BBQ Nazi-hunter: The twit tweets. And a LGBT gender dispute.

Where’s the MAGA hat?

His name, if his tweets can be believed, is TJ Helmstetter @The TJHelm. His complaints, being aired on Twitter, show what a twit he is: “Just got thrown out of Hill Country DC for standing up to a Nazi. Don’t go there ever again. They support Trump and Nazis.” “Guy wears MAGA hat at my favorite restaurant. I say ‘hey are you from dc?’ He says ‘no.’ I say ‘we don’t tolerate racism in this city.’ His girlfriend then physically jabs fingers into my chest and starts threatening me. Management tells me to leave, not woman who assaulted me.” Where did this miscarriage of justice occur? At the Hill Country BBQ, a popular joint in D.C. which opened when Texan George W. Bush was President. It’s a Texas pit styled barbecue, and as a representative of it’s kind, it is sure to attract many Trump supporters among it’s diverse crowd. Until TJ decided to harass a random guy wearing a MAGA hat, basically calling him a racist and Nazi, essentially telling him he was not welcome in TJ’s restaurant, diners generally ate their food in peace, with each other.

Read the tweets carefully. Just because a total stranger is wearing a hat, TJ decides to call him racist and imply he should leave the city, which happens to be the nation’s capital. Then the guy’s girlfiend jabs him in the chest, he cries “assault”, and tells the world not to go back to his (formerly) favorite restaurant, and he can’t figure out why management wanted him gone.

Helmstetter then doubles down on being a asshat, and decided it’d be a good idea to squeal that he was assaulted and run to Twitter with his harrowing story. Even better, when contacted, the restaurant did the right thing and didn’t kowtow to the possible mob being summoned by yet another wimpy, asinine tweet: “Just called the manager there and his answer was ‘we are an equal opportunity restaurant who welcomes all political viewpoints’ before hanging up on me. cool, except MAGA hats actually make clear that POC and LGBT are not welcome at all.

Is he a POC (that’s person of color i.e. more melanin than you, for the unwoke) or LGBT (we all know what that is, unfortunately)? He is wrong, everyone is welcome there. To clear up his confusion, when you violate someone’s personal space and harass them in a private setting, there is some amount of push back allowed. No one is getting arrested and charged with assault for putting their fingers into your chest and telling you to step back. Kurt Schlicter, one of my favorite commentators, responded with his own tweet. @KurtSchlicter: “I’ve never been beaten up by a girl. What’s it like?”

Speaking of girls beating up on somebody and being shown the door, London goes beyond DC. The National Theatre has become embroiled in a bitter war of words after a group of lesbians was refused service in its Green Room bar in the run-up to London’s Pride celebrations. The small group, who arrived with placards, included Anne Ruzylo, a political activist and former member of the Bexhill and Battle Labour party, who on Friday night was one of those who complained on Twitter. Ruzylo, who was wearing a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Lesbian: a woman who loves other women”, tweeted that staff at the Green Room had “called the police to have women and lesbians removed because they don’t like the T-shirts we are wearing”.

On Friday night the theater said on Twitter that it “respected and valued our trans staff, company and audience members. As such, if the behavior of visitors impinges on their ability to feel supported and safe, we will take action.” The women and their supporters claim their treatment at the hands of staff, who called the police, was a response to their campaigning stance in the gender-identity dispute. So here we have a “gender-identity dispute”between lesbians wearing a T-shirt that implies they are “real” women, and the “fake” women on staff were offended. The reporter from The Guardian didn’t specify whether the trans “women” were males who got “female lookalike” surgery or females who got “male lookalike surgery.” Actually, I’m not sure it matters.

Apocalypse wow: The death of satire?

How do you explain satire to someone without a sense of humor and an exaggerated opinion of their righteousness? You really don’t. Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket were anti-war war films, they were satirical, just like the British sketch The Real Housewives of ISIS was satirical. I am using that as an example because it’s easier to understand what satire is when you use an example of something that virtually everyone hates. For example, one of the scenes in the ISIS sketch is the woman in the hijab complaining that she has “nothing to wear” to the beheading. Don’t we all know that’s a joke, and it’s a form of ridicule. The writer obviously hates ISIS, and is ridiculing their most hated practice. That’s the kind of satire that protests what it’s subject does.

The Vietnam War was not universally hated, especially in hindsight when we can see how benevolent the communists really were (hint: like Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc.) but certain practices or ugly actions were. Foremost among them were killing of unarmed civilians and the use of napalm. Joking about such things is ridicule, perhaps the most effective type of protest. The scene from Apocalypse Now has Robert Duvall, a crazy colonel who has just set a swatch of jungle on fire with napalm, strutting around sniffing the air and declaring, “oh how I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” The helicopter scene from Full Metal Jacket is even more evident satire. Matthew Modine is a newly minted Marine who has just arrived in Vietnam. While on a helicopter to his duty station, the door gunner is firing his machine gun at everything and everyone. He is bragging about how he gets them all, “because if they run they’re VC.” Modine is horrified, and protests. “How can you shoot women and children?” The gunner’s joke, which he doesn’t even realize is a joke, shows how calloused he’s become. “That’s easy, you just don’t lead ’em as much.”

