Wednesday, March 21, 2018

"Two Generations of Wonderful"

It's my daughter's birthday today.

She is my sunshine, my only sunshine.

In all these years, we have never had one serious dispute.  Except when she said, as a teenager, "Dad, I'm funnier than you and I have been for years."  But as I said, she was a teenager.  Later on, she eventually came to her senses.

And now, she's a mother.

My daughter's a mother.

There's a "Wake-Up Call" if ever I heard one.

And you know what?

She's a wonderful mother.

Which comes as somewhat of a surprise.  At children's birthday parties, her sister Rachel was the one who wanted to hold the babies.  Anna was more interested in monitoring the presents.

I am not prone to public displays of personal affection.  People I love know I love them without me blubbering about it to strangers.

So I shall leave it at that.

And now, in honor of this birthday milestone, I offer the gift that arrived between birthdays.

Presenting, the most recent "Golda-Gram."

I hope she appreciates her mother.

Like I do.

Happy Birthday, Anna Benne.

You still make me happy when skies are grape.  (Which is how she sang it when she was little.  And she knew it was funny, judging by the telltale glint in her three-year-old eye.)

And now... for your accumulating collection:

Golda Lee Buddelmeyer.

A sparkling subsidiary to the sun.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"Comrades In 'Noticing'"

I recently mentioned that my “Go-To” perspective in writing comedy is “noticing.”  When other writers create successful “noticing” comedy, I invariably go, “Yeah!”  It’s like my team just scored a touchdown.   

Larry David is a great noticer.  Although sometimes, he notices stuff you wish he hadn’t bothered to notice.  “Is this bottled water, or ‘tap’?  It tastes kind of ‘tappy’ to me, and I actually prefer bottled.”

My reaction to that finicky perception is, “Stop it!”

On the other hand…

When Larry David strikes “Comedic Gold”-noticing, I leap from my seat and throw confetti into the air.  Or, its literal counterpart – a seated, appreciative “Nice going.”

Check out Larry David’s “Shouts and Murmurs” contribution in the March 5 issue of The New Yorker.  Actually, you don’t have to, as I will be liberally quoting from it in this blog post.  (Although the stuff I left out remains available for your perusal.  I am not one to ruin things entirely.)

What Larry David noticed was a literary cliché, which he blew up into a major commotion, to great ridiculing success.  How did he do it?  He noticed the practical consequences of that literary cliché.

A miniscule “noticing”, placed under an examining microscope – That’s my kind of comedy.

Which is pleasingly similar to his.

For whatever reason, Larry David’s imagination was captured by the romantic tableau of the “Wartime Sendoff.”

He begins with a recognizable introduction:

(And here, I quote liberally, without permission, though with genuine respect.)

“My sweetheart Alice… drove me to the station.  We were in love and the thought of being apart was overwhelming for both of us… Our hearts bursting, we gazed at each other for a few moments before she spoke.”

“Promise you’ll come back to me.”

“I promise.”

“And promise you’ll write to me.”

 “Of course I’ll write to you.”

“Every day.”

And here we go.

Imagining the practical likelihood of writing every day from a war zone.  Although obviously in love, that may still not be possible.  And if you’re honest, you mention it.

“Every day?  Hm.  Well, I’ll certainly try.  I’ll be in a war.  I’ll be fighting.  But sure, if I have time to do it, I will.”

Pressed to faithfully accommodate her unwavering demand, the reality of providing “Missives from The Front” kicks in even further.

“I don’t know where I’ll be getting all the paper from.  I can’t really walk around with a ream of paper in my knapsack.  It’s pretty heavy as it is.  I gotta carry bullets, grenades, a sleeping bag, a canteen.  I don’t know if I can load up with paper.”

Notice the specifics involving the battlefield obstacles to regular letter writing: “bullets, grenades, a sleeping bag, a canteen.”  Although not wanting to offend his beloved, the character pays sensible attention to the difficulties of hauling a ream of paper around in his knapsack.  And then, there is – practically and deliciously – the inevitable issue of the pen.

