Friday, November 28, 2014

"What I Think About The Cosby Situation"

This is a follow-up to the “What I Know About The Cosby Situation” post I wrote the day before yesterday.  You might want to check it out.  It’s a pretty quick read.  I’ll wait till you come back.  Believe me, it will not take long.


Are you back?  Good.

When the most recent flurry of Cosby sexual misconduct allegations bubbled up, I gave little to no thought about writing about it.  And I’m a guy who is constantly scrounging for blog post ideas!  Still, I decided, Just Thinking would not be weighing in on this monumental occurrence.

Then, I got a call from Access Hollywood.

A lovely woman, simply doing her job, which I imagine was going down a list of potential “Illuminators of the Situation”, and/or “Whistle Blowers”, and/or “Sneaky Little Snitches”, and calling them up, one at a time.

“Are you Earl Pomerantz?”

“Yes, I am.

“This is (an immediately forgotten name) from Access Hollywood.  I was wondering if you would you like to come on the show and talk about…?”

“No, thank you.”

“Do you any information concerning…?”

“No, I do not.”

“Well, would you like to say something positive about…?”

“Sorry, I have nothing to add to the conversation.  Thank you, and have a nice day.”

And that was that. 


“Dad, you could have gone on the show and told people about your blog.  You could have said ‘I will be writing about what I know about the Cosby situation at tomorrow’, and you would have had millions of readers.  Then, you could have written ‘What I Know About The Cosby Situation’, and underneath, left a totally blank space.”  I took only a portion of her advice – the last portion.  The rest of her advice made me a little disturbed concerning her deviousness, or, as Americans call it, opportunism.

Anyway, besides Access Hollywood, I was also bombarded by inquiries concerning the Cosby situation from family, friends and tangential acquaintances, all of whom knew that I had once worked on The Cosby Show.  It is then, that I decided to officially add my two cents’ worth.  Though they may possibly be worth less.

My entire understanding of sex crimes emanates from years of watching Law & Order: SVU, which I have determined to watch less but have not entirely succeeded, though I adamantly refuse to watch episodes featuring children.  “Yuk!” on two levels – the “manipulative story” level and the “exploiting child actors” level.  And “Yuk!” on me for ever considering it “entertainment”! 

Here’s what SVU taught me about sex crimes.  Sex crimes are the only crime in which the victim has to prove that they took place.  (Why?  Because there are generally no witnesses.  As I facetiously remarked to a curious inquisitor:   “Here’s what never happened.  {AS BILL COSBY}:  ‘Hey, Earl.  I am going to drug this woman and have sex with her.  Would you like to watch?’”)

Meaning, how exactly could I know?

As behooves its status as a television drama – and an extremely long-running one at that, so as it got older, they had run through pretty much all of the permutations – SVU episodes concerning sexual misconduct (which are the only stories they did because…they’re SVU) are, ideologically and story-wise, all over the map:

They did it.  They were accused of doing it but the accuser was lying.  They appeared to have done it but they were set up by a vindictive “Third Party.”  They admitted to doing it but they were covering up for a loved one who actually did it.  They did it but (it was argued) an addiction to pornography made them do it.  And hundreds of other permutations, too numerous to mention, or remember. 

Oh, yeah, one of my favorites.  The person did it, but the evidence did not match until it is discovered that the “exonerated” female suspect used to be a guy.  That one was a “stretch” but you know, it was the Fifteenth Season.

Random considerations – on both sides of the issue – which you can sift through and evaluate as you see fit:

“Sexual predator.”  An at least questionable lack of good judgment.  Celebrity “entitlement.”  Groupies and thrill-seekers.  “Where’s there’s smoke there’s fire.”  And last but not least, a line immortalized by Reagan Administration Secretary of Labor Raymond J. Donovan, accused of a crime and later exonerated:

“Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?”

There are two reasons I rebuffed Access Hollywood.  One, I had, as previously mentioned, nothing to add to the conversation.  And two, perhaps equally importantly, I am generically hostile to gossip, and programs that enrich themselves disseminating it.

As usual in cases of the seamier uses of the Free Speech protection, I blame the audience for making gossip shows so popular and profitable.  I suspect those viewers can intuit my disapproval.  Which is at least one reason I am not more popular and profitable myself. 

