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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Color Blind

Last night I was listening to NPR while I was driving along, and they had a thing on about Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to run for President of the United States, way back in 1972. Listening to recordings of Chisholm speak, I was powerfully struck by her passion, the clear way in which she presented her points, the tenacity with which she went after the brass ring, and the courage with which she put herself out there as a candidate for the presidency as a woman and an African American, all those years ago.
But what particularly struck me was her saying, in an interview, that she didn’t believe that her race was really such a big issue in 1972, that surely we’d come far enough along as a country by that point that race didn’t matter. I don’t know if the programmers at NPR intended the contrast, but on the program immediately following Chisholm, they were in Logan, West Virginia, talking to voters in that predominantly Democratic town about whether they were voting for Obama or McCain, and while there were quite a few smart-sounding folks who were talking about issues, there were also the requisite racists talking about “the coloreds” and even one guy sounding off about how black people don’t have “what it takes” to lead the country. Oy.
In 1972, Shirley Chisholm believed race was no longer an issue in a race for the presidency. And here we are in 2008, with Obama’s race still very much an issue for a lot of voters. I’m proud of the Democratic party. When it got down to the convention, we had a woman and a black man competing for their party’s nomination. It was a stirring, historic moment, but the fight’s not over yet. We’ve got a long way to go.
But I hope that Shirley Chisholm, wherever she is in the afterlife, saw the massive crowd in St. Louis gathering to hear their next president speak, and smiled.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon