"Understand what is going on right now, because the world just changed on your watch, and you weren’t even paying attention.” -- George Clooney on Sony Pictures cancelling The Interview I hope you were paying attention, though. And I hope you are outraged. You should be. If our own government tried to squelch our freedom of speech in such a manipulative, terrorist manner, we would react swiftly and strongly. We would be very vocal. It would blow up Facebook and Twitter. People would take to the streets. Yet we have allowed another government from across the globe to suppress freedom of speech and freedom of expression in our own country. And we aren't reacting all that much. The whole thing is pretty silly, actually. Sony Pictures produced a film by Seth Rogen and James Franco about two fictional characters who are asked by the CIA to murder North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un. Let's be clear about what this is. It's a MOVIE. Fiction. Make-believe. It's a comedy, in case you missed it being created by Seth Rogen and James Franco. More specifically, it's a satirical farce. A story using humor to provide somewhat of a social commentary against a backdrop so exaggerated and improbable that it is obviously fiction. Except Rogen himself has said it was much more of an entertainment piece than any serious reflection on North Korea. Rogen told Good Morning America it's his job to make people laugh and he acknowledged he gives the public the garbage they enjoy. Now, obviously it wouldn't have taken much on the front end for someone to realize this movie would piss off Kim Jong-un. The man is not exactly known for reasonal behavior and rational thought. Nor does he seem the type to enjoy a good laugh at his own expense. But that's neither here nor there. I see memes, posts, political cartoons and comments daily that mock and ridicule our own president and our own government publicly. Not for the sake of a comedy that sells movie tickets, but just people expressing their opinion on the leaders we have chosen and the state of our affairs. Those people are exercising their freedom of speech. Their freedom of expression. Artistic and creative license. If our government shut that down, I don't think we would stand for it. I don't believe we would allow our own leaders to keep us from expressing our opinions. Our country is too firmly rooted in our freedoms, with speech being one of our key cornerstones. "The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable." The Bill of Rights So why are we allowing someone's else's government to do it? Why are we allowing Kim Jong-un the right to decide what we can watch, what we can hear, what we can write, what we can create? It doesn't matter that it's just a movie....it's the much bigger idea (and freedom) behind it. Don't get me wrong--the threat was real. I do not blame the theaters for opting not to show the movie on Christmas Day. I, myself, am planning on going to the theater to watch movies on Christmas Day, and I admit to being apprehensive about what could happen if The Interview was shown. Especially at high-profile theaters. I do not wish for anyone to be harmed over a Seth Rogen comedy. But to pull the film entirely, to roll over and lie belly up, sends a very dangerous message to those who may disagree with our opinions, our views, our freedoms, our way of life. We have exposed a vulnerability, and we have set a precedent. It's not the first time a book, a movie, or an idea has offended. Within our own society, we have seen protests from Italian-Americans over the Sopranos, protests from Christians over the portrayal of key Biblical figures, protests from a variety of ethnic groups for their representation in the entertainment world. Protesting is, after all, part of the freedom of speech. We have the right to not purchase the tickets, not read the books, not support the causes of those we disagree with. We have the right to speak out and share our thoughts if we don't like something. But hacking into computer systems and releasing social security numbers, personal information, and stolen media property goes far beyond protesting, and that's without even mentioning the threats against theaters and families and the promise of more acts to come if Sony didn't back down. I get that Sony was embarrassed by the emails released. (Hello, Hollywood people! Email 101: It's in print, and it doesn't go away. Do not type anything you wouldn't want the world to read.) I get that Sony lost tons of money on the leaked releases of Annie, the Bond script, and other projects. That's just proof that our dependence on the internet and the cloud makes us vulnerable. We need to focus much more energy on measures to protect our information from hackers. (Just ask Target or Jennifer Lawrence.) The important thing to realize is this is not just an act of terror against Sony and The Interview. It is against us as a people. Setting this precedent sends the message that we can be intimidated and controlled. Now that it's gotten results, what makes anyone think these tactics will end with just this one movie being cancelled? Could this not spread to other outlets? Other industries? What's to stop it? I had no plans to see The Interview. Quite frankly, the previews looked really stupid, and I'm usually disappointed with Seth Rogen's efforts. But I strongly believe this movie should be released. I believe the people who made the movie have the right to express their ideas. To share their ideas. I believe that we as American citizens have the right to watch, read, and be exposed to material of our own choosing. As a writer, as an actor, as a mother, and as an American, I am pissed. I do not want Kim Jong-un, or any government leader--from my own country or another--to tell me what I can read, what I can watch, what I can say, or what I can write. PLEASE PAY ATTENTION. Do not take our rights for granted. The world around us has changed in this moment, and we must realize it and be prepared to stand strong.