“I did {pack a pen}, but, I’m not gonna lie, it was skipping a little, so there’s a good chance it could run out in the first letter.”

At this point, his beloved is having serious doubts about his devotion, which he tries to truthfully assuage, the problem being that the “truthfully” gets him into increasingly hot water.

“Suppose I’m fighting all day, killing people, getting fired at.   Saving buddies.  Canteen low on water.  I get back to base camp, exhausted, filthy.  My first thought, if I can be perfectly honest, is going to be to sit down, relax, have some C rations… {And} after the rations, I’m going to look into a shower or something…. So after that, yes, if I have the pen and paper, I’ll try to write, although it may be dark.  I suppose I can use a flashlight, but it’ll be tough to hold the pen and the flashlight at the same time.”

Do you notice the exquisite details?  To me, this is what I aspire to.  This is me, writing at my best.  Except it’s somebody else.     

By now, all bets concerning the relationship are off.

“O.K., enough!  You know what?  I don’t even want you to write.”

And, after an ill-advised foray at “turning the tables”,

“… I mean, if anybody should be writing every day, it’s you.  You’ve got time.  And a desk.”

The romance is permanently kaput.

Notice, this is not a comedy writing, exerting his will on the situation.  Nothing is exaggerated, nothing forcefully contrived.  It’s just a nitpicky person, noticing everything but that that his “reasonable honesty” is torpedoing his relationship.

I was uncomfortable with the ending, which was a little dark for my liking.  But what can I tell you?  It was written by somebody else.

Still, it was very close to what I imagine I would have written if I had gotten that idea.  Except for the ending.  Which I would have worked on, to make cheerier. 

The thing is, this remarkable piece resonates so strongly with my preferred, natural style of writing that, although I have never had any of my submissions accepted by The New Yorker, reading Larry David’s excellent effort, I feel like I just did.

At least a little.

That’s the “down” side of noticing.

You tend to notice when you are “massaging” the truth.
Someone's anniversary is today.  And no one is happier about it than me.  Best wishes to both of us.  We are lucky hot dogs to have found each other.  By happy accident.  And without the Internet.

Monday, March 19, 2018

"Making Your Mark"

The first time I wrote anything nobody asked me to, when I finished, I said out loud, although no one was around to hear me,

“I’m immortal!”

When those words spilled spontaneously out of my mouth, I knew there was something viscerally compelling about…

“Making Your Mark.”

As in,

“Kilroy Was Here” * 

(* Ubiquitous World War II graffiti.)

Who doesn’t want to provide tangible evidence of their earthly existence, create an enduring legacy, leave something permanent behind?

It’s not just creative people.  I used to drive past the “Tishman Building” in Los Angeles.  Giant letters, stuck to the side of a skyscraper.  You think Tishman wasn’t thinking about his legacy?  He could have simply provided the address.

It’s a natural impulse – leaving a lasting contribution.  Though it takes various forms.  For some, it’s a charitable endowment.  For others, it’s working for the betterment of Mankind.

For me, it’s upgrading The Westerns Channel.

Hey, those do-gooders can’t do everything!  

We all need to pitch in.

The Westerns Channel is part of my cable package of stations, most of which I pay for but don’t watch, but this one I do.  You know I like westerns – the eponymous Westerns Channel airs them twenty-four hours a day.  The thing is, though I am delighted by its very existence, The Westerns Channel, creatively, leaves plenty to be desired.

Slapdash.  Pedestrian.  Lacking demonstrable flair.  Showing westerns I don’t care for in “Prime Time”, and relegating westerns I do – particularly the ‘30’s “B” westerns starring Buck Jones, Hoot Gibson and Johnny Mack Brown to five in the morning.  (I am occasionally awake at that hour.  Normally, I wake up to lackluster Audie Murphy pictures.)

Anyway – since you don’t know who any of these people are – demonstrating how much available time I have on my hands…

I wrote an e-mail to The Westerns Channel, telling them –respectfully – that their on-air performance was ca-ca, and saying I had some ameliorating suggestions.

The Westerns Channel immediately e-mailed me back, thanking me for my welcome enthusiasm, and promising to get back with me, as they were “eager” to hear my interesting ideas.

