Friday, October 30, 2015

"A (Mostly Irrational But What Else Is New) Fear Of Tomorrow"

Tomorrow is Halloween.  For most people.  I mean, it is Halloween for me too.  But for me, the last day of October more importantly denotes another occasion, an occasion which fills me with… I would say dread but I’d be overdramatizing which is good for attracting attention, which could send my readership skyrocketing, but contradicts my reputation as a reliable “Truth-teller.”  So let’s say – because it is totally accurate – the occasion fills me with darkening apprehension. 

I have been thinking about it for weeks.  

“For weeks” is not an exaggeration for dramatic effect.  I actually have been thinking about this for weeks.  Though when you hear what it is, you will undoubtedly say, “That’s ridiculous!” 

You will get no argument from me.

October the 31st is significant to me beyond the obvious children wearing adorable costumes, candlelit Jack-O’-Lanterns and candy.  (And the secret hope that not a lot of “Trick-or-Treaters” will show up so I can retain the preponderance of the candy for myself, which is why I specifically buy them candy I like.)

What is the significance of October the 31st  for me?

October the 31st is the day we officially turn back the clocks.

(Regular readers may at this point by ahead of me.  Yes, it is another one of “those stories.”)

Most of the clocks in my house are relatively easy to adjust; I can turn them an hour back with a minimum of difficulty.  Not so, however, the Bose CD-clock-radio on my bedside night table. (That awakens me to the original theme song of Hockey Night In Canada.)

Oh, my.  I can feel the apprehension in my gut. 

I mention specifically the manufacturer Bose, to shame the company mercilessly in public.  Before I purchased their high priced ($250) apparatus, I had a thirty-dollar CD-clock-radio (which wore out after twenty years) that included a button that said, “Time Change”, and when you pressed that button, it automatically changed the time, an hour forward or an hour backward, as necessitated by the season.  The Bose CD-clock-radio offers no such convenience. 

Meaning a user such is myself is relegated to executing the time-changing maneuver on his own.

You pay more; you get less.  Go figure.


I know I pulled off the “time-changing” maneuver last spring.  But that was six months ago.  Generally speaking, if you do things only twice a year, there is a more than even chance you have totally forgotten how to do it.

Let me try and explain something to you. 

There is knowing how to do something, and not knowing how to do something.

The two conditions are fundamentally different.  (Beyond the “knowing” and the “not knowing” part of it.)

Take, for example, the arena of technological chazzerai.  (Read:  “Devices”, but with a whiff of disparagement.)

Metaphorically speaking, the people who know how to… program things… stand on the other side of a Grand Canyon-like “Chasm of Knowledgeability”, listening to their iTunes and visiting the “App Store.”  (I once visited the “App Store”, they asked for my password, and I never visited them again.)

Anyway… there they are, these “Soldiers of Tomorrow”, happy and self-satisfied, eager for arrival of the “Next New Thing” that they can program in seconds and begin immediately to enjoy.

On the opposite side of that “Chasm of Knowledgeability” is another group of people, grunting monosyllabically and beating a tree trunk with a giant stick.

Or so it appears.

To the people on my side.

Who are highly sensitive to the dichotomy.

Along that “Continuum of Capability” – bringing us back to October the 31st – are people, who, due to inadequate repetition, retain a tenuous understanding of the procedure they had momentarily mastered.

The transformation involves a “Three-Step” process:

We didn’t know how to do it.  Then we knew how to do it.  Then we forgot how to do it.

Do you remember the film Awakenings?  Robert DeNiro.  He’s catatonic.  Then he’s normal.  The medicine stops working; he’s catatonic again.

That is exactly what I’m talking about. 

I didn’t know, then I knew, now I’m back where I started.

Smacking a tree trunk with a giant stick.

I do not blame the children.  Call the non sequitor police?  Not at all.  The “Fall Back” time change was instituted so that children somewhere in America who still walk to school are able to walk there when it is light out, the concern being, I suppose, that otherwise, they might walk past the school because it is too dark for them to see where it is and miss out on their entire education.  Or at least half of it, waiting for spring, when they can walk to school when it is light out once again. 

(Note:  There could be another reason for the seasonal time change, but that is the one I have always heard mentioned.)

The children are not to be faulted.  We do things for our children, and that’s fine.