Isn't it nice when you find out a friend shares a crazy quirk you have? Somehow relating to someone else makes it feel a bit less crazy, right? I just learned that one of my closest friends hates to pump gas as much as I do. I love her even more for this! I can't really explain why I hate pumping gas. It's not like it's a difficult or challenging task. Not even really particularly time-consuming. It just annoys me. The whole process of having to stop whatever I'm doing or wherever I'm going, get out of the car, go inside to pay, pump the gas, smell like gas, blah, blah, blah. Of course, pay-at-the-pump makes it easier. Easier for me to pay and be done quickly. And easier for crooks to steal my credit card or debit card information. Aargh. As a result of my aversion to pumping gas, I never stand there long enough to fill it up. Which is completely stupid, since filling half the tank only leads to making even more pump stops. I have the indicator light down to a science. As soon as the "empty" light comes on, I reset the trip odometer to zero. Then I know I have about 46 miles to go. And I push it right to the limit every single time. I've only run out once (thank you MJ for coming to my rescue!). Although, I think I was traveling on fumes and angel wings one morning when I was still teaching. I stopped to get gas on the way to school, about 40 miles into my red light. I went inside for a Diet Coke morning caffeine fix, paid for my gas, and left. About halfway to school, I noticed the blazing red light and wondered how on earth the red light was on when I had just pumped...ooooohhhhhhh....that was when I realized I paid for the gas but didn't actually pump it. (Something I am embarrassed to admit has happened probably five times in my driving life!) I called the store number on the receipt, and luckily, the cashier had seen me leave and shut off my pump so no one else got my gas. However, I was now closer to 50 miles into the red light. I knew I couldn't make it to school and then back to the station after school, so I called the school secretary to say I needed someone to cover my homeroom and coasted back to the gas station on a wing and a prayer. One would think I would be intelligent enough to realize that all this causes way more stress than just filling up the car with gas to start with. I never said it was an intelligent or rational quirk, though! In fact, I think most quirks are by definition irrational. I have a friend who hated to check the mail. Absolutely abhorred it. Dreaded it so much she planned other things to do in order to avoid it. Her mail would pile up in the mailbox and the mail lady would end up bringing things to the door. I asked if she was worried about bills or hated dealing with junk mail. But no. She just hated going to the box and going through the mail. A fellow teacher extremely disliked putting away laundry. She would wash it, fold it, and stack it. All over the house. And then she would find what she needed to wear in the stacks of clothes. She said she tried stacking them on the bed once to encourage actually putting them away, but she slept on the couch for three nights in a row before she finally just moved the stacks. Another friend cannot stand going grocery shopping. She puts it off to the last day possible, and even wakes up that morning in a bad mood knowing she has to go to the store. That one I don't relate to....I actually LOVE going to the grocery store. It's like shopping with permission to buy without guilt! In fact, I did all the grocery shopping for my mom when I was in high school, and we both loved it. I also was in charge of unloading the dishwasher since my mom hated doing that. She didn't mind loading it, but didn't want to unload it. She jokes that me unloading the dishwasher was what she missed the most when I left for college. (At least I think she was joking! Ha!) What is it that makes a seemingly mundane, easy-to-accomplish task become so loathsome and repulsive? Why do we hate something and build it up to add more stress to our lives than if we just went ahead and did it? I'm curious to know if anyone shares my issue with pumping gas. If not, what is your quirk? What is it that you absolutely hate to do and will put off doing way beyond the point of reason? What chore or task drives you mad? Maybe you have something your partner, roommate, or spouse does for you just because you can't stand to do it? Years ago, I took my great-aunt shopping for the day. On our way home, I pulled into the gas station and asked which side of the car her tank was on. She looked at me, dumbfounded, and admitted she had no idea. SHE HAD NEVER PUMPED GAS A SINGLE TIME IN HER LIFE. N-E-V-E-R. E-V-E-R. My uncle took her car each week and filled it for her, and had for nearly half a century. I was green with envy. (Are you reading this, My Knight? Hint, hint.) So come on, people. Confess. What's your quirk?
Okay, so I'm NOT a morning person. My brain doesn't fire on all cylinders prior to 9am, and if you get me up before daylight, it's like waking the beast. On a recent quest to find a great airfare deal for a family wedding in Connecticut, I booked a 7am flight. Which meant arriving to the airport around 5:30-5:45. Which meant leaving the house at 5-5:15. Which meant getting up while the clock was still in the 4's. Which is insanity. We packed the car the night before to minimize the need for early morning brain activity. While I showered and dressed in zombie mode, My Loving Knight took care of the dogs and made breakfast for us. He even had my breakfast waiting in the car for me! We rolled onto airport property at 5:45am. Cutting it close, but enough time that early in the morning. Somewhere in the fog swirling around my brain, I heard my Knight say, "Did you grab my wallet?" I panicked in slow motion, staring at him wide-eyed and cursing myself for forgetting his wallet and throwing our whole trip in jeopardy. But then my brain slowly caught up and said, "Wait a minute......" "Did you ask me to grab your wallet?" He hadn't, but in the early morning hours, he was clinging to a hope that I might have. He screeched to a halt near the elevator in the garage and told me to go to the ticket desk and get us a later flight and while he returned home for his wallet. I couldn't think. Couldn't process. Couldn't reason or problem solve. The world was soft-focus slow motion. I got out of the car like he told me to, still not sure what was happening. The patient man at the JetBlue counter (who has to actually be at work and functioning BEFORE daylight!) explained the next flight to Hartford would be after 4 that afternoon. That wouldn't work. We would lose the entire day and miss out on visiting with our dear friends and my husband's aunt. I asked if they could get me anywhere in the Tri-State area. Newark, White Plains, NYC. Anywhere within driving distance of our final destination for the day, which was in New York. We settled a 10:20 flight to Newark, which would put us to our friends' house early afternoon instead of late morning. Disappointing, but unavoidable. My ticket was a simple $50 change fee. My Knight's had been booked with award points. Non-refundable, non-changeable, sealed in concrete. I begged. I pleaded. I may have teared up. Mr. JetBlue made calls. He begged and pleaded. He got results. Another $50 and My Knight's flight was changed. It still wasn't daylight. I sat in a waiting area shell-shocked, half-asleep, and still in slow motion. As I rearranged our itinerary in my head, I remembered we had gotten a great deal for a rental car on Priceline. We pre-paid for pick-up in Connecticut. Which brought me to the next non-refundable, non-changeable, sealed in concrete obstacle. No amount of begging and pleading could change the rental car reservation, so I figured we'd just have to eat that cost and book another rental in Newark. With the two $50 change fees and the $100 rental car loss, we were already $200 in the hole. And it WASN'T EVEN DAYLIGHT. It was worse than I thought, though. The cheapest rental I could find for same-day pick-up, over a weekend, with a drop-off in a different state was $750. Now I was definitely awake. I went back to the ticket counter, meek and humble, to ask if I could change my tickets AGAIN to the later Hartford flight so I could keep my original rental car. Mr. JetBlue was on break. The not-so-nice lady at the station next to his, (who seemed just as excited as I was to be up so early), called him in the break room and on the phone and cheerfully said, "She's back. She wants to change her tickets again." I could almost hear him groan. Mine was no problem. Well, it was another $50 change fee on top of the one I'd already paid. My Knight's ticket? No can-do. You can only change a non-refundable, non-changeable, sealed in concrete ticket one time. He was flying into Newark no matter what. I couldn't think. I needed a Diet Coke. And more sleep. Part of me wanted to be furious with My Knight, but I was very aware of the many times that man has shown me mercy, grace, and understanding when I've made stupid mistakes. Plus, there was a bit of a disparity in responsibilities that morning, which could have led to one partner forgetting his wallet while the other partner simply showered and got in the car to find her breakfast waiting for her. Ahem. In hindsight and daylight, I should have flown to Connecticut on our original flight and picked up our original rental car to drive to wherever My Knight landed. It would have saved time, money, and stress. But I couldn't come up with such an elaborate plan when it was still dark out. So we landed in Newark. Did a one-day one-way car rental and drove about two hours to Hartford, Connecticut. Picked up the original rental car. Dropped off the one-way rental car. Timing put us in rush hour traffic so getting out of Hartford took FOR-E-VAH. We would have made better time and a whole lot less travel, wear and tear if we'd taken the later Hartford flight to begin with. We probably would have liked each other a whole lot more at the end of the day as well. We left home BEFORE DAYLIGHT and we reached our destination AFTER DAYLIGHT. Ten hours later than planned. But hey. We got there. Safe and sound. Forgetting the wallet wasn't fun. But as with all things in life, it's how you react to it. How you look at it. What you take away from it. I learned that Connecticut is a beautiful state to drive through. When we finally did arrive, we had an incredible dinner with our friends -- good food, good company, lots of love. I got an unexpected view of the Manhattan skyline. Always a treat. And My Knight and I shared a quaint little lunch together. In Yonkers. Accidental pasta in Yonkers. Life is good.