I never heard from them again.

What did I do next?

I impulsively “gave away the store”, rather than saying, “I have these proposals for improving The Westerns Channel, and if you make me the channel’s president, I shall reveal to you what they are.”  (In truth, I did not aspire to be president of The Westerns Channel; I just wanted it to be better.  Although if nominated, I might run, and if elected, I might actually serve.  I mean, when duty calls…)  

In my follow-up e-mail, I submitted a list of a dozen or so suggestions, many of which followed the successful template of Turner Classic Movies, whose operation includes rotating (knowledgeable) hosts, “A-List”, celebrity interviewees, ancillary “Movie Fan” cruises, and specific wine recommendations, matching their cinematic selections.  (That last idea is hardly compatible with The Westerns Channel – “For The Battle at Apache Pass, we suggest a chilled Chablis.”  It’s more like, “‘Rot-Gut’ for everything.”) 

Bottom Line:  I was ecstatic The Westerns Channel existed.

I just wanted it to be classier.

And attractive to a wider range of potential viewership.  (I just typed “wider ranger of potential viewership” – a subliminal allusion to “that daring and resourceful masked rider of the Plains. *) 

(* The Lone Ranger.) 

One of my ideas involved offering “Kid-Friendly” westerns on Saturday mornings, mirroring my memorable experience, growing up.  (What constitutes a “Kid-Friendly” western?  “Justice” ultimately prevails, and they shoot “Bad Guys” in the hand.  And no children are shot anywhere.  Although there was one boy who succumbed to a runaway stagecoach.  Which impelled Errol Flynn to put on a badge and clean up Dodge City, so the unfortunate youngster was not trampled in vain.

I submitted the second e-mail, offering knowledgeable suggestions free of charge or possibility of personal advancement… probably…

And I never heard back.

I was disappointed, but not crushed.  Well, I was a little crushed.  Nobody likes being ignored.  There are ominous intimations of, “You no longer exist.”

And then, one day, while watching The Westerns ChannelThe Horse Soldiers for the umpteenth time that month – not my umpteenth time watching it; I only watched it four times – I see a network “promo” between movies, announcing that, for the first time in its existence, The Westerns Channel would be broadcasting an hour of Hopalong Cassidy – the quintessential “Kids’ Show” cowboy –

Every Saturday morning! 

Imagine my thrill-packed excitement!  My proposal to The Westerns Channel had been accepted, and would shortly be implemented for all to enjoy.

I had my “Immortalizing Imprint.”  I mean, it’s not the Washington Monument, or anything.  Though in a way, it’s better.  I am alive to experience it.  George Washington was not.

And so there you have it.

“Pomerantz Was Here”

His enduring legacy, airing Saturday mornings.

On The Westerns Channel.

Friday, March 16, 2018

"No Corduroy Pants In Blog Writing"

When I was in Kindergarten and some kid – okay me, but on very rare occasions – had, what they’d call, an “accident”, the school provided this pair of corduroy “Back-Up Pants” the “Accident Victim” would put on so there would be no telltale evidence of the “accident”, enabling the preschool “Pants-Wetter” to act like there’d been no “accident” at all.  (Not that those corduroy pants weren’t a significant “giveaway.”  It’s just… when you are five, you miss things.)

The point of the upcoming contrasting analogy is that, whereas. in the preceding example, the exposing evidence is effectively eliminated, no paralleling protection is afforded to blog writers.

In blog writing, the incriminating evidence remains, with “The Cloud”, arguably forever.

Evidence of what, you exasperatingly inquire, after this long and (possibly) extraneous introduction.

Evidence of…

Well, first let me – exceedingly briefly – say this.

There are things about me I talk about and things about me I do not talk about.  You are aware of the things about me I talk about because I talk about them.  Conversely, you are unaware of other things about me because I do not talk about them.  I, of course, know everything about me.  Because I’m me.

Today’s offering reveals an exceptional situation, wherein you know something about me, and I don’t.

(We have now arrived {belatedly} at our destination.)

What do you know about me, and I don’t?