But oh, the sacrifice. 

Disproportionally applied.

Because of the children, I and people of my ilk are forced to confront our CD-clock-radios.

I have held on to the “Instruction Manual.” 

And tomorrow, I shall open it up.

I would ask you to wish me luck. 

But I am afraid of the words…

“You’re an idiot!”

Thursday, October 29, 2015

"Gimme Shelter"

During my early stages of recovery from Legionnaires’ Disease, when I was starting to drive again, I was unable to tolerate anything on the car radio besides classical music, and even then, only the salvingly soothing variety.  Nothing furious or intense.  (I cannot be more specific in this regard as I am shamefully ignorant about classical music.  My idea of classical music is Willie Nelson when he had a beard.  Did I hear a “Badump-bump”?)

Being physically (and emotionally) fragile post ”Legionnaires’ Disease, I was unable to handle uncalming entertainment.  No vituperative “Sports Talk” – “The Dodgers are horrible!  No Public Radio, covering ongoing atrocities.  (Benefit of technological inter-connectedness:  Any tragedy anywhere – We now hear about it.) 

My timidity was hardly a post-Legionnaires’ Disease phenomenon.  (It was simply more apparent.)  I have always turned to entertainment for reliable escape.  Primarily television.  (And then, at some point, I escaped into television.  No more periodic protection.  I was cocooned in the medium full-time. 

From what?

Everything else.

Of course, not any entertainment would suffice.  Historically, I have assiduously avoided programming that is frightening, uncomfortable or dark.  The Walking Dead?  Forget about it.  Homeland?  I watched it once; they shot hostages in the head.

I have control over the shows themselves.  (Note To Viewers Objecting To A Show’s “Inappropriate” Content:  Do what I do.  Watch something else.)  But sometimes, out of laziness or inertia, I forgetfully drop my guard and I am blindsided by the commercials.

You would think that commercials would be harmless.  They’re just selling stuff.  Sometimes with humor, which is welcome.  The Farmers’ Insurance ad where a giant snowball demolishes a guy’s car?  (Apparently, his non-Farmers’ policy did not cover that eventuality.)  Or the “Stay thirsty, my friends” beer guy:  “His half-baked ideas are entirely baked.”  (Did I make that up?  I’m not sure.)

Funny commercials are not the problem.  Unless they repeat them too often.  (For me, “too often” means more than twice.)  Or, more egregiously, they are rebroadcast during the same show. 

“Didn’t I just see that, and laugh?  Well, I am certainly not laughing again.  And I am definitely not buying that product!”

Why do they do that?  Can they really believe we are that brain-damaged? 

They won’t remember.  Let’s show it to them again.’”

Commercials are generally innocuous.  Unfortunately, sometimes, when I’m just sitting there, thinking, “It’s a commercial; what damage can it do?”

I see a sad-eyed puppy needing desperately to be adopted.  Or a starving child, with exactly the same eyes. 

The Eyes of Personal Accusation.    

This discomfiting jolt is hardly and exception.   There I am, seeking rescuing sanctuary in meaningless distraction, and what do I get instead?

“There is a victim of ‘Identity Theft’ every two seconds!”

Or a gathering of old people, worrying about funerals. 

Can you believe that?  I’m watching an innocuous “procedural”, and suddenly, I’m imagining my family dumping me in the river because there is no money for burial expenses.  What happened to my money?  Gone, because of “Identity Theft” every two seconds!

What else am I confronted with?

A guy in a lab jacket comes on, explaining how everyday foods are destroying my tooth enamel.  And it is not coming back!

There’s an ad for a medicine that alleviates a serious disease.  They list all the side effects, and it’s like, “Suicidal Thoughts of Actions” – You take your pill and it’s “Hasta la vista”?  I’m stickin’ with the disease.

Hey, guys!  I am watching TV!  Do I really need to hear about these things right now?

Or ever?

You get Mesothelioma from breathing asbestos, and the best you can hope for is a “Class-Action” lawsuit.  (So you can cough up your guts into a fancier handkerchief.  Although only if you win.)

What is going on here?

“You’ll wonder where the ‘yellow’ went…”

What happened to commercials like those?

We have been deprived of our sanctuary, our insulating shelter from catastrophe and doom.  (By the way, do not say “insulating” to a guy with Mesothelioma.)

