Monday, January 31, 2011

"A Powerful Tool"

The back spasms continue.  I’m getting treatment, but it’s slow.  Part of the reason it’s slow is because the guy who’s working on me – he calls himself a Body Mechanic – only has office hours three days a week.  The rest of the time, he is the barn, working his Body Mechanic’s magic

On horses.

It’s California.  What are you gonna do?

The fact is, I believe in this guy. 

And so do the horses. 

So we have to share.

Over the weeks, I’ve felt gradual improvement.  Sometimes, however, there are setbacks.

Last night, I woke up at two o’clock in the morning with acute tightness around my shoulder blade and shooting pain radiating down the outside of my left arm.  I am wide awake, and I’m hurting.  I have no idea what’s going on.

And then I do.

I look down at the fingers of my left hand.  They seem to be moving around all by themselves.  But in a specific kind of arrangement.  What I’m doing, I realize, is that I’m miming playing the piano.  What I’m duplicating with my fingers is the rhythm pattern for a song I’ve been studying – an up tempo rocker called “Still The Same”, by Bob Seger. 

This observation was confirmed by the fact that “Still The Same” was playing over and over in my head.  My left hand had been reflexively playing along.

What was now apparent was that I’d been playing the piano in my sleep.  The fast-paced song in my head that I’d been accompanying with my fingers had proven too taxing for my current condition, generating the pain that eventually woke me up. 

Now I was awake, and I had to decide what to do.  Ice?  A heating pad?  Change my sleeping position?  Add a pillow?  Get up and walk around? 

I was pretty sure none of those strategies would get me back to sleep.  And even it one did, so what?  I had this spasm-inducing song reverberating in my head. 

You always won

Every time you placed a bet

Or, more significantly, the muscle-tightening finger movements –



B-B-B-C Sharp


The situation seemed hopeless.  If I fell back asleep, it would only happen again.


Amidst tiredness and discomfort, the solution became clear to me.  My mind – a powerful tool, the mind – had been sending out music that was irritating my body.  What was required, I concluded, was to alter the playlist.

Which is exactly what I did.

I instructed my mind to replace the fast-moving “Still The Same” with the more leisurely- paced “Marie”, by Randy Newman, a song I could comfortably “finger mime” in my sleep without aggravating my condition. 

It worked like a charm.  The moment the song that had been playing in my head was supplanted by a song I had deliberately replaced it with,

I immediately went back to sleep.

And I was out the rest of the night.

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Days of Wonder"

Full Disclosure:  This posting is a replacement for a posting I was going to post, but decided instead to delete.  The other one was too gloomy. 

Sometimes, you can’t help that.  Everything you write, or at least everything I write, or at least everything I write in a blog, is a direct reflection of your – my – inner…weather pattern.  You feel gloomy, you write gloomy.  But you duzzn’t has ta publish it.  Who wants to read “gloomy”? 

I choose instead to look out the window, on a mint perfect January day in Southern California.  And to be reminded, of how, on many a similar sparkling January day not that long ago, I could be found, camped out on the steps of the Writers’ Building at The Mary Tyler Moore Company, dressed in a t-shirt, cut-off jeans shorts and sandals, armed with a ballpoint pen, yellow legal pad and a clipboard

…working on a script.

These were truly the most glorious days of them all.  The days of wonder.  (The days of younger.)  The days of illusion.  The days when a just-starting writer could feel blissfully content being exactly where he wanted to be – writing for the best show on television, and getting a tan in January.

The Mary Tyler Moore Company was industry-famous for insulating its “creatives” from the lacerating incursions of network interference, primarily through the crisis-deflecting auspices of company president, Grant Tinker. 

Compounding this feeling of protection were my bosses, who restricted my activities to only what I enjoyed and was good at – writing scripts – free from the stress and messiness of temperamental actors and debilitating late nights. 

No overwhelming pressure, no “crisis of the moment”-inducing stomach aches.  I was the luckiest guy around.  I just wrote, and went home. 

Later, as my duties and my paycheck expanded – the former still unthreatening to my sensibilities, the latter barely noticeable on the budget – I giddily retained my excitement.  On the occasions when I was required to attend runthroughs (rehearsals), while some writers would walk from the office to the (sound)stage, and others climbed into available golf carts, I alone

Would run down to the stage. 

(Or at least as close to running as a non-running person can run.)

I could not wait to get down there.

When asked “How are you doing?”, my inevitable response was an irrepressible,

“Happy to be here.”

One of my bosses, seasoned and battle-scarred, seemed particularly offended by my Gomer Pyle-ish “Gawww-lee” enthusiasm, whining, whenever it flared up, ”Enough with the shitkicker routine!”

But I couldn’t turn it off.  Because it was real.

Later, as a warm-up man, unpolished and entirely lacking in jokes, I faced an audience of strangers coming to see the show with nothing but my “happy to be here” mentality and made them happy to be there too.  It was a powerful experience.  The feeling was infectious.  And the “carrier” was me.

As a chronicler, it is difficult to leave the story there, unturned and incomplete.  But I think I will anyway.

It’s what I need today.  And on this blog, if nowhere else, it’s not Tony Danza, and it’s not Judith Light. 

On this blog, readers and commenters,

I’m the Boss. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"A Writer's 'Voice' Redux"

I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but there are always new readers coming aboard, and they may have missed it.  Plus, I am writing in response to a Commenter’s question.  I get so few of these that, when a question comes along, I pounce on it, like a prisoner in “solitary” when the food shows up. 

Joe asks,

Is a writer’s “Voice” (in your opinion) something he acquires by training or is it something innate?  Who, in your opinion, are the writers who write (and by that I mean writer well) in more than one voice?

Okay.  Let’s tackle the second question first.  Looking back over my career, which involved primarily half-hour comedies, I have experienced a variety of comedic voices, but no single writer writing in more than one of them.  It is my belief that a comedy writer only has one voice.  There are two possibilities for that belief.  One is because it’s true.  And two is because I only have one voice.  And I’m speaking in it right now.

There is, however, the question of the strength of a writer’s voice, by which I mean its dominance.  Think about actors.  Consider, for example from the old days, people like John Wayne and Cary Grant.  They’re called “movies stars”, or “onscreen personalities”, as if to say, (READ WITH A SNOOTY, CONDESCENDING TONE) “They’re not really actors.  They’re just playing themselves.”

