Democracy day?

My favorite Schoolhouse Rock song features a bill longing to become a law

I often find that a single theme, like democracy (or chocolate), seems to tie together the events of my day…

When I hit the mailbox this afternoon, I found a lovely hand-written note from “Alaska’s fiddling poet,” Ken Waldman.

Waldman graciously thanked me for posting about his recent gigs at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, where he hopes to perform again one day.

He included a small goldenrod-colored card with a work he remembered I’m quite fond of, his “Suffering Democracy” poem that reads like this…

Instead of a gun, or a knife,
or pill, or drink. Or punching
a wall, the dog, screaming
at kids. Or holding
too many pains too deep–
brutal parents, cruel lovers,
bad bosses, debts, illnesses,
dying friends, extinct creatures,
absent God, near-ruined planet.

First. grip a pen, and write.
Then, pick a place, and plant.
Then, be patient, and let it grow.
Then, enter a small booth,
pull around the blue curtain,
kiss that ballot, and vote.

I was on my way out the door to see the movie “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” — which follows a filmmaker as he captures behind-the-scenes and in-your-face images from the world of product placement.

Early in the filmmaking process, he finds folks eager to analyze his identity — that thing that’s perfectly acceptable until it morphs into a brand. Then, according to moguls from the movie, it becomes “cheesy.”

Turns out filmmaker Morgan Spurlock is a rare mix of “mindful” and “playful.” So I suppose his film is best described as a meditation, and musing, on marketing. If someone sells it, Spurlock tells it.

And while Spurlock’s machinations don’t extend in this film to the overtly political realm, it left me wondering how his discoveries might apply to the branding of candidates making the news, as well as those who “report” it.

The film includes interviews with folks few of us have ever heard of. But also consumer advocate Ralph Nader and real estate/reality television tycoon Donald Trump (whose face has otherwise been blissfully absent from screens I’ve spent time with these past few days).

Some of my favorite scenes include Spurlock spending time with his son. In one they enjoy a bubble bath alongside a pony — both species apparently equally smitten with the product du jour: Main ‘n Tail shampoo (the one product featured in the film without paying for the privilege).

The movie closes with father and son seeking a place that’s free of advertising clutter — opting for a walk along a path that follows the arc of a nearby creek. It’s the great outdoors, he suggests, where marketing leaves its shoes outside the door. But there’s a caveat, which you’ll enjoy when you hit the film for yourself.

This evening I’m heading to Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale to watch their final rehearsal of “Schoolhouse Rock” — which opens Fri, May 6 and runs through May 15. Friday shows start at 7pm, and weekend shows start at 2pm.

“Schoolhouse Rock” was a popular television series during the 1970s, so many of today’s parents likely recall snappy “Schoolhouse Rock” tunes like “I’m Just a Bill” and “Conjunction Junction” that make subjects like government and grammar fun.

I often thought, during my brief stint as a lobbyist for an Arizona non-profit, that the “Schoolhouse Rock” soundtrack ought to find its way into more Arizona households.

Today, even as citizen activism appears to be on the rise, I’m not convinced that most folks understand or appreciate the complexity of the legislative process.

But we keep plugging away at it — or plugging it, in the case of Spurlock and his sponsors.

— Lynn

Coming up: Summer of dance, Schoolhouse meets stage

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