You know that, over the more than ten years that I have been generating this blog, I have made… I don’t know the number because I am not aware that I do it… but I will guess

Hundreds (possibly “and hundreds”) of typos.

(I just wrote “humdreds of typos”, but I fixed it.  So there’s one less.

Here’s the thing about typos.  (Meaning “typographical errors.”)

After composing each draft, I carefully reread what I have just written, not looking for typos, particularly, but to make what I have just written better.  Along the way, when I see typos, I, of course, judiciously correct them. 

Still, I inevitably miss some of them.  Who knows?  Maybe a lot of them.

(Well, “The Cloud” knows.  And it’s thinking – being the “Depository of Cumulative Typos” – “This guy is an idiot!”)

The question is,

Notwithstanding my scrupulous vigilance,

Why do typos happen?  (I just typed “ahppen”, but I fixed it.)

That, right there, is one reason that typos happen.

Let me explain.

I am what they call a “Touch Typist”, meaning I can type without looking at the keys. (Having learned that technique in my 9C “Typing” class at Ledbury Park Junior High School.)

The “happen – ahppen” mistake occurs when your typing fingers fire in the wrong – I just typed “worng”, but I fixed it – order.  In the case of “happen-ahppen”, my left hand “Baby Finger” hit the “a” key before my right hand “Index Finger” hit the “h’’ key, rather than after.  With “worng”, I incorrectly hit the “o” key before typing the “r.”

A more egregious “mis-type” would transpire if my fingers – that I am not looking at because I am a “Touch Typist” – are resting in the wrong place on the keyboard, in which case, say, “thinking” would come out “tjomlomg.”  That one’s easy to spot, because “tjomlomg” is not an actual word.

“Full Disclosure” – which I just typed “Discolsure”, but I fixed it.  When I typed the “happen-ahppen” example, my computer helpfully “Autocorrected” on my behalf.  On the other hand, since “Discolsure” is not a word, my computer cannot “compute” what I actually intended, the misspelled word then just sitting there until I catch it.  And if I don’t catch it, I am shamefully immortalized in cyberspace as “The Discolsure Guy.”

Why don’t I catch all my typos?

Because of the way the mind – or at least my mind – apparently works.

Here’s the (mysterious) procedure.

When I read over my copy, what I see is what I originally imagined.  And not what is actually there.

You know the saying, “Seeing is believing”?  This phenomenon is the opposite.

“Believing is seeing.”

(Hm.  Could this go beyond typos?)


I do not rewrite these errors as I perceive them as already correct.  For example, I see “it” even though I typed “ti.”

It’s just bizarre.  “Ti” is staring me right in the face – I actually just typed “Ti”, but I fixed it.  When I am rereading, however, I unequivocally see “It.”

Sometimes, “Autocorrect” is functionally inoperative.  For example, if I type “spot” when I mean to type “stop”, since “spot” is also a word, although not the word I intended, I’m sunk.  Unless I spot it in the proofreading.  (I accidentally typed “stop”, but I fixed it.) 

By the way, since the word “stop” makes no sense in the above context, how about a computer app that gets that?  Call it the “Duh” app. “Spot, in the name of the law!’”  Computers aren’t stupid.  Couldn’t they figure that out?)

Typos come in various packages.  Some typos are just carelessness.  (Three paragraphs up, I typed “staring my right in the face.”  Which the computer won’t “Autocorrect” because “my” is also a word.) 

Then, there are the “Homonym Typos.”  I type “to” when I mean “too” or type in “week” when I mean “weak.”

Some typos are literally inexplicable.  So I shall proceed to the following paragraph.

The majority of my boos-boos result from – I just typed “result form”, but I fixed it – the rewrite process itself.  My most frequent typos result from the rewrite process wherein I alter the content but leave portions of the previous version intact.  (Oops, there’s a typical example.  That first sentence was supposed to go out.  That was not deliberate.  It was simply what happened, my subliminal “unconscious” helping me along.)    

At other times, I’m just typing too fast.  (I just typed “tuping” and then retyped it to read “t(ping”, and then left out the word “to” before “read”, but I fixed it.  I must be “smelling the barn”, or something.)