It’s not that easy.  Audiences were willing to shell out good money to watch these folks “just playing themselves” for half a century.  It may not have been acting, but they must have been doing something worth seeing.  Most people “just being themselves” are really boring.

Other actors, more recently, Ed Norton, for example, or in the old days, Sir Alec Guinness, seem to be nobody except the character they’re playing.  These people wear the mantle of “real actors.” 

What I say about that is this.  Both the “onscreen personalities” the “real actors”, in the specific choices they make, are speaking in their own voices.  The “real actor’s” voice is just quieter.       

When I was twenty-one and attending The Bertolt Brecht Summer Theater Workshop at UCLA, I remember hearing myself pontificate,

“Nobody does ‘me’ better than me.”

There’s a converse side to that pronouncement, which is this: 

“This is all I can do.”

This latter evaluation of my abilities turned out to be correct, both as an actor, and later, as a writer.  My personal range is inordinately narrow, covering from the left side of me to the right side of me, and from the top of my head to the bottom of my shoes.  Or my socks, if I’m not wearing shoes.

We have now segued everso subtly from “voice” to “range.”  One voice, says I.  Range within that voice?  It varies.  I remember meeting a new writing team who were just starting on Cheers.   I said, “Where did you guys come from?”  The Jeffersons”, they replied.  My outside voice said, “Great!”  But inside, I went, “Huh?”  How do you write for Cheers when you wrote for The Jeffersons?


Born from, first, having range, plus, hunger, desperation, and the willingness to do whatever it takes to get where you want to go.  I was never tested that way, because the first place I worked, The Mary Tyler Moore Company, was the place I wanted to go.  If, “working my way up”, I had been required to deploy my severely limited range on shows for which it was wildly unsuited, I’d have been back in Toronto faster than you can say, “I’d like to reapply to Law School.”

This circuitously brings me to Joe’s first question.  Is a writer’s “voice” innate?  Yes.  As innate as their face, though unlike your face, which is pretty much set after puberty, where, if you’re Jewish, you receive a prominent nose with a bump on it, your innate “voice” emerges gradually.  For two reasons.

One, before your voice can flourish, you need to pay your dues mastering the structural elements of the medium you have chosen to speak in.  This apprenticeship is invaluable.  You may have a first class automobile, but you are destined to get lost, if you don’t first take time to you study the map, to figure out where you’re going.

Second, when you start out, you’re generally working on someone else’s show, where the show runner, more than life itself, needs you to write, not in your voice, but in theirs, so to be a helpful staff member, that’s what you try to do.  It is only when you write your first pilot that your voice comes fully to the fore.  By then, hopefully you know how to write, you have a few miles on you to deepen your outlook, and you have the confidence to let your voice speak loudly and clearly. And, most excitingly,


There is one group Joe didn’t ask about.  I will throw it in as a bonus.   These are:

The Writers Who Don’t Seem To Have A Voice.

They’re funny.  They’re professional.  They’re hardworking.  And, quite often, they’re extremely successful.  What these writers lack, which is a judgment but so be it, is any kind of unifying point of view.  Their intention is simply, “Make ‘Em Laugh.”

It would appear that it takes all kinds. 

And I will leave it at that.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"When People Don't Laugh (And You Know Exactly Why)"

This one’s just sad, a professional Funny Person, fouling one off his foot. 

My only excuse for this miscue is that the ease and comfort of a Hawaiian vacation had allowed my normally reliable standards to recede.  I would never have done this at home.

I am passing this along because it’s important for you to know that professionals Funny People can also, on occasion, crank up a stinkeroo.  Nobody has a perfect record in comedy. 

Also, if I left out the stories where I seriously mess up, I’d been out of stories two years ago. 

Okay, here we go.

We’re sitting on the beach, slathered in lotion, acting like it’s a really nice day, though it most assuredly isn’t.  As I fake luxuriate on my bribe-provided lounger, I am strawing up an iced tea from a plastic cup, delivered earlier by a friendly, young beach attendant.  College age.  Picking up a few extra bucks pampering luxury hotel guests on her Christmas Break.

The beach attendant returns; she’s doing her “rounds.”  She spots my near empty beverage glass, and inquires,

“Would you like a refill of iced tea?”

“No thanks,” I reply. 

Somehow, my answer does not satisfy her.  So she persists.

“It’s free,” she informs me.  Then adding, “And I don’t have anything to do.”

Well, sir, even on vacation, a professional Comedy Person can spot a fat set-up line.  And there it was.  A big lollipop.  Right down the middle.

“And I don’t have anything to do.”

You have to admit that is an unusual thing for a serving person to say.  You almost never hear that.  I know I never have.  To me, the line cried out for a witty retort. 

Unable to let a perfect set-up line go by – even on vacation – I immediately pounced.   My response to “And I don’t have anything to do” was this:

“Could you give me a massage?”

Aw, man.  I wanted to take it back as soon as it came out.  I mean, that was just… Ucccch!   At this moment of recall, my hands are covering my face, masking my embarrassment, humiliation and disgust.  At the time, however, I brazenly soldiered on, pretending I had said something humorous, rather than something irredeemably tasteless and utterly inappropriate. 

The first sign that I’d messed up is that nobody laughed.  There was dead silence all around.  Though even silence can contain an insinuating rebuke.  This was a distinctively sour silence.

The beach attendant’s face said, “I can’t believe he said that, but I don’t want to forfeit my tip”, generating an expression of muted irritation, mixed with “I wish I’d gone home and spent Christmas with my family.”

Professionally speaking – if it makes any difference at this point – there was a funny answer to “And I don’t have anything to do.”  I could have said this instead, and it would have been great.  Listen to this:

“Would you like a refill of iced tea?”

“No, thanks.”

“It’s free.  And I don’t have anything to do.”

“Could you give me a haircut?”

You see the difference there?  It’s funny, because of the incongruity of asking a beach attendant to give you a haircut.  More importantly, it lacks any semblance of sexual harassment. 

If I hadn’t been on vacation, I’m almost certainly have said that.

Unfortunately, there is no “Undo” button in life.  I had irreversibly said the wrong this at the right time.

Earning shame and self-rebuke.