No wonder people seek refuge in religion.

Forgiveness and love?  It sounds pretty comforting.

Wait.  There’s also hellfire and damnation.  (And an Old Testament meshugenah.)

Good Lord!  Am I missing something?

Or is there really no place to hide?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"The Luckiest Man In The World"

A propos of I no longer remember what, my boss on Best of the West­ – in 1981, when I created my first series, a sitcom set in the Old West, I was perceived, not incorrectly, to require adult supervision.  So therefore, although the idea for the show was mine, I was provided an overseeing Executive Producer…

Wait.  Let me start this again.

“Why not just delete the first paragraph?”

I don’t like to waste words.

“Fine.  Go ahead.”

Though I could have easily done without those three.

Okay.  Starting again.

Observing many years of personal behavior – make that many decades of personal behavior – I have come to perceive myself, somewhat regretfully but what are you going to do? –  as a “Retroactive Appreciator.”

What does it mean to be a “Retroactive Appreciator”?

It means you appreciate things not while they are happening but only after the fact.

Sometimes, considerably after the fact. 

EXAMPLES:  I ultimately came to appreciate my Toronto Hebrew (Elementary) Day School classmates, waiting fifty-seven years to help eventualize a reunion. 

EXAMPLE NUMBER TWO:  Although Best of the West would turn out to be my most rewarding creation, I complained constantly while I was working on it, my lamentations attaining their nadir with my monumentally unappreciative,

“There’s got to be an easier way to make three hundred thousand dollars a year.”

It is my temperamental proclivity not to know I am enjoying myself till long after that experience is sufficiently in the past.

Thus, say I,

“I Am A Retroactive Appreciator.”

(Anyone puts that on a t-shirt, I’ve got “Dibsies” on my share of the profits.  And if I created the word “Dibsies” – I want a piece of that baby as well.)

Okay, back to the beginning.  (Although I am almost half-finished.  Blog writing is a circuitous procedure sometimes.  It just goes where it goes.  Or, as Jerry Seinfeld would deride, “It is what it is.”)

One day, as we are working our way through our order of Best of the West episodes, the production, for the moment at least, running comparatively smoothly, my boss on the show proclaims loudly to all and sundry,

“Earl Pomerantz is the luckiest man in the world.”  (Saying “the world” instead of “show business”, show folk believing the two of them to be substantially synonymous.)

This “Out-of-the-blue” pronouncement caught me entirely off-guard.  Me, “the luckiest man in the world?”  If that were truly the case, you would think I’d be seen whistling. 

Nobody ever saw me whistling.  Or humming, for that matter.  I was more regularly seen agitated and depressed.

I inquired of my boss why he thought I was the luckiest man in the world.  To which he readily responded,

“You are making the show you wanted to make.”

My boss was right.  You could almost say – and I am actually about to – literally.  A year or so earlier, an ABC “Development Executive” had asked me, “What kind of show would you love to create?” and I replied, “A comedy western.” 

And wouldn’t you know it?  That was exactly what we were doing.

Although I never acknowledged it – even and most especially to myself – the fact that we were making exactly the show I wanted to make filled me with professional satisfaction and personal delight. 

And wait!  There’s more!

Not only was I making the show I wanted to make – and many powerful show runners, including arguably my boss or he would never have considered the matter in the first place were not – I was making that show my way – emphasizing (the unique) situation and on character, and employing a laugh-inducing approach less dependent on the traditional “setup-punchline” formulation.

Standing on that Best of the West soundstage, I absorbed my boss’s insightful observation,

Smiling all the way down to my bones. 

Shortly thereafter – and you probably knew this was coming – the work became agonizingly difficult again, and I felt like the unluckiest man in the world.

Which I wasn’t.

I was not even the unluckiest man in show business.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"Game Six"

A new thought recently occurred to me while I was watching “Game Six” of the American League Championship baseball series.  It is encouraging to have a new thought.  It means your brain is not entirely filled up.  Nor, more frighteningly, defunct. 

My new thought is not a particularly deep thought, as I do not have a particularly deep brain.  The “Good News” is, there is detectable “Brain Function.”  Which is reassuring to me, but should also be reassuring for my followers.  Who wants to read the ruminations of a person whose brain passed away in two thousand and fourteen?

So there’s that.


