flea market to find the perfect spoon? Knives I get, even forks to a certain degree, but spoons?

Yup, spoons. It’s all good.

Katy Perry’s “Roar” Explicated As If It Were a Shakespearean Sonnet


Roar” by Katy Perry 

I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything

In this opening stanza, we see the central issue to which the entire piece devotes itself, vis-a-vis the subjugation of the female by what is implicitly a male-dominated hierarchy. Though one may in theory “bite one’s tongue” OR “hold one’s breath” to keep oneself from speaking (and typically not engage both tactics simultaneously), this combination of metaphors for failing to speak one’s mind uses the tried and true motif of “more is better,” used ingeniously, and to undeniable satirical effect by Christopher Guest in his masterwork This Is Spinal Tap (wherein it is said of a set of amplifiers “these go to 11”.) Ms. Perry, however, seems not to intend satire.

This initial theme, expressed in first-person narrative, coalesces in the line, “I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything”. The ambiguity inherent in this choice cannot be overstated. The line has been attributed to Peter Marshall (the Senate chaplain, not the host of Hollywood Squares), Alexander Hamilton (the British journalist, not the American forefather) and Malcolm X (yes, THAT Malcolm X). In referencing this line, Ms. Perry aligns herself either with 1940s American politics, 1970s BBC or the militant Civil Rights movement in 1960s, depending upon one’s reading of the surrounding text. I would tend to suspect that, given the tone of subordination in the rest of the stanza, Ms. Perry actually sees herself as the modern embodiment of Malcolm X, seeking to throw off the shackles of male suppression by “any means necessary”. Although it is equally possible that Ms. Perry does not know the allusion herself and just thought it sounded cool.

You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Get ready ’cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now

What first appears to be metaphorical, emotional “holding down” of the protagonist in the first line of the second stanza is immediately undone in the second line with, “Already brushing off the dust.” This connotes an actual, physical holding down, the type which would necessitate the brushing off of dust. This image, existing both metaphorically and in actuality, brings to mind John Keats’ idea of “negative capability”, wherein two seemingly paradoxical elements can exist in the mind harmoniously. Is the protagonist actually being held down, or is she decrying the emotional manipulation of her male counterpart? Perhaps future literary analysis is necessary to solve this conundrum.

In this stanza we also see the first use of simile in the piece, with the assertion that the protagonist’s voice is going to shake the ground “like thunder”. The most obvious antecedent to this is Eddie Floyd’s “Knock On Wood” (“It’s like thunder, lightning/The way you love me is frightening.”) Although Floyd’s superb R&B classic references a mate’s love, while Ms. Perry refers to being really, really loud.

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar

Alas, the chorus. I must take a moment to explain that this is not the chorus of Greek antiquity, developed as a dramatic device to insert authorial explanation of plot summary and characters’ actions into a play. The chorus in modern parlance refers to the mind-numbing repetition of a musical and verbal phrase (colloquially known as a “hook”) designed to force an audience’s capitulation to the fact that he/she cannot, no matter what means are used, shake said repetition from controlling his or her brain. Examples are too frequent to mention, although radio advertisements that repeat the same phone number 87 times during a 15-second spot serve to explain the point. That, and the seminal mid-60s work of Lennon/McCartney. The stanza above is a particularly strong example of this latter definition of a chorus.

Divorced from its musical component, however, there are a few key literary issues. The images and metaphors are, to put it mildly, mixed. The “eye of the tiger”, an image most notably used by 80s pop band Survivor in its theme song for one of the twelve Rocky movies, leads directly to the the term “a fighter”, ostensibly referencing Mr. Sylvester Stallone’s boxing character. Then the protagonist imagines herself dancing through (a) fire, a metaphor for rebirth and the achievement of sexual maturity performed by such disparate cultures as the Chinese and Polynesians, perhaps intended to mirror the protagonist’s own bildungsroman. Then, inexplicably, the image is transformed from “tiger” to “lion”. There is some historical precedent to using these images together (such as “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” from Yip Harburg in The Wizard of Oz), but mixing them as Ms. Perry does here is unprecedented. Perhaps she is intending to convey a “liger”, the 900-pound behemoth resulting from a lion mating with a tiger in captivity. But there is no textual evidence to support such a theory.

What we are left with, then, is the image of a lion with tiger eyes who vaguely resembles Rocky Balboa in a hula skirt performing a ritualized fire dance. Whether this is what Ms. Perry intended is debatable, to say the least.

Now I’m floating like a butterfly
Stinging like a bee I earned my stripes
I went from zero, to my own hero

Yet another prizefighting image, as the protagonist references noted poet laureate and sometime boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Note that Ali was also a proponent of Civil Rights and a member of the Nation of Islam, as was the aforementioned Malcolm X, underlining the recurring motif that Ms. Perry seems to think she is an African-American symbol of social justice. Except, you know, with white prepubescent girls.

It is also unclear whether the “stripes” referenced belong to the bee or the butterfly.

At this point in the work the chorus is reprised for approximately 16 hours, in keeping with repetition theory of countless radio commercial advertisers.

Mention should be made of the lyric “oh”, which is repeated in Tarzanic fashion a whopping 90 times over the course of the piece. This can be likened to Shakespeare’s use of the phrase “except my life” in Hamlet, quite famously repeated three times by the title character. In contrast to this repetition indicating Hamlet’s desire to end his own life, however, Ms. Perry’s similar use of repetition serves to make one want to kill themselves. A fine point of disparity, to be sure, but an integral one.