Summarizing Confession:

I make typographical errors. 

And I don’t see them.

You do, leaving me thoroughly embarrassed.  Imagine baking a celebratory cake you are beamingly proud of, realizing too late that you squiggled “Happy Brithday” with the icing.

That’s me.

About everything I have ever written.

Okay, I’m done.

My objective now is to reread this everso carefully.

Delivering to the Ages a completed blog post that is prefect.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

"The Wrong Decision For The (Seemingly) Right Reason"

This is an upbeat or downbeat story depending on your perspective.

And, of course, since I’m writing it,

It is easily guessable in which direction it is likely to lean.

Although that’s actually not fair. 

I lived it, my reportage thereby colored by the way it turned out.


Were I not a congenital pessimist,

It may have possibly turned out otherwise.

“The Shadow of Pessimism” –

Darkening lives. 

And subsequent narratives. 

Well, ending this ruminative fore-section,

“Whattaya gonna do?”

(Note:  This story mentions “The Cosby Show.”  In case that’s a problem.)

Every show biz career suffers the inevitable “ups” and “downs.”  At this moment in history, I was experiencing a “downs.”

1984.  Known for many things, some of them more important than my personal experience.  Although not to me.

Shortly before, I had suffered a disappointment with the cancellation of Best of the West.  (Difficult because it was over, but also a relief because it was over.)

My friends, Glen and Les Charles, who created Cheers, generously hired me to write scripts for it, though I knew little about bars and even less about pre-marital hi-jinx.  I wrote mostly the “Coach”-featured episodes.  Because I knew about baseball, and I was familiar with not knowing what was happening around me.  As long as at least one character has an atypical “take” on reality, I would comfortably continue to work.

But I was not working a lot.

Let me interject with a saying I made up, which should probably appear earlier but it just returned to me now.

My oft-uttered aphorism went:

“I’d rather be a boss than have a boss.”

This insight entered my consciousness after seven or so seasons of “having a boss.”  Before that, I was quite happy to be anywhere.

My bosses were nice enough – Stan Daniels was a particular standout – and when they weren’t nice enough, I – respectfully – reminded them to be.

The primary annoyance was the comedic template. 

They set it; I, dutifully, though not always enthusiastically, followed it.

My bosses were superior joke writers.  By contrast, my brand of comedy, derived primarily from noticing things, was less traditionally organized.

As a result, I was categorized as “A good writer who doesn’t write jokes.”

Rather than “A good writer, finding surprising ways of eliciting laughter.”

If I were a boss – rather than having a boss – I could establish the comedic template.  And that would be better. 

Rather than “me, writing like them” there’d be a staff of “Thems”, writing like me.

And so, when I was shown a Cosby Show presentation – which was fourteen minutes long, rather than the “pilot-length” twenty-two – and I went nuts over it – because its comedy was also about noticing – I immediately said I wanted to work on the show.

“What do you want to do on the show?” I was asked by one of its co-owners.

“I want to run it!” I replied, in a burst of exuberance.  (Mixed with mistakenness.)

And so, I was given the job as the first “Executive Producer” on The Cosby Show.

I lasted seven episodes of the first season.

And then I went home. 

(The Cosby Show was produced in New York, one of the reasons I departed the show, but not close to the more explanatory, “He couldn’t handle the job.”

It turned out there were more things to being a boss than “establishing your comedic template.”

And I was not terrific at any of them.

(It also turned out no one could follow my comedic template.)

The “up” side of the story…

My experience on The Cosby Show led to a lucrative development deal at Universal, where I developed the commercially successful Major Dad.  (Which I also ran, but left after one year for virtually identical reasons.) 

Retooled Aphorism (tempered by personal experience):

“I’d rather have a boss than be a boss.”

(The Reason You Went Wrong:  Your reputation creating the situation causing the temptation.)

The thing is, however, after you’ve been a boss, it is really difficult to go back.

You can see the problem that engenders.

If you can’t be a boss and have difficulty having a boss…

I mean…

Those are the only two they make.