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And Now, Some Good News

A sign of hope at a punk-rock concert in Southern California.

12:00 AM, Oct 7, 2002 • By LARRY MILLER
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I have some good news for you. In fact, some great news. When I heard it, I laughed out loud (hooted, in fact), clapped my hands, closed my eyes, and felt a tingle all the way down to my toes, as if I had just swallowed a blast of whisky. Wait a minute, maybe it was a blast of whisky. No, that was later. Just then it was the good news.

But first some bad news: As of this writing, neither Al Gore nor Tom Daschle have been struck dumb. Worse, they are not only physically capable of speech, there are a hundred million Americans who get warm and giggly listening to them. This is bad news on the order of a French knight staring through the mist before Agincourt and saying, "Gee, I can't make it out, but I think it looks like a bow and arrow."

Some more bad news: A charming and well-made movie named "Barbershop," written, directed, acted, and produced by black artists for a major studio, was number one at the box office for two consecutive weeks. This is very rare and immensely powerful for any movie, black, white, or purple. In the third week it slid to a hugely-respectable number three and had every indication of crossing over from black audiences to white and every shade in between as it rolled like a big wheel to a massive commercial victory. It's still doing very well, and may get to low-budget heaven, like the recent "My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding, " which is so popular it might even be a hit in Turkey. All this is not bad news, of course, it's good news. The bad news is that those two great, theological beacons, the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, decided to try their best to derail any chance the movie had to win. Rev. Jackson never saw it, mind you, but wants to kill it. Why? Because it has a scene in it that, in part and in comical context, disrespects three great black icons: Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, and . . . Rev. Jesse Jackson. Hmm . . . Come on, guys, quit it. A few good pros out here have done a good job making a good movie. Leave them alone, and let them rise higher. Don't push them back down. What in the world is activism about in the first place, if not for them?

Still more bad news: Former CIA head James Woolsey said Saddam Hussein's younger son, Qusai, may be rising in influence past his older brother, Uday, as a potential future leader. Uday maintains, among other cheery hobbies, a private torture chamber, according to the Los Angeles Times, ". . . known as the Red Room, in a building by the Tigris River. He has used whippings, beatings and immersion in sewage to punish Iraqi athletes who lose." And these are the people he likes. According to Woolsey, the brothers "differ only in that Uday kills people for fun, and Qusai kills people in a very businesslike fashion." What do you say about kids like that? "I told you we should've gone with bunk beds." If there's a third brother, he probably combines the two methods. "Well, sure I kill, but sometimes it's for fun, sometimes it's just work. Sometimes both, I guess. You know how it is."

One final slice of bad news: Only four paragraphs later, Al Gore and Tom Daschle are still, by law, permitted to speak.

And now the good news. My friend, Jack Burditt, a wonderful and award-winning Hollywood writer, just told me a story. He has four kids, three of them girls, and one of his daughters, sixteen, wanted to go to an all-day punk rock festival, advertised in Southern California as the Inland Punk Rock Festival, with a few of her girlfriends. This was to take place on Saturday, September 14, at the Glen Helen "Blockbuster" Pavilion in Devore. He carefully listened to his daughter make the case for going, hugged her and smiled, and then told her the chances of this happening were roughly equivalent to Yasser Arafat being cast in "The Theodore Herzl Story." His daughter gave him a loving hug in return, and admitted that she saw his point, and that it was a good one. Then she screamed for twenty minutes. Jack's no idiot, so he spent most of that time leafing through a tool catalog. When she stopped for a breath, he informed her that he had reached a Solomonic decision: "Okay, you and your friends can go, but only if I take you, myself, and stay with you the whole time." And off they went to join fifty thousand other acolytes for a day of sun and anarchy.

As a side note, by the way, I call that pretty good fathering. The guy was simply not going to let one of his kids, especially a young girl, go to one of these goofy things unsupervised, and he was perfectly willing to put one of his weekend days where his mouth is. I don't know about you, but if I have only two choices, and one of them is driving eighty miles to hear punk rock, and the other is holding one of Richard Simmons' bare feet in my lap on a muggy day, I'll grab R.S.'s sweaty ped in a second. (Wait a minute, no I wouldn't. Nothing's that bad. Okay, never mind.)