I have written about why I enjoy watching sports before, clearly delineating my personal rationale.  Some readers may not have been persuaded, espousing the contrary position, that watching sports is an abominable waste of time.  You may in fact be correct in that position.   Though let us not rule out an inflexibility in your beliefs as a alternate possibility.  I’m just sayin’…)

My new thought concerns…

Wait!  Let’s go back a little.

To further exemplify my position of why I enjoy watching sports, we need go back no further than the recently completed “Game Six.”

Wait!  First…  (Yikes!  A “Wait!” after a “Wait!”  I am sorry about that.  My brain keeps tumbling around.)

A Contextual Overview:  The Toronto Blue Jays, for whom I was excitedly rooting lost “Game Six” 4-3 to the Kansas City Royals, and, as a result, dropped the League Championship Series four games to two, eliminating them from further competition.  More on my response to that shortly.  Thumbnail Reaction:  “Waaah!

So there’s that. 

Okay.  Now…

The three (previously mentioned) reasons why I enjoy watching sports:

Reason Number One:  Displays of prodigious physical ability, most especially in the clutch.  (When it really matters.) 

The Jays left fielder Revere’s magnificent leaping catch at the wall.  Second baseman Goins smothering a ball rocketing towards right field.  Bautista, keeping hope alive with two answering home runs.   

To name three memorable accomplishments, delivered in “do-or-die” situations. 

And that’s only the team I cared about.  The other guys were good too.

Great players, making great plays, with the game on the line.  Who can honestly disparage “Reason Number One”?  I mean, you try it!

Reason Number Two:  Sporting events are the original – and still the best – reality shows.  Real-time excitement unfolding before the audience’s eyes.  No secret scripting, no simulated suspense.  (Notable Exception:  Boxing.)  It’s simply happening the way it’s happening.   Spontaneous moments of mouth-dropping magnificence.  (See:  The examples from “Reason Number One.”  Or, prototypically, Google Willie May’s over-the-head basket-catch in the World Series in 1954.  Vic Wertz is still going,  “How did he do that?” sixty-one years after the fact.  And if he is no longer alive, he is doing it posthumously.  That’s how unbelievable it was.)

Reason Number Three:  Though our warrior-brothers were overcome in the battle, the wound of their defeat is sharp but is not deep.  (Please excuse the uncharacteristic mode of expression, but I recently watched Hiawatha on TV.  Easily influenced, I echo the most recent patios I am exposed to.)

This is not Hector and Achilles, Hector’s lifeless body dragged from the field of battle for burial.  (A possibly fictionalized occurrence, but imagine, for the purposes of this narrative, it’s not.)  In a sporting event, no matter how final – and agonizing – the result, there is always the hopeful and regenerating,

“Wait till next year.”

Meaning, “Big Picture”…

It matters. 

But also, it doesn’t. 

And now, the addition to the three reasons I enjoy watching sports, 

Reason Number Four:  At the end of the game,

The superior entity

Inevitably prevails.

A welcome relief from everyday life, wherein on a preponderance of occasions…

It doesn’t. 


(With such a plethora to choose from, you will require no additional assistance from me.)

It is true that, sometimes, unexpectedly, the underdog pulls out a “miraculous” upset.  But upon further consideration – barring a blown call (now generally ameliorated by “Replay”) or an unlucky bounce – it may be discovered that an element concerning the proverbial “Intangibles” – inordinate confidence, team cohesion, inherent grit – was excluded from the predictorial evaluation.  With those omitted considerations added to the mix, those “underdogs” can now be proven to have actually been “The better team.”  I mean, hey, they won, didn’t they?

In summary, explaining why sports is so enjoyable to watch:

I love it when it’s good.  (And even more so when it’s great.)

I love that it’s unpredictable. 

I love that the final result simultaneously matters and it doesn’t.

And, perhaps most satisfyingly of all,

I love the comforting rightness of the outcome.

The reassurance that at least in one area in human endeavor,

The correct answer carries the day. 

(Read:  Things turn out as they’re supposed to.  Implication:  The “Good
Guys” actually win.)

Imagine if that occurred in our cultural institutions. 

There might be no need to watch sporting activities at all.

Although there will always be that spectacular comeback or that magnificent catch at the wall. 

So I’d probably still watch.

I just would not need to quite as much.