But absolutely, and entirely deservedly,

No laugh.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"When People Don't Laugh (*And You're Not Certain Why)"

As distinguished from tomorrow’s follow-up, “When People Don’t Laugh (And You Know Exactly Why)”

We’re in the hotel in Hawaii.  I’m ordering a massage over the phone.  The Spa Person takes down the particulars – my name, my room number, the day I wanted the massage, the time, the type of massage I wanted.  Finally, he asks,

“Which gender would you prefer for your massage?”

To which I instantly shoot back,

“What have you got?”

To which the Spa Person replies,

“Male or female.”

Okay, “Freeze it” right there.  Look, you don’t have to take my word for this, though keep in mind I’m a professional comedy person with decades of experience in the field, and I’m telling you, when somebody asks you, “Which gender would you prefer for your massage?” and you shoot back, “What have you got?”…

That’s funny.

Take my word for it.  It just is.

“What gender would you prefer?”

“What have you got?”



When I responded, “What have you got?” to that Spa Person on the phone, the man did not laugh, he did not chuckle, he did not snort, snigger, “Hee-hee” or guffaw.  Nor, going the other way, did he groan, sigh, gnash his teeth or, as far as I could tell talking to him over the phone, roll his eyes. 

He simply said,

“Male or female.” 

No hesitation.  No pause.  He just went for it.  As if I had asked him a perfectly normal question.  A simple inquiry about options, which, normally, would not be funny, but in this unique situation, it is.

“What kind of bread do you want you sandwich on?”

“What have you got?”

Not funny.  Why?  Because there are multiple options.  You know the sandwich bread choices.  I need not list them here. 

On the other hand, when there are only two possible options, as with gender options there inevitably are, “What have you got?”, I’m telling you,

Is funny!

Trust me on this.  I know.

All right.  So what is goin’ on?

Two possibilities come to mind.  And, being the insecure person I am, my first thought goes immediately to

“It’s me.”

I did something wrong. 

I quickly review my performance.  Had I misspoken my words?

“What have you gaunt”?


Had I inadvertently burped, gulped, snorted or whistled while I was speaking, making him unable to hear what I was saying?


Had I, in my excitement to get my, I was certain, big laugh, hurried my delivery?


No.  I had delivered it impeccably.   On time, and on the money.

All right, so it wasn’t me.  Which moved me, happily, to the second possibility:

“It was him.”

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.  Let’s see, now.  What explanation could there be for a man not to laugh at a certifiably funny remark?  Consider these:

The man was busy.

The man was tired.

The man was bored.

He had had a bad day.

He was in constant physical pain, which prevented him from seeing the humor in anything.

His personal hopes and dreams having been crushed, he now found himself in a soul-sapping massage-appointment-taking position.

He had recently received news of the passing of a close relative.

He was insecure about his own gender affiliation.

He had heard this “witty retort” many times before.

He had no sense of humor.

And the always reliable over the past four thousand years…

He hates Jews.

One, or a combination of the above, could have been the reason he hadn’t laughed.

Of course, comedy not being an exact science, it’s possible that I’m mistaken, and my response was simply not funny.


“What have you got”?  Are you kidding me?

It’s hilarious!

(Full Disclosure:  The question may have crossed your mind, “Why was he being funny at all?”  Because that’s what I do?  Guilty.  But more specifically in this case, when the Spa Person asked me, “What gender would you prefer for your massage?”, Dr. M was sitting in the room.  When I replied, “What have you got?”, I was stalling.  Looking back, it is possible that the awkwardness of the situation had somehow altered my delivery and lost me my laugh.  Because I’m telling you, there should have been one.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

"'The Duke' And 'The Dude'"

Only one letter’s not the same.  But it makes all the difference in the world.

Leave out the TV stuff, and Jeff Bridges has been making major motion pictures for forty years, starting with The Last Picture Show (1971).  Leave out the “B” western nonsense, and the late John Wayne made major motion pictures for thirty-seven years, starting with Stagecoach (1939).

Who’da thunk it?  Jeff Bridges has been working in big-time movies longer than John Wayne did.  The question is, he asks rhetorically because the answer is obvious, which one has left the greater impact?

I know.  The Big Lebowski.  But what else?  And isn’t The Big Lebowski’s impact more in the writing?  Those memorable lines, none of which I can remember, but other people can, and that’s good enough for me?

I mean, how hard is it to play “laid back”?  You just stay up all night, and come to shooting tired. 

“He’s really laid back today.”

“Yeah, and he’s yawning a lot too.”

Why am I putting these two movie actors in juxtaposition?  Duh.  They both played “Rooster Cogburn” in True Grit, “The Duke” in 1969, “The Dude” in 2010.

Let me say first that neither True Grit would rank among my top ten favorite westerns, my Top Ten being Red River, High Noon, Shane, Unforgiven, The Westerner, The Outlaw Josie Wales, Ride The High Country, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, Dodge City and Stagecoach, not necessarily in that order, after the first three.   

Both Grits are decent enough.  The story’s a little sappy – the “team-up” tale of a feisty teenaged girl and a crusty old man, in search of justice and they bond long the way.  The new version seems to be prettier.  More autumnal, as I recall.  But you don’t remake a movie for the leaves.

The ending’s different in the new version.  The first version’s ending is more sentimental, with “The Duke” barking, “Well, come see a fat old man (as the girl calls him) sometime!”, then jumping his horse over a three-rail fence (John Wayne galloping towards the fence, a stunt-man jumping over it in long-shot, and John Wayne landing on the other side), whereas in the new version, when she goes to visit him, he’s already dead.  The first version seems more fun.  If you prefer “upbeat” over dead.

Also, apparently more faithful to the book, in the new version, the feisty teenaged girl, now a grown woman, has been left with one arm.  Call me crazy, but does that seem like a reason to remake an entire movie?

“We’re being more truthful this time.  ‘Two arms’ was just wrong.”

The rest of the movie’s the same.  All the original’s “set piece” scenes are there, with, it feels like, the same dialogue.  To be honest, it felt a little peculiar.  It’s like I had seen the original production on Broadway, and I’m now in the presence of a slightly inferior touring company.  Same script, different actors.  They’re all okay – especially the teenaged girl – but I’ve seen this already. 


Why “better”?  Because the first True Grit had a compelling reason to exist, and this one doesn’t.

What was that reason?

The first True Grit was assembled as a “Victory Lap” for an iconic western movie legend    It’s the perfect send-off.  The tough cowpoke, noticeably in decline, but still able to stuff the reins in his mouth, and ride one last time, guns ablazin’, against four of the orneriest owlhoots in the West.  There’s resonance there.  And emotion.  It’s “The Duke’s” last showdown.  And he wins the day!

And he wins an Oscar too!


(By rights, “The Duke” should have retired right then and there, returning his horse to the wrangler, turning to the cast and crew, and saying, “Well, folks, it’s been fun”, and ambling off into the sunset.  Unfortunately, actors don’t know when to leave, so he made a few more pictures, including a grim finale called The Shootist – an actor with cancer playing a gunfighter with cancer.  That was too real for me.  I’d have preferred if he’d gone out jumping the fence.)

Jeff Bridges is not an iconic movie legend; he’s a capable movie actor.  Though, to me, he’s more believable laid back than growling and crusty, which, I have a feeling in real life, he isn’t.  It’s almost like, lacking one of his own, he borrowed his growl from Dennis Quaid.  Not necessarily with permission.

“Dennis?  It’s Jeff. Could you teach me to growl, like you did in Wyatt Earp?”

“Hey, they gave you the part.  Figure out your own damn growl.”

A “star turn” vehicle for a fading institution.  That’s what made the original True Grit worth seeing. 

Without that, it’s just skillful imposters, putting on a show.

Friday, January 21, 2011

"A Difficult Spell"

I have the distinct memory of being a kid and listening my mother continually spelling our last name when she ordered things over the phone.  “Pomerantz” is not that common a name; you are constantly spelling it out.  I remember her saying that whomever her boys married must be prepared for a similar ordeal for the rest of their lives.

Flash Forward.  Our daughter, Anna, is betrothed (she prefers that word to “engaged”) to Colby Buddelmeyer.  If the couple goes the “hyphenate” route – Pomerantz-Buddelmeyer – the phone-spelling ordeal will more than double in difficulty.  From nine letters to twenty.

Let it never be said that we are not a helpful family.  Sitting on the beach in Hawaii, slathered in lotion and waiting for the sun to show up, we decided to pool our mental resources and help the couple to prepare for the inevitable “spell-outs” they are destined to endure. 

We devised clarifying tips, to assist the people on the other end of the line.  You know what I mean:  “B” as in “boy”, “D” as in “dog”, to make sure they get it right, so the delivery didn’t wind up at the Poomenans-Beateremajor’s, or people with a similar name, but not theirs.

A successful telephonic exchange would then go something like this:

What’s that?  The name as it appears on the credit card?  It’s Anna Pomerantz-Buddelmeyer.  Yes, I’ll spell the last name for you.  It’s

“P” as in “pneumonia”

“O” as in “Oedipus”

“M” as in “mnemonic”

“E” as in “eye”

“R”, like the sound a pirate makes

“A” as in ”aegis”

“N”, like the “n” in “gnome”

“T” as in “tzaziki”

“Z” as in xylophone, if it were spelled with a “z”

Dash.  Then

“B” as in “bouillabaisse”

“U” as in “umlaut”

“D” as in “Django”, like the guitarist Django Reinhardt

“D”, “Django” again

“E” as in “euphemism”

“L”,  as in the sound a pirate makes if they’re Asian

“M” as in “mmm…good”

“E” as in “Europe”

“Y” as in “ytterbium”

“E” as in “eyether”

and “R”, like the sound a pirate makes if they’re not Asian.

“You got it?  Sure, I can give it to you again. 

It’s “P” as in “pterodactyl”

“O” as in “oeuvre”

Of course, this is only a first draft.  If you have any better suggestions, feel free to pass them along.  These kids are going to need all the help they can get.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Closing Time - The Wrap-Up"

When people say that a writer who was once King of the Cowboys but whose popularity has since waned has “lost it”, they are totally – and diametrically


They haven’t lost it.  They have exactly what they’ve always had.  The problem is… 

Nobody wants it anymore.

The vast majority of writers – I won’t say “all”, because there are always exceptions – can only write one way.  That’s their “voice.”  That’s who they are.  The equation here is simple.  If how you write is in sync with the times – cha-ching, cha-ching.  The times change, as they inevitably do, and suddenly, it’s “No Sale.” 

That’s just the way it is.  The thing that made you is invariably the thing that does you in.

Here’s a “Duh!” observation:  Nobody wants to leave the game.  The money, the power, the attention, including from members of the opposite gender who would otherwise not give you the time of day – these perks are terribly difficult to give up. 

There’s also the excitement of working at the top of your creative powers, and then suddenly, you’re out, and the highlight of your day is going to the store to buy light bulbs.

You definitely want to stick around.  But how do you do it?  Well, if you can’t change the product – because the product is you – your only alternative is to alter the packaging.

The central plot of Jim Brooks’s successful Broadcast News concerned a woman, struggling to choose between two men.  In How Do You Know, it’s the same story.  One might question the value of doing the same story twice, but there’s nothing dated about the idea.  “Triangles” are timeless.

The new wrinkle How Do You Know provides is that, this time…

The characters are younger. 

The Reese Witherspoon character is thirty-one, the two guy characters, early thirties.  It’s perfect.  We’re a stone’s throw from “Apatow Country.”  We’re still in the game!



Because, though these characters may look young and dress young, they don’t talk young or act young.

As I mentioned two postings ago, Jim Brooks’s signature writing style features a laser-like insight into character.  Achieving this level of awareness requires a devoted commitment to self-examination.  It’s like you’re continually taking your emotional temperature.

In How Do You Know, this self-reflecting posture results in a running commentary by the characters, a sort of play-by-play of their own behavior, producing lines line, “Good phone call!” and “I really need you to be aware of how confidently I’m behaving.”  (The latter quote is a paraphrase.  I do not have access to the script.)

This “personal drama” mindset emanates from the heyday of psychotherapy, or, as my therapist wife would call it, bad psychotherapy.  This dissecting-of-the-moment behavior, never wildly popular at any time – it annoyed the people you were talking to – had its moment during what they called “The Human Potential Movement” of the late sixties and seventies

The problem as far as How Do You Know is concerned is that this mindset is not popular today.

Compounding his characters’ jarring throwback behavior is the fact that Jim Brooks has chosen to make two of the characters in How Do You Know


Notice the difference here.  Broadcast News – journalists.  Thinking people.  For whom a proclivity towards intellectualizing would hardly be out of line.

Athletes, on the other hand, are reacting people.  See the ball – hit the ball.  If athletes continually stopped to “examine the moment” – “Wouldn’t it be great if I hit a home run right now?” – the ball would be past them, and they would quickly be back on the bench.  And subsequently, fired.

Jim Brooks takes his young athlete characters and makes them talk, think, feel and behave like broadcast journalists a decade or more older. 

It doesn’t fit. 

What you end up with are counterfeit characters, facing the same ignominious fate as the World War II German infiltrators who mistakenly identified “The Bambino” as Lou Gehrig.


Is there a way for a writer to remain true to their natural, creative sensibility?  Well, you can go to the studio and say,

“I’d like to write a movie involving characters that are closer to my age.”

“How old are you?”

“I’m seventy.”

To which the studio will politely respond:

“Please don’t.”

And therein lies the dilemma.  You have two choices:  You can write something you can’t do.  Or you can write something you can’t sell.

There is, of course, a third choice.  The choice reflected in my title for the last three posts:

“Closing Time.”

You can shut the thing down.

And, I don’t know, maybe write a blog. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Closing Time" (Continued)

Jim Brooks – Hit Maker. 

In television, from the very successful – The Mary Tyler Moore Show – to the phenomenally successful – The Simpsons.  In movies, from Terms of Endearment to Broadcast News to As Good As It Gets.  Jim Brooks had “The Midas Touch.”  Every project garnered gold…well not real gold, but gold-plated awards.  Oh yeah, and real gold as well.  Well, not actual real gold, but, you know, big money. 

The man was doing well.

And then, after thirty-plus years of virtually non-stop triumphs, the Train to Hitsville came to a screeching halt.  Spanglish – a whiff.  How Do You Know – Strike Two.  With the game on the verge of being called due to lack of interest.

The question is:  “Wha’ hoppin’?”

Sideline snipers suggest that the super-wealthy Brooks was now “phoning it in”, or that he’d “lost his spark.”  I don’t know Jim that well, but I do know this.  Neither of those knee-jerk accusations is correct.  Equaling his initials counterpart, James Brown, Jim Brooks is one of the hardest working men in show business.

What really happened was time, by which I mean its passage.  Think of it this way.  For over thirty years, Jim Brooks held the keys to the kingdom.  Then somebody abruptly came in and changed all the locks.

As hard as he tries, the guy can’t get in anymore.

This is hardly new.  Charlie Chaplin, Frank Capra, Billy Wilder, then later, Woody Allen, Barry Levinson, Rob Reiner – all Oscar winners (or in Reiner’s case, an Oscar nominee) – followed the same inevitable downward slide.  They knew how to do it…and then, after decades of commercial and critical approval…

They didn’t.

This, as Chester A. Riley used to say, “revoltin’ development”, must have been hugely frustrating for them.  Not to mention disconcerting, humiliating and “Ow!” 

I imagine them furious about their predicament.  “I do what I’ve always done, and it’s not working anymore.  What the hell is going on!?” 

What’s “going on” is that the formerly reliable conditioning process has gone inoperant.  The rat who presses the bar and receives a shock rather than the expected pellet of food feels exactly the same way, I would think, though I am far from an expert on the emotional responses of rats.

Jim Brooks is not stupid.  He sees what’s afoot and he makes adjustments.  “The audience is younger; I’ll make my characters younger.  Then I’ll cast actors that the kids today like.” 

That’s not an actual quote; it’s an actual imagined quote.  Jim Brooks talks a lot smarter than that.  But the strategy is obvious.  You can see it in Jim’s most recent movies.

Spanglish stars Adam “Happy Gilmore” Sandler.  How Do You Know stars Reese “Legally Blonde” Witherspoon, Paul “Mr. Bromance Himself” Rudd and Owen “I Won’t Grow Up” Wilson. 

“Younger actors playing younger characters.  (DUSTING HIS HANDS TOGETHER)  The job is done.”


“Why not?’

Because, Jim Brooks of my imagination,

You wrote them old.

Sorry, folks.  My back’s twinging up on me.  I will wrap this up tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Closing Time"

A recent visitation of back spasms makes it difficult for me to sit down.  Though Dr. Bill Cosby proclaimed, when he gave me his PhD dissertation to read – “You don’t have to sit down to be a writer” – I actually believe you do.  And right now, that’s a problem.

I have two choices.  I can stop writing until I’m better, or I can write shorter posts.  I choose Option Two.  It’s no big difference.  You’ll end up with the same content.  It’ll just take a little longer getting to you. 

Who knows what you might gain, by spending less time on this blog.  You could make a new friend, or discover you like gardening.  Let me know how it turns out, will ya?  It will be gratifying learning how my shorter postings improved your lives.

Look at that.  I’m cramping up, and I haven’t even started yet.  Okay.  Without further ado – and I mean it – here we go. 

Think about it.

You’re James L. Brooks.  Though his co-workers, amongst whom during the late seventies (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) and the early eighties (Taxi) I numbered myself, always called him Jim.  There was no, “Good morning, James L.”  “How’re ya doin’, James L.?”  “James L.” was strictly for the credits; everywhere else, it was “Jim.”  Maybe his Driver’s License said “James L.”  I don’t know.  He never showed it to me.

As a comedy writer, Jim Brooks was the standard all of us measured ourselves by, and against which we all fell humblingly short.  Jim was simply the best.  His story ideas were startlingly original, their development, imaginatively fresh.  His insights into character took your breath away, and his jokes arrived “Air Mail” from the “Planet Jim.”  You’d marvel, “How did he come up with that?”   

“He’s Jim.”

It was the best answer we could offer.  If we were Jim, we could easily have done better.

Wikipedia reports that Jim Brooks was nominated for forty-five Emmy Awards, and he won twenty.  Then, making the most successful transition into movies of any sitcom writer in history, Jim scored big with Terms of Endearment (writing Oscar), Broadcast News (writing Oscar nomination) and As Good As It Gets (co-writing Oscar nomination).  But we’re not just talking “the critics’ darling” here.  These movies enjoyed solid commercial success as well.

Being mortal, Jim suffered some inevitable misfires along the way, but, in the context of show business’s notorious unpredictability, Jim Brooks was the closest thing to a hit-making machine. 

It’s 2004.  Jim Brooks unveils his latest movie. It’s called Spanglish.  

It tanks.  No critical accolades.  And a box office disappointment.

Well, so what?  Everyone throws up an “air ball” once in a while.  A manager once said the most important word in show business is “Next!”  You move on.  You lick your wounds, and you go back to work.

It’s 2010.  Jim Brooks returns with How Do You Know.


Unfavorable reviews.  And nobody’s going.

Think about it.  You’re Jim Brooks, the Babe Ruth of comedy writers, and suddenly, your prodigious home runs are pop up’s to the pitcher.

What do you think’s going on?

Okay, I got to get up now.  I’ll continue this tomorrow.

Oops, I seem to have posted these posts backwards.  Please read yesterday's post today, and today's post yesterday.  It'll make more sense that way.

I thank you for your patience.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"Semi-Interesting 'MLK Day' Factoid"

During the first month after shooting Martin Luther King, his assassin, James Earl Ray, hid out in Toronto.  But he couldn't stay there, because was too easy to spot - two million nice people, and an assassin.

Friday, January 14, 2011

"When Writers Can't Write"

Writers are a sensitive breed.

At the best of times, writing is not an easy thing to do.  A lot of people can’t do it at all.  Some care that they can’t write, and some don’t.  Like I don’t care that I can’t skateboard.

To those who would like to write but somehow can’t, (as distinguished from those who can write but don’t bother to), let it be proclaimed to the world that this absent ability is not an embarrassing blot on your escutcheon.  It’s just the way it is.  Like I can’t draw.  I would like to draw.  I have the intention and the interest.  Then I pick up a pencil, and I sketch out the same face I drew when I was eight.   

There is such a thing as a natural aptitude, though that’s not necessarily the end of the story.  I believe that, with motivation, time and the proper training, you can get better at anything.  However, if your starting place is deep in minus territory, the motivation, the time and the training can elevate you to a position that’s slightly above water, better than you used to be, but still not actually very good.  At that thing.  But, you know, you undoubtedly have other gifts.

My focus today is on writers who can write, but there are times when they can’t.  I do this, because I believe that people who are not writers, but more importantly people who aspire to be writers but can’t imagine being able to “write on demand”, ought to know that even for professional writers, it’s not always clear sailing.

Professional writers do not hale from the planet Scripto.  We are regular Earth People, just like you.   Especially if you’re kind of quirky Earth People. 

Let’s examine the difficulties writers regularly face.  (Aside from hearing the word “No” more often than is healthy for anyone.)

“Writer’s Block” is the most famous and severe version of writers not being able to write.  This syndrome generally emanates from fear.  Both beginners

“I can’t do it!”

and those experienced in the field

“I can’t do it again!”

are susceptible. 

Did I ever suffer “Writer’s Block”?  I did.  Early in my career.  When I was writing scripts for the Mary Tyler Moore company, I’d be given two weeks to deliver a first draft, and this would be my routine.  The first week, I would pull my knees up to my chest, and rock and moan.  The second week, I would write the script. 

That’s not exactly “Writer’s Block”, though it did block me from writing, so I guess it is, a little.  I called it my modus operand:

The first week, rocking and moaning.  The second week, doing the work. 

It’s not exactly “Writer’s Block”, because I never missed a deadline.  The producers gave me two weeks.  I just used them as I saw fit. 

Later in my career, I dispensed with the rocking and moaning week.  That might be because I didn’t need to do that anymore, or because there just wasn’t enough time.  No, it’s definitely the second one, because whenever I could squeeze it in, I’d search out a quiet spot for a truncated “rock and moan.”  I rocked and moaned a lot during The Cosby Show, as I recall. 

Though I no longer experience classic “Writer’s Block”, there are times when the work goes more flowingly than others.  Why?  I refer you back to Line One of the current post.

Writers are a sensitive breed.

“Sensitive” being defined as “readily or excessively (ouch!) affected by external influences.”  I can tell you from personal experience that this is the case.  The minutest alteration in our environment can easily throw us off, making us unable to write, or more commonly, making the act of writing more difficult to pull off, both physically – it takes longer to do – and creatively – the tiniest nudge in your circumstances, and the quality of the effort is “not quite there.”

Things that could cause this condition (other than losing confidence in your ability):

You don’t feel a hundred per cent physically.

You’re a little tired.

You had a spat with a loved one.

The dry cleaners lost your “funny pants.”

You are awaiting the results from some medical test.

A contemporary receives recognition, praise, piles of money and glowing reviews.

Your faith in the meaningfulness of putting things down on paper has been momentarily shaken.

You received feedback like, “I don’t often read your blog, but when I do, I can really hear your voice.”  All you can hear is, “I don’t often read your blog.”  Which could be because they are not fans of my “voice.”

You remembered a slight from thirty years ago.

Reason is taking a beating in the political conversation.

You’ve been pushing yourself too hard.

It’s raining for the fifth day in a row, in a place whose reputation is “sunny.”

Not all posts are equally successful.  I offer twelve reasons why.  I imagine there are other reasons.  But I couldn’t think of them today.

Oh, wait.  The sun’s coming out.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"A Writer's Mind"

Among other objectives, one of my (self-imposed) mandates is to reveal the inner workings of a writer’s mind.  This will allow you to see how a writer thinks, and if your mind works in a similar fashion, it might reasonably cross your mind that you might be a writer.  And if it doesn’t, you’re probably something else.  Something just as good.  Really.  I mean it. 


Not long ago, more specifically, December the 16th, I wrote a post entitled “Your Presents Are Requested” that turned out to be one of my all-time favorites.  “Turned out to be” is the right descriptive, because when I started writing, I had no idea how it would turn out.  That’s part of the way a writer’s mind works right there.  There’s a spark, and you go.  No guarantees, just…you think something’s there.  If you’re right more often than you’re wrong, then once again, you could be a writer.

The “spark” thing is really interesting.  You see…wait, lemme start at the beginning.  Sorry, I was getting a little overheated there.  That’s another thing about a writer’s mind.   Sometimes, you have to tell it to slow down.

I had the idea of writing about gift-giving.  December the 16h, it was the gift-giving time of the year.  Except for Jewish people, at least in 2009 when Chanukah came early and the gift-giving time of the year had already passed.  But the residue of the experience remained etched in the still-drying cement of my memory.   (That makes no sense, does it?  And yet, I just like the way that it sounds.  So it stays.)