A lot of people enjoy gossip.  And they have little patience for the “judgmentalists” who don’t.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

"Thanksgiving Mystery"

I love Thanksgiving.  No gift-buying obligations, and, except for occasionally emptying the dish drain, I do not have to do anything.  I just watch football and eat till I bust.  A voluble host, till the tryptophan kicks in.

Growing up in Canada, I never experienced Thanksgiving.  Which, retrospectively seems mysterious.  Canada actually celebrates Thanksgiving.  I just didn’t know about it.

As a kid, I never wondered about the absence of Thanksgiving.  It made sense not to have that holiday.  My “home and native land” has no tradition of pilgrims, nor of Indians teaching us to grow corn.  What traditions do we have?

I am sitting here, and I’m at a total loss. 

Canadian traditions.  Hm.


And pushing the car in front of you out of a snowdrift. 

Canada has a different history than America, missing the exciting, but also the terrible.  Canada didn’t have slavery.  Not because we were morally superior.  We just didn’t have cotton.

Anyway, I lived my early life, oblivious to the institution of Canadian Thanksgiving.  Then, by sheer happenstance, I was visiting (Canadian) Martin Short’s house – for a reading of a script I had written that he had invited Catherine O’Hara to participate in.   Passing through the kitchen, being olfactorily bombarded by magnificent cooking smells, I inquired, “Is there a special occasion?”  To which I was told:

“Canadian Thanksgiving.”

I was considerably taken aback.  The two words together sounded incomprehensible to me – like Nigerian ice-hockey.  I was at that point in my life –   my early to mid forties – and up till then, I had no idea that Canadian Thanksgiving even existed.

But it does, falling annually on the second Monday of October, the day Americans celebrate Columbus Day.  (Unless Canadians celebrate Columbus Day too, and I did not know about that either.)

I started to think.  Why did these ex-patriot Canadians know about Canadian Thanksgiving and I didn’t?  What was the difference – besides our comparative talent levels – between Martin Short and myself?

Well, there is always the “Old Reliable.”

Jewish and not Jewish.  (Me, if there is any confusion – and I cannot imagine that possibility – being the former.)

Could that actually be the answer?  I mean, I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood, attended, till I was thirteen, the Toronto Hebrew Day School, and spent summers at a predominantly Jewish camp.  I lived in a proverbial “Jew Bubble.”

And within that bubble, I had heard no mention whatsoever of Canadian Thanksgiving.

Could it be possible that the Christians celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving and just never told us about it? 

“Close the curtains, Martha.  We’re keeping it from the Jews.”

That is way too conspiratorial.  And yet, I have no justifiable explanation as to why Martin Short knew about and away from his homeland continued to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, while I was entirely in the dark. 


I got it now.  And I love it.  Possibly even more so because, accidentally or otherwise, I was deprived of celebrating Thanksgiving growing up.  

There are countries in the world that don’t have Thanksgiving.  There are (or there is at least one) that does, but not everybody knows about it.  We have it here.  And everybody knows about it.  So if you are rooting around for something to be thankful about…

There’s that.

Happy Thanksgiving. 

A holiday for everyone.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"I Wanted To Be A Commentator"

A few years ago, a female friend put me in contact with an old friend of hers, an Executive Producer of the powerhouse NPR series All Things Considered.  (I had had the occasion of seeing the two of them together, and I sensed that he had once had a crush on her.  Which, I believe, rather than my identifiable natural abilities, is the reason the following opportunity eventualized.)

I was invited to submit a two-to-three-minute commentary, which, if deemed acceptable, would be broadcast – with me reading it – on All Things Considered.  There was “honorarial” money involved, but remuneration was not the issue.  What I was in intense need of at the time – I considered saying “in desperate need of” but it sounded too desperately needy – was a revitalized career.  

Television had recently indicated a unilateral disinterest in my future services.  My “Development Deal” contract at Paramount was not picked up.  (And those were my friends.  So there was a little hope of a rescue from strangers.) 

The “spec” pilot scripts I subsequently wrote, one of which may have been my most fully realized half-hour comedy script ever, were rejected by the networks, my longtime agent retired, and so, after thirty years of regular employment, I found myself suddenly on the outside, grumpily looking in.

Professional athletes talk about “dying twice” – the real time, and before that, when the only thing they ever wanted to do, they are not permitted to do anymore.  I know that’s dramatic.  But it’s right.  And not just for athletes.