(Authorial note: Full disclosure: I LOVE this song. I had a fight with my youngest son to keep it on the car radio, which is the first recorded instance, I believe, of an adult male arguing with a prepubescent in favor of Katy Perry. I suppose behind my Springsteen-fan street cred there is a pop-trash, knobby-kneed 11-year-old girl who just wants to stop the world and melt with you.

I also didn’t know what “bildungsroman” meant until I wrote this.)

Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom FREE 9/20-22

Beginning September 20th through Sunday the 22nd, my ebook “Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom” will be available as a FREE download on Amazon. If you haven’t read it yet, download it! If you know anyone who’d be interested, please share! Thanks.

Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom

Non-Fiction/Humor, 5 stars/19 reviews


“Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom” is a collection of blog posts from playwright and author Brian C. Petti. From the depiction of the author’s upbringing as a fat, shy Catholic school boy to the vagaries of family life to trying to live hand-to-mouth while on disability, “Sister Mercedes” is a sometimes hysterically funny, sometimes tragic and always human glimpse behind the veil of parenthood, marriage, pop culture and the world in general.

Desperation is NOT Pretty


Last night (and I mean ALL night) I emailed every LGBT organization within a 50 mile radius of my upcoming NYC play, The Love Song of Sidney J. Stein. There are a LOT. Besides the usual community centers, there’s a gay cycling club, a gay wrestling group, a few gay synagogues, a gay chorus, gay country-western line dancing… Out there living the glorious, childless life I could have had if God in his wisdom hadn’t made me so damn straight! There is even a group for bear lovers where you have to press a big hairy belly-button to get into the website. Who knew gays loved wildlife so much?

My show opens a week from this Friday and I am slowly reaching a level of panic usually induced by looking in my rear view mirror and realizing those shiny red and blue lights aren’t a UFO. You know, that moment of sheer terror when you make a quick mental checklist of whether you actually have the car registered, inspected and insured all at the same time and search frantically for your license so you don’t have to spend the rest of the night trying to arrange a ride back home from the police station? No? Maybe this example only applies to my wife and me.

Needless to say, I am freaking. Except for the livingroom where we rehearse, my house is a disaster area. There’s a new tire next to my piece of crap car waiting for it to stop raining so it can be restored to its rightful place. My fantasy baseball team is crumbling into disrepair. The kids have resorted to (gulp) getting food and drink for themselves! Because of my strange, three-hours-at-a-time sleep schedule, the cats pounce on me 12 to 15 times a day to be fed, probably thinking each time that it’s morning again. I’m a downward spiral, wrapped inside a hurricane, surrounded by an inferno of lava. And that’s just my stomach.

Every week the good people from All Out Arts who run the theater festival send me an email with our ticket sales to date. For the last three weeks it’s been the same—four total tickets sold for three shows. Four! Now of course more than four people will see the show. Rationally I know that festival audiences are usually spur-of-the-moment and rarely lock themselves into tickets beforehand. But irrational, sleep-deprived, obsessive Brian reacts like Oskar Schindler at the end of Schindler’s List: if I sold these cufflinks, I could have had three more audience members…this ring, I could have melted it down and gotten four more tickets sold…this car…why did I need the car?…it could have been 20 tickets…

See, if I was thinking rationally I would know that our car would be lucky to fetch the price of one ticket, and only if you sold it for parts.

My problem is I’m a playwright, not a producer. Oh, I’ve learned how to do the things I need to do to promote my show, and I write a helluva press release. But there’s that…glaze-eyed, single-minded, slightly manic INTENSITY good producers have and I lack. I’m not willing to call and call and call until I get what I want. Although some of my Facebook friends might disagree, I am not comfortable with the all-out, Super Bowl marketing blitzkrieg necessary to sell tickets. I’m not above asking friends to come support my work, but I’m no good with the follow up phone call where I ask, “So what day are you coming? Are you bringing friends? How many? Get more, I’ll arrange a bus.” Naked ambition and the ability to use people I like without a conscience aren’t in my DNA. Which is why I will never succeed as a producer.

I’m more of a soft sell guy. The kind who would write a passive-aggressive blog about how freaked out he is over ticket sales with the hope that everyone who reads it and can travel to New York “gets it” and instantly goes to the website at and buys tickets to make my stomach stop hurting. See why I suck at this?


You want to know how I view the art of selling tickets? You ever see Miller’s Crossing? If you haven’t, go out and buy it RIGHT NOW. We’ll wait. OK, you remember the scene where John Turturro is being taken out into the woods to be shot by Gabriel Byrne and he’s begging, begging, begging for his life to be spared? “I can’t die… out here in the woods, like a dumb animal! In the woods, LIKE A DUMB ANIMAL!” Sniveling, pride-less John Turturro, pissing himself and crying, on his knees in the woods. “I’m praying to you! Look in your heart! I’m praying to you! Look in your heart! I’m praying to you! Look in your heart! I’m praying to you! Look in your heart… ” Producing, ladies and gentlemen!


I want the world to see my new show. It’s my latest child, and he’s just learning to walk. I want to show you the video and the endless pictures of his first step. But…I know there’s a limit to how much you’re going to listen to me go on about my miraculous kid. At some point you’re going to smile, nod your head knowingly, say something like “aren’t children great” and try to get away from me as quickly as possible without being rude. Oh, how I wish I could be one of those blissfully unaware people who think whatever is important to them is equally, if not more, important to the rest of the world! If only I lacked all empathetic ability, and cared not a whit about what the other guy was thinking as I’m saying, “So, you gonna come to my show? It’s going to be fabulous. Ten tickets or an even dozen?”


I need to send more emails and lie down for no more than three hours, if my stomach stops churning. Feel sorry for me? Good, here’s the flyer: