Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"A Pep Rally For My Brain (And Some Of My More Sensitive Parts As Well)"

When you’re blog is called “Just Thinking”, you would hope that your thinking is at the very least “in the ballpark.”  Otherwise, your blog is substantially,

“Just Thinking…Wrong.”

I have to be careful here not appear martyr-like or righteously indignant, because, in reality, I feel neither of those ways. 

Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. 

(I once fantasized asking MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that if that were, in fact, the case, and that all opinions therefore were equal at least in their right to be voiced, why then was his opinion was worth millions of dollars and my opinion worth nothing?) 

Well, not always nothing.  For example, when I worked on my last job in television, as a script consultant on According To Jim, I was hired by the series’ show runners to apply my expertise towards making the scripts clearer, more focused, internally consistent and maximally persuasive in their storytelling, all of which, I believe, either directly or indirectly, made the episodes I was contributing to funnier.  (The Truer Version Of That Story:  According To Jim’s show runners were clients of my agent, and he insisted that they hire me.  Thank you, Elliot Webb.)

It was nice to be seen to have an expert opinion.  (In contrast with Chris Matthews’ political arena, where, in my view, your “insider” experience doesn’t make your opinions “expert”, it simply makes them the opinions of an “insider.”)

It was once confided to me that, in the course of “Production Week” after I was gone (I only worked on first day of “Production Week”, when the scripts were originally read and rewritten), According To Jim’s Writers’ Assistants (aspiring sitcom writers holding entry-level positions) would confer with each other during breaks in runthroughs and the subsequent rewrites on the issue of whether my proposed script suggestions were of value.  This conversation, I was told, was labeled,

“Was Earl Right?”

A participating Writers’ Assistant told me that, considerably more often than not, they decided that I was.

This reaction contrasted with that of the higher-ups on the writing staff.  At a later date when I was no longer working on the show, my candid-to-a-fault agent related that it had been reported to him that, quite often, when I made my suggestions, well, his exact words were,

“People rolled their eyes.”

(Thank you, Elliot Webb.)

You never get used to people rolling their eyes when you say things.  I suppose it’s the price of expressing provocative opinions.  Though this specific response would generally mean that, to the eye rollers at least, your provocative opinions are stupid.

For me, this unfortunate reaction occurs not just in show business (where I purportedly know something.)  I have been told, by someone close to well actually involved in my marriage, that, not infrequently, when I express my opinions on certain issues of the day, people, albeit politely behind my back, would also – and here it comes again – “roll their eyes.” 

(In My Defense:  These people, primarily of the liberal persuasion, appear impatient with the suggestion that conservatives’ perspectives on issues are not entirely and unilaterally insane.)

I guess it’s human nature, but inevitably, as the target of continual eye-rolling, a worrisome thought works its way into your brain, that thought being,

“Maybe I am (eye-rollingly) off the mark.” 

On virtually everything.  Hmph.  Could that really be possible?  I suppose it could.

Fortunately, before my faith in my – what the Blossom theme song used to call –  “opinionation”, completely disappeared, I was bolstered by articles in our local newspaper, echoing a number of my not always enthusiastically received points of view.

Veteran sports columnist Bill Dwyre wrote how the recent revelations concerning the pervasive, catastrophic head injuries in the NFL (and the NFL’s, until recently, soft-pedaling the risks) has led him to a serious proposal for the abolition of football.

(I wrote that a couple of weeks ago.)

Esteemed op-ed specialist Meghan Daum wrote about the current perception, encouraged by the entertainment media, that “adulthood does not exist, or at least should be avoided at all costs.” 

(I once wrote about how photographs from the forties and fifties display children dressed up like mini-adults, while today, adults deck themselves out in t-shirts, jeans and sneakers and baseball caps, presenting themselves demonstrably like children.)

There isn’t a week, it seems, that the paper doesn’t publish an article about medical over-testing, over-diagnosing and over-treatment, a procedure that turns us all into “patients.” 

(I not long ago wrote a (subsequently published) “Letter to the Editor”, responding to one of these articles by saying,

Though helpful and illuminating, Dr. Welch {the article’s writer} omitted an important objection to over-testing:  It scares the patients.”

More superficially, I once watched Jerry Seinfeld deliver a speech at an Emmy Awards ceremony that precisely mirrored what I had written myself (concerning how the year before, Jerry had been nominated for Seinfeld as “Best Actor in a Comedy” but he had not been nominated this year, clearly suggesting that he had somehow forgotten how to play himself.) 

Rather than feeling upset, my sincere response to such situations – and there have been more than a few of them – is invariably the same:  

“I guess I was on the right track.”

I felt the same way about those articles.  They provided me with a timely and much-needed reassurance, reinvigorating my faith in my intellectual impulses. 

I am not entirely an idiot.  Respected people are writing the same thing in the newspaper.

Which impels me to ask for an armistice.

Come on, fellas.

I mean I am (obviously) not right about everything.

But ya duzzn’t has ta roll your eyes.

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