Anyway, before lacrimosity shorts out my computer screen…

I now have this chance to return to the Public (Radio) eye  (or, in this case, its ear.) 
Which in reality is all I am looking for – a platform for my efforts, and for somebody to tell me I’m good.  (Like they once previously did in television, and before that – long before that – in school.)

I will read self-written commentaries on a nationally broadcast radio program.  And who knows where that will lead?  Even if it leads nowhere, I am still reading self-written commentaries on a nationally broadcast radio program.  And, if it turned out being on a regular basis, I am “back in the business” and happy as a clam. 

It didn’t happen.

Actually, it happened for a while – six commentaries worth, to be exact – but then it ended.  My Executive Producer contact, who appreciated my work (either that, or he was trying to please the woman he’d had a crush on decades earlier), delegated the commentary-picking process to a woman who was definitely not a fan. 

After overruling her on a couple of occasions, my patron relinquished final authority, explaining that he had to allow the woman to do her job, or something equally as ridiculous. 

Imagine, a boss delegating an assignment to an underling, and then actually letting them do it.  I do not understand it!  I mean, have we entirely lost the concept of “pulling rank” in this country?  Override this foolish woman, and be done with it!

The fact is, I was a capable or better commentary writer, but a less than acceptable reader of them.  Why?  Primarily because while I am reading what I have written, I am constantly rewriting in my head, inevitably discovering better ways of saying what I have written, thus triggering a collision of words in my brain, derailing concentration, leading to a detectably uncertain rhythm in my reading.  Plus, my peripheral vision isn’t that great.  Reading off a paper, I am unable to anticipate what’s next.

I even wrote a commentary about that.  Though I expressed my concerns differently.  Rather than taking personal responsibility, I instead attacked the commentary-reading process itself. 

And not, I believe, without justification.  Because that process is a sham.

Think about this.

A man wants to express his innermost feelings of affection and admiration for his beloved, which he pours out in the form of a proposal of marriage.   Consider, if you will, the impact this sincere outpouring of emotion would have on his beloved if the man drops down on bended knee, takes out a piece of paper…

And reads it to her!

My intention was to blow the lid off the entire commentary process, exposing its dishonesty to the chastening light of day.  While simultaneously making the equally important point that reading to them is not the most effective method of communicating with an audience.

I was thinking of the long-ago, variety radio host Arthur Godfrey, and the loquacious sports commentator Howard Cossell, and perhaps Garrison Keillor, though I am uncertain if he writes out his “Lake Wobegon” narratives in their entirety or not.  The other two famously spontaneously “winged it.”  And, in my view, made more successful contact with their audience by so doing.

So I constructed this radio commentary, which, in part, said:

“I will be totally honest with you.  I may sound like I am talking to you right now, but I’m not.  I am reading to you.  For example, when I said, ‘I am reading to you’? – I read that.  And when I said, ‘I read that’? – I read that too.  And ‘I read that too’? – I also read that.  In fact, I am reading everything you are currently listening to.  Including ‘I am reading everything you are currently listening to.’  As well as what I just said.  And also that.  Yes, and ‘and also that’ as well.  And also that.” 

Because I needed a humorous payoff for my commentary, I explained that I was going to to abandon my prepared script and speak entirely “off the cuff.”  I then found myself at a complete loss of words, my panic propelling me immediately back to the script. 

Ultimately invalidating my original point.  (Which, abandoned for comedic effect, I continue to believe in, although I may, in fact, be unable to pull off an “in the moment” commentary myself.)

My commentary on commentaries was never broadcast.

Not only did the selector who didn’t like any of my submissions hate it, the Executive Producer shot it down as well, branding the material, “smart-ass.”  (Was it?  Or was it instead “dangerously subversive”?)

And so I do not do commentaries anymore.  Except for here.  Where I can say freely that the possibility of “connecting” is substantially enhanced by talking directly to people rather than by writing things down.

Which, of course, I cannot do here, because when I said “rather than by writing things down”? – I actually wrote that down.  And when I say, “I actually wrote that down”? – I wrote that down too.  And when I say “I wrote that down too”…


(Which I also wrote down.)
Tomorrow:  What I Know About the Cosby Situation

Monday, November 24, 2014

"Coming Home"

You return home after an exciting travel adventure, feeling jazzed up from the recent experience. 