Go on, admit it, you get the joke. That kind of satire is impossible today. Apocalypse Now was made in 1979, and Full Metal Jacket in 1987. Underneath the satirizing of what is obnoxious is outrage and the artfulness to cloak the outrage in humor and an audience that still has the ability to laugh…at anything. We still have writers and artists capable of effective satire, but even more we have censors and media protected thugs like Antifa who are outraged only by truth, and cannot express their outrage with anything but violence and threats. Underneath the satirizing of what is obnoxious is outrage and the artfulness to cloak the outrage in humor and an audience that still has the ability to laugh…at anything. We still have writers and artists capable of effective satire, but even more we have censors and media protected thugs like Antifa who are outraged only by truth, and cannot express their outrage with anything but violence and threats.

A movie is just a movie…unless it’s more than that.


Yesterday I watched two movies with stellar performances, but the “star” was not the actors or actresses, even though Julie Christie, Genevieve Bujold and James Cromwell are among the all time greats: Awards, best actor or actress, either primary or supporting Cromwell 7 wins, 24 nominations. Christie 47 wins, 28 nominations, Bujold 13 wins, 10 nominations. Roles: Cromwell 186 roles, Christie 54 roles, Bujold 77 roles. Between just those three, 67 best awards, 62 nominations, 307 different roles. But the “star” of those two movies–Still Mine and Away From Herwas Alzheimer’s disease.

There were deep insights and poignant, unexpected scenes. In Still Mine, which was based on a real couple and a real situation, Cromwell and Bujold are a couple married for 61 years, living in New Brunswick, Canada. She was the Alzheimer’s victim, he was dedicated to building a house which could accommodate her safely, after she fell down stairs and in another incident, tripped over her errant shoe. He had learned how to build from his father, a skilled shipwright. The plot on the surface was “one man against the bureaucracy”, as officious building inspectors and impractical regulations kept impeding his efforts to build just the right kind of home she needed. The portrayal of a couple with seven children, still in love after 61 years, struggling to remain as independent as possible against bureaucracies unconnected to the real world, was something rare. He was portrayed as the ultimate faithful husband and father, totally competent, sacrificially leading, though stubborn. For a movie made in 2013, incredible!

Even his attempt to build a side income by selling strawberries was frustrated by new rules. In one scene, he arrives at his wholesaler who has been buying his berries for years, expecting to sell them. But he is told that a new regulation has gone into effect that no wholesaler can buy fruit unless it has arrived by refrigerated truck. Cromwell says the berries were picked two hours ago, and are far fresher than anything that is trucked from a distance. The truth doesn’t matter, the regs trump reality. The same goes for the house he is building. His attorney, meeting with the building commission, presents affidavits from the best home builders in the area that the house he is building exceeds the building code, but to no avail, the work must stop because the house has 26 violations of the (petty) code. He goes ahead and eventually wins. Ten years later, at age 91, he and his wife still live together in the home he built.

Away From Her, 2006, which also takes place in Canada, is very different, and even deeper. Julie Christie is the Alzheimer’s sufferer, Fiona. Her husband Grant cannot care for her, as she is physically more robust than he. One day she wanders away across the frozen lake their house fronts on, and nearly freezes to death. He puts her in a memory care facility. In there, she meets a man, Aubrey, a wheelchair bound mute, whose wife has recently taken him there. Fiona and Aubrey have forgotten their spouses, and fall in love, thinking they are married to each other. Each day Grant visits her, soon despairing that after 45 years of marriage, he has lost the love of his life. In fact, eventually she tells him never to come back, because his presence upsets Aubrey; he still visits, but observes her from a distance. The most poignant scene to me was on a day when the facility puts on a party for the families of the residents, most of whom are rarely visited.

Grant is there, sitting on a sofa watching Fiona and Aubrey treating each other as he and his wife once were. The table next to them is occupied by a family which includes a teenage girl who is clearly bored with the whole scene. She appears to be a rebel, with her red purple streaked hair, piercings and tattoos. She goes over to the sofa Grant is sitting on, plops down and sticks her headphones on. She assumes he is a resident and says, “must suck for you that nobody came to see you.” He tells her that he is visiting his wife, and points her out. She is confused that Fiona is acting as if Aubrey is her husband, and ignoring her actual husband. Grant tells the girl, “we’ve been married 45 years and I will continue to watch over her.” This rebellious- looking, jaded-seeming teenager suddenly sees him, and her own life, in a new way. She looks right at him, pats his shoulder and says, “I should be so lucky.” It’s doubtful she will ever look at the scenes of families trying to connect with their parents and grandparents in the same way, with that persona of bored indifference.

These types of movies were not box office stars. They are not good time flicks. They curdle the fake butter on the popcorn. All of us, you included, know someone who is struggling with Alzheimer’s, maybe in your own family. For better or worse, films such as these can provide valuable insights, and perhaps increase compassion for the families that have to deal with dementia. Another film I highly recommend in addition to those two is Still Alice, about a linguistics professor who is struck with early onset Alzheimer’s, which is even more frightening than the more common elderly plague. All of these movies are available on Amazon video.