My daughter, Anna, relishes the “Presents Experience,” by which I mean the giving part.  Who doesn’t like the receiving part?  Getting stuff you didn’t have to pay for yourself?  It’s really a “no lose” situation.  At best, you get a soon-to-be cherished possession; at worst, you have new clutter. 

Anna has a knack for unearthing “just the right thing”, willingly spending whatever time it takes to dig it up.  Last Chanukah, she presented me with this antique (1904) hand-carved box ,with the iron-looking (they may actually be iron) letters “EP” (my actual initials) attached to the brown, velvet backing on the front (if backing can be on the front).  The box sits on my desk as we speak.  It’s exquisite and unique.  If it’s not too small, my ashes could go in it.  Truly a gift for eternity.

For me, present buying is an excruciating duty.  I am constantly looking at the calendar, measuring the intervals of relief – from Chanukah to birthdays to anniversaries – at which point I will be required to submit to the torturous ordeal once again. 

I just have no instinct for how to do it.  I have little idea where to shop, and I’m far from certain as to the appropriate thing to buy.  It gets harder every year.  You are constantly having to come up with something different.  And the kids are adults now.  The latest Barbie will no longer suffice.   

I could argue that choosing the right gift is an aptitude.  Some got it, some don’t.  I don’t.  End of story.

No.  I would dearly like it to be, but it isn’t. 

I mean, say you stink at, I don’t know…archery.  There is no problem there, no moral implications to your deficiency.  You stink at archery?  Don’t do archery.  Will there be any pejorative consequences?  If you’re not an Indian hunting buffalo on horseback, no. 

It’s not the same with buying presents.  You get the wrong thing, and it’s

“Have I ever once mentioned wanting a parrot?”

“You have absolutely no idea who I am, do you?”

“You see what I got you?  It’s perfect!  And you get me this?”  (Followed by “I just don’t get it” head shaking, or, if the present really sucks, tears.)   

Who needs any of that?  Gift giving’s intended to be a joyous and generous tradition.  But it can easily turn into a nightmare of finger-pointing and recriminations, and if there are sharp implements handy, maybe worse.

So that’s what I wanted to write about – the opposite-of-fun pressure of the gift-giving requirement.  But somehow, whatever way I imagined it in my head, it came out sounding mean-spirited, self-justifying and sour.  Hardly the ideal ingredients for an appealing blog post.  

After a while, I was thinking of letting the whole thing go.  Dry hole.  Move on.

And then – and this is the magical part – the idea of presenting my issue in the context of the original Christmas gift givers, “The Three Wise Men”, fluttered into my consciousness.  It was a creative lifeline.  I grabbed hold of it, and my blog post was saved. 

An unworkable idea evolves into an inspired idea, and you just sit there and watch it happen.  I can describe the process, but there’s no way I can explain it.  It’s just how a writer’s mind works.

When it’s working at its best.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Total Recall"

I have thousands of memories.  Some of them of things that actually happened.

I wonder how many?

That’s the problem.  Yes, there is arguably a greater problem, that being when you can’t remember at all.  That’s not good.  My mother had that in her final years.  It didn’t seem to bother her.  Or maybe it did, and she forgot about it. 

For the fortunate most of us, it’s “That’s not me.  I’m in the clear.  I remember stuff.”

And it feels good.  Of course, you inevitably get older and there’s that, a little “drop-off”, but even then, the “library” is relatively intact.  Which is important, or at least it feels important, because, in some meaningful way, the accumulation of the things you remember, that’s pretty much…you

You start losing that stuff, and it’s like your “you” is shrinking.  To the point where, when you can no longer remember anything… you’re gone.  I mean, you’re still standing there, but inside, the apartment your memories once lived in has been cleaned out.  They can put in a new tenant.  The essential “You” has vacated the premises.

There’s another situation that, though less serious, is, I believe, more pervasive.  And that’s two things.  One is selective memory – the things you remember and the things that conveniently slipped your mind.  The other is re-edited memory.  The re-edited memory is comfortably archived in your head.  The problem is,

Things factually didn’t happen that way.

The example that has recently come to mind is not the best example; it’s just the example that has recently come to mind.  One of its deficiencies is that it requires some rudimentary understanding of baseball.  Which you may or may not have.

Let’s get “interactive” here.  Substitute my memory with a memory of your own, a memory that makes the same point, but does not involve baseball. Think instead of something you remember that, when you mention it to someone who participated in that event, remembers it an entirely different way.  And they have indisputable evidence they’re right, so it’s more than simply a matter of opinion. 

“I never sang in the church choir.”

“Yes, you did.  You stood right beside me.  And I drove you there every week.”

Make that your “baseball” story.  It will work equally as well.  And you’ll feel like you participated.  Which is a bonus. 

In the meantime, I’ll do baseball.

Recently, a kinescope – a recording of a television program made by filming the picture from the video monitor – has been unearthed of the seventh (and deciding) game of the 1960 World Series, between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees.  The film was discovered in (Pirates part-owner) Bing Crosby’s wine cellar.  This was the first time it was ever rebroadcast.

This was a memorable Game Seven, the series won in the bottom of the ninth inning by a dramatic home run, hit by the Pirates’ second baseman, Bill Mazeroski.

The home run was what made it special – it was the only time in history that the World Series was determined by a ninth inning home run in the seventh game.  But that’s not what made this game (which I had watched live in 1960) memorable to me.  What made it memorable was what happened half an inning earlier. 

I remember (Yankee superstar) Mickey Mantle, picked off of first base, eluding an inelegantly awkward tag by Pirates first baseman, “Rocky” Nelson, and diving safely back to the bag.

Why was that noteworthy to me?  It was noteworthy, because before he joined the Pirates, “Rocky” Nelson played for the minor league (“Triple A”) Toronto Maple Leafs, the team I rooted for when I was a kid. 

I knew “Rocky” Nelson.  Not personally; I knew him as a ballplayer.  I knew that, one season with the Leafs, Nelson had cracked a league-leading forty-three home runs.  I knew his signature batting stance – a lefty, poised at the plate, his right leg bent at the knee at an almost ninety-degree angle, making him look like he was sitting in a chair.  “Rocky” Nelson was so important to me that, though normally a Yankee fan, in the 1960 series, I was rooting for the Pirates

“Rocky” Nelson had been playing admirably in Game Seven.  In the first inning, he had slugged a two-run homer.  But then, when the game was on the line,

He did “that thing.” 

In a critical moment, “Rocky” Nelson (a minor league name if I’ve ever heard one; the major league version was “Rocky” Colavito – you hear the difference?), Nelson had Mickey Mantle picked off, entirely at his mercy, and then, to my horror, embarrassment and chagrin, “Rocky” Nelson

Missed the tag!

The play was a game-changer.  While the statue-like Nelson was lunging and the more athletic Mantle, a run scored, tying the game, Nelson’s ineptitude thus necessitating Mazeroski’s ninth inning heroics.

It was exciting to watch the first rebroadcast of the game after half a century.  But what made my jaw drop was that the rebroadcasting allowed to see with my own eyes that

Mickey Mantle was not picked off first base at all!

It was something else.  With Mantle on first, Nelson niftily snared a sharply hit grounder, stepped on the bag – the batter was now out – after which Mantle, frozen close to the base, in a desperate maneuver, had miraculously slithered his way back. 

Why does it matter that I got the memory right but a significant detail wrong?  It matters, because an inaccurate memory is not a memory of the actual event.  It’s something (in this case) I made up, a rewriting of reality, which I then labeled “a memory.”  I tell it, and retell it, happily disseminating this recollection.  The one small problem is,

The basic facts are incorrect. 

“So what?” you say, and well you might.  Except for this.  This misremembering ignites a troubling question, that question being, 

“What else am I remembering wrong?”

“Could it be…


What’s the difference between having a head full of memories, all of them wrong, and having no memory whatsoever?   I’m thinking not that much.  Except in the latter case, you’re a little more honest.  “I don’t remember.”  Instead of,  “I remember exactly”, and you’re wrong.

I tell a lot of stories.  Over seven hundred and fifty of them here.

I wonder how many happened the way I remember them?

Who knows?  I could be a fiction writer after all.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"If Pacifists Wrote Westerns"

A Pacifist walks into a saloon, and heads over to the bar.

“What’ll it be, stranger?”

“Herbal tea, please.”

“Come again?”

“Peppermint, if you have any.  But chamomile will do fine.”

A tough-looking hombre – he lights his cheroot by striking a match on his stubble – overhears the Pacifist’s request, and off he goes. 

“Yer funnin’ us, aint’cha?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Yer pullin’ our laig!”

“About what?”

“Camo-myle tea?”

“I like chamomile tea.  Though as I said, I prefer peppermint.”

“Do you know where you are, Mister?”

“Somewhere in the West.”

“That’s right.  And in ‘somewhere in the West’, when a man walks into a bar, he orders ‘Rot Gut’, he orders ‘Red Eye’, he orders, ‘Who hit John?’  What he doesn’t order is…camo-myle tea.”

The saloon patrons chuckle in derisive agreement.

“Can he order peppermint tea?”

“No!  Now, seein’ as how you’re new to these parts, and yuh don’t know the ropes as yet, lemme show you some Western hospitality and stake you to a real drink.  Bartender, whisky for the Tenderfoot here.”

“I appreciate your generosity.  But I think I’ll stick with the tea.”

The saloon patrons register mumbling concern.  They know what’s coming.  And it’s not going to be pretty.

“Lemme explain somethin’ to yuh.  Out here, when a man stands yuh a drink, you say ‘Much obliged’, and yuh join him for a drink.  Am I right, Boys?”

The saloon patrons readily agree.  They don’t want any trouble.  And besides, according to western (or at least western movie) tradition, he’s right.

“Look, Mister, the last thing I want to do is insult you…”

“And yet, that could be the last thing you do.  Ever.”

The saloon goes deathly quiet.  The Piano Player stops playing.

“Keep playin’!”

The Piano Playing starts playing again.  But with mistakes.

“I’m askin’ you fer the last time.  Will you drink with me?”

“I am truly grateful for the offer.  But I’d really rather not.”

The hombre commandeers a nearby bottle.  He glares at the bartender, who nervously produces a shot glass, and sets it on the bar.  The hombre pours whisky into the shot glass, and thrusts it in the Pacifist’s face.


“I told you, I don’t want to.”

The hombre pushes the Pacifist into the bar.

“What are you doing?”


The hombre pushes him again.

“Will you please stop pushing me?”

(PUSHING HIM A THIRD TIME) “I said, ‘Drink!’”


The hombre sets the drink on the bar, then slowly backs away.

“Then go fer yer gun.”

The mood is tense.  Patrons remotely close to the “line of fire” quietly change their seats.  Patrons fearful of ricochets, suddenly concerned by the lateness of the hour, scurry hurriedly out the door.

“I don’t have a gun.”

Out of nowhere, a six-gun comes sliding down the bar, stopping, as if on cue, by the Pacifist.

“Yuh do now.”

“Look, Mister.  I’m a Pacifist.  I don’t fight people.”

“Pick up the gun.” 

“No.  But you know what I will do?”

The Pacifist picks up the shot glass, and downs the whisky, returning the empty shot glass to the bar.  He nods to the hombre, “There.  I did it.”

“Too late.”

“Okay, now you’re being unreasonable.  You told me to drink, and I drank.”

“Right.  And now I’m tellin’ yuh to go fer yer gun.”

“I’m a Pacifist!  Drinking was an option; this isn’t.  So if you’re dead set on killing me, there is nothing I can do about it.  You can draw your gun and shoot me in cold blood, in front of all these witnesses.  But then you’ll hang.  Because a man, at least originally, refused to drink with you?  It’s not worth it!  But that’s not my decision.  It’s yours.  If you want to gun me down, go right ahead.  I will not fight.”

The room is a frozen tableau.  Nobody’s breathing.  Sweat’s pouring off a moose head, hanging on the wall.  The hombre stands there, poised to draw.  The Moment of Truth has arrived.  Finally, he makes his move.

“Aww…forget it.”

The hombre returns to his drink.  The Pacifist heaves an enormous sigh of relief.

At this point, the movie audience rises from their seats, exits the theater, insists on seeing the manager, and demands their money back, including the popcorn money, for parking and for the babysitter.  If the theater’s in a western locale, they may additionally burn the place down.  And get acquitted at the trial.  After which, they hunt down the screenwriter, and they string him up.

Thankfully, this is a fantasy.  There is no such thing as a Pacifist western.