Writing (a surprising) ten posts about it, ignites you with recollective enthusiasm.  The party’s not over if you’re still talking about it.

There’s a “high” and you write about it, and the “high” continues (which is partly why you write about it.)  It’s like keeping a balloon in the air, because as long as it’s up there, the excitement is protracted, in this case by the warming memory, and simply “telling the story.” 

But then, eventually and inevitably, to overdramatize it but only to a moderate degree…

You crash.

Suddenly, you’re home.  And it’s like…

“What happened?” 

You are not “There” anymore.  You’re “here.”  And “here”, by comparison, is banally and painfully…


The Result:  A debilitating letdown.

WARNING:  I will shortly disorient you with a surprise revelation – you’ll like it, I promise.  But first, two side trips.


When I taught school in London at St. John’s Church of England Infants and Juniors School (in working class Kilburn) – which I believe I have talked about, but having forgotten, I may well talk about again – the school’s headmaster, Mr. Kinsman, having taken a shine to me, developed the habit of driving me home at the end of the day. 

I am not aware of his driving any of the other teachers home, and I never asked him why he had singled me out for these personal chauffeuring services; I was just grateful I didn’t have to take the bus, which I would frequently ride in the wrong direction, forgetting which side of the street I was supposed to stand on to pick the bus going in the appropriate direction up.  It’s England; it took a while.

Anyway, Mr. Kinsman confided to me that he had made a deliberate point of never taking a vacation because of how difficult and demoralizing it was when you come home.

This is not as outlandish and is sounds.  Vacations can be like a temporary furlough from prison.  You are out and about for a short time, and then…


It doesn’t have to be prison.  It could be a “Clank! of Luxury.”  A “Clank!” of family and friends.  A “Clank!” of familiarity, comfort and stimulation.   It does not matter. 

It is still “Clank!

Because it’s not “that.”  It’s “this.”  On a regular, daily basis.  Seemingly forever.

Now, the surprise revela…

“Wait!  You forgot the second side trip!”

Oh yeah.  Okay.

“Whaa!  Whaa!  Whaa!”

“A man goes on a “Rich Guy’s” vacation, seeing breathtaking sights, traveling by yacht, paddling in the Aegean, and munching on ice-cream bars peddled off a boat, (OOZING WITH SARCASM) and he’s complaining about a “debilitating letdown” when he gets home.

Well “Whaa!  Whaa!  Whaa!”

I’m sorry.  I’m a lucky guy; I have nothing to complains about.  

(NEW READER:  “Do all of this guy’s posts come with shame-generated apologies?”

REGULAR READER:  “A surprising number of them do, yes.  And then he cuts the emotional treacle with a fabricated conversation.”

NEW READER:  “I like it.”)   

Okay, moving on.

Identifying with the position of my headmaster/slash/personal driver Mr. Kinsman, my initial reaction upon returning from Turkey is “That’s it!  I am never traveling anywhere again!”  A weekend to Arizona, perhaps, to catch some “Spring Training.” But no more long trips that cast my everyday routine into contrasting mediocrity.  It is too hard to come home. 

“Why don’t you make ‘home’ better?”

I hear ya.  But it is still going to be “home.”

By the way, I was discussing this phenomenon with a man who, along with his partner, returns from one trip and almost immediately starts planning another one.  That’s his answer to the dilemma – continuous shots of “Travel Adrenaline.”  (By the way, if you’re old and you travel a lot?  It won’t help you.  If He wants you, God still knows where you are.)

The aforementioned man’s strategy would not work for me.  And I shall now confound you and contradict myself by telling you why.

I love my daily routine. 

It’s reliable.  It’s consistent.  It is safe.  It is rewarding.  And it’s fun.

“I’m sorry…what?

I know.  I came home to something I love. 

“Yet you are still experiencing a ‘debilitating letdown.’” 

Yeah, go figure.  I can’t.  The adjustment, now in its third week, has been difficult in… well, I can’t say I miss those Turkish toilets) but in every other regard.

Including blog writing. 

So I decided to write about that.

Rather than, for example, about the recent arrival “Awards Season” movies.

Though I will offer one line.  Chalk the snarkiness up to my persistent “Trip Lag.”  The line goes like this:

“It must be ‘Awards Season.’  Hilary Swank is in a wheelchair.” 

Hope to be “up to speed” shortly.

Bear with me until I am.