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Musing #30: Oscar, LeVine-Style (Teach Your Children Well, Part IV)

A little pop culture wordplay, there, riffing on this:

 love american

Welcome to the continuation of Musing #29: THE GRADUATE and The Evil of Censorship. The following shall conclude my film-based “Teach Your Children Well” series of posts.

As the lone non-mother/aspiring mother writer on this site, I fear that I inadvertently disrespect my amazing colleagues by deigning to use the phrase “teach your children well.” Please don’t misunderstand.

As I said in my last post, I’m not telling anyone how to parent.

That said, I do have a vested interest in the children of today not sucking — I mean, being well taught. Those children are the adults of tomorrow. And barring any unforeseen tragedy, Stacy shall still be steering Scylla and Charybdis when the children of today are in fucking charge. So pardon me for stating the obvious, but old-ass Stacy of tomorrow needs the kids of today to rock.

There is a very specific reason for my choice of those admittedly didactic words.

You’ve probably noticed by now that I write a lot about my progressive Baby Boomer, cultural drill sergeant, proctologist father. I do that because he is, objectively, one of the most brilliant, dynamic, interesting, hilarious and (above all) unique people you could ever hope to meet. Truthfully, the words “odd,” “weird,” “strange“ and “bizarre” are also oft-used and, indeed, fitting adjectives with which to describe the man. (All in all, a writer’s dream subject.)

Master Dickens himself could not have dreamt up such a character, because truth is invariably stranger than fiction.

And this very strange man, whom I do so objectively revere (far beyond my filial love for him), is brought to JAZZ SINGER-style tears every time he hears a particular song from his progressive Baby Boomer youth, namely: CSNY‘s “Teach Your Children.”


A Link to Both the Music and the Lyrics

To be clear, I was weaned on hippie music. (More on that, shortly). I deliberately use the phrase in question because it is my wonderful, loony father’s parenting mantra. And his relentless, obsessive crusade to teach the small nation-state he sired as well as he possibly could with the limited free time available to a young surgeon was ultimately codified (albeit, unofficially) into what we kids refer to as “Fadda’s Shtick.”

In this space, I’ve been illustrating my childhood with the phrase “cultural boot camp.” However, I’ve yet to explain what that even means, partly because doing so is a monster task. It entails wrangling enough material for a book (or five). But here’s, shall we say, a tasting menu…

Four of the many programs from Dad’s curriculum, in no particular order (which would drive him nuts):

The Beatles — A Beatlemaniac of the highest order, Dad played The Beatles for us every morning in the car on the way to school, with objections from no one. We began with Introducing… The Beatles and listened straight through to whatever each living Lad was releasing solo at the time; one album per day, in the American order of release. This included any other artist’s work on which any of the Lads appeared, which is how I was first gloriously exposed to Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. When we’d finished the lot, we’d start right over again at the chronological beginning. Consequently, every note and lyric of the Beatles’ catalogue is a fiber of my fundamental programming. I know them like I know my ABCs. Second nature. (And I’m a George girl!)

Games — Having alphabetized a list of every board and video game in both our house and his mother’s (including those from his youth that his sister had in Philly), Dad made each of us play every one of those games with him, with objections from everyone. Six games each per month, in alphabetical order, beginning at age eight. This regimen was not nearly as much fun as it might sound…for anyone, not even for well-meaning Dad. Do the math, people. Six kids! The man was playing a shitload of games. But it never ceases to amaze me just how much I actually learned as a result — from Portuguese conquistadors to the Haymarket Riot; from the rules of football to our Constitutional Preamble (which I still love to recite, ’cause it still rules).

Travel — Like some kind of Bizarro King Lear, Dad divided evenly among his six children 50 American states, 10 Canadian provinces, two of three Canadian territories (no one got Nunavut) and all four U.S. protectorates. Hence, the working title for my proposed biography of the man, Guam Belongs to Scott. This delegation of sovereignty pertained to our annual family road trips in a church bus (a/k/a the family car). These so-called “vacations” had everything to do with education and nothing to do with relaxation. (More on that, next month!) And if you were the sovereign kid for the land on which we found ourselves, you sat in the front seat and navigated the maps…regardless of your age (within reason). Needless to say, we were quite often lost.

Port Chicago #1

Teaser for My Tribute to Our Trips, Our Troops and Black History Month
Which Won’t Be Posted Until March (Sorry about that!)

And last on this list, but ever first in my heart…

The Oscars — A random dude I met in Baltimore last weekend was, by the wee hours of Sunday morning, calling me “IMDbrain” (which, for those under a virtual rock, alludes to the Internet Movie Database). ‘Tis a fitting moniker; one that I come by honestly, because Dad screened for me every available film eligible for every Academy Award from 1927-1928 (Oscar’s maiden year) through 1939. Once having seen all the nominees in a given (deliberately ordered) category, I’d have to choose who deserved each award before he’d reveal who’d won it. And he’d quiz me on everything I’d seen during that daily school car ride, as the Fab Four serenaded. Hence, my January 17th comment that Dad “trained young me to distill film into elements of production.” The only reason for the ’39 bookend is that I left for NYU.


Think I hyperbolize?
Dad “made” me a photo still from every single one of those classic films.

There’s so much more I want to say about film and the Oscars. But, in true Stacy fashion, this post is already far too long.

I wanted to write more about censorship; about the Hays Production Code, the MPAA and Tipper Gore. I wanted to write about the Woody Allen situation, given that I’ve so frequently invoked him in this space. And I wanted to comment on this Sunday’s 86th annual Academy Awards, specifically to admonish studio executives for greenlighting so much 12-year-old-targeted shit and, thus, rendering the pool of Oscar contenders so small.

Then legends started dropping like flies.

This post is lovingly dedicated to the memory of Harold Ramis, Peter O’Toole, Shirley Temple Black, Sid Caesar and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

All five of those brilliant artists were major figures of my youth. And, nightmarishly, they all just died. I only ever got the chance to meet one of them. So I leave you tonight, dear readers, with the story of that deeply-appreciated meeting…

My senior year at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, I was studying at the film and TV acting studio, Stonestreet, which wasn’t very big back then. At the time, NYU was leasing additional studio space from the theater company of Tisch alum Philip Seymour Hoffman.

One day, whilst in a class that met in the Hoffman space, I excused myself to pee. Upon emerging from the bathroom, I was confronted with a haggard, disheveled, pajama-clad Philip Seymour; cordless phone in hand, but down by his side. He had just peaked into my “classroom,” and I heard him say, with palpable annoyance to no one in particular (though there were only we two in the lobby): “What the hell is going on in there?!”

So, I piped in with: “It’s a Tisch class.”

His entire demeanor relaxed.

PSH: Oh, a Tisch class, huh?

Me: Yup.

PSH: Cool.

And then he put the phone to his ear and walked away talking into it. That was all, but it was plenty; a mad cool experience for someone in my position. RIP, one of the greats. (Sigh.)

On an even darker note, tune in the last Friday of March for my belated Black History Month post about the Port Chicago disaster, one of the still largely-untold stories of World War II.

Until then, “Damn the studio executives, full speed ahead!”


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