Wednesday, August 31, 2016

"Lunchtime Entertainment"

During “Lunch Breaks”, before I return to my blog writing, if I have not yet competed the current day’s post, I habitually simultaneously eat lunch and watch television, careful not to drop any accompanying debris on the bed I am reclining on, as Dr. M is the proverbial “Princess and the Crumb.”  (In the name of “domestic harmony”, I have been known to sweep away crumbs I am personally unable to detect.  Both visually and posterially.) 

A station I regularly turn to for mindless, midday distraction is The Westerns Channel, which, as the branding suggests, shows exclusively cowboy pictures – feature films – the acknowledged classics as well as cheapo, grind-‘em-out “quickies” which I generally prefer – along with never-seen-since-their-original-airing TV series, such as Wanted, Dead or Alive, starring Steve McQueen.  During his trademark extended silences, you can almost hear him thinking, “I’m just marking time here till they discover I’m a movie star.”

Recently, I caught the tail end of Taza, Son of Cochise (1954), starring Rock Hudson.  Some might object to this casting, but I vociferously disagree.  Why shouldn’t a closeted gay man play a Native American?

In this movie – possibly less than historically accurate but what movie isn’t? – Taza, Son of Cochise (in real life he was probably simply called Taza) is a sympathetic character, the scion of a great chief, trying to keep peace between “The White Man” and the Apache. 

Until the end of the movie when everyone feels bad for being totally wrong about him, nobody trusts Taza, the Chiricahuas he’s affiliated with believing he is a duplicitous traitor siding with the enemy, the military he works for believing he is a duplicitous traitor siding with the enemy. 

The other enemy.

That’s the thanks you get for being a peacemaker.  (The Indian Maiden liked him, but she didn’t know he was gay.)

There were a lot of Indian pictures in the fifties.  The movies desperately needed them.  The Nazis and Japanese had been defeated.  The Commies were around, but their actions were generally covert, rather than conventionally combative.  Middle Eastern terrorism was confined to the Middle East.  Who exactly was there to battle? 

Movies, specifically “action pictures”, require a “Hated Adversary”.  You can’t massacre your neighbors – that’s disgusting.  The temporary lull in international barbarism was leaving a gaping hole in the “Us”-Versus-“Them” narrative scenario.

Without a “Them”, who exactly were we supposed to kill?

Enter the Indians – who, at least cinematically, had never substantially exited – barbarous obstacles to western expansionism.  As we – the cowering moviegoers if not the actual settlers themselves – came to understand…

“When the drums stop… ‘BOOM-boom-boom-boom, BOOM-boom-boom-boom, BOOM-boom-boom-boom’… they attack.”

I had nightmares about those “BOOM-boom-boom-booms.”  Although, realistically, 1950’s Toronto appeared safe from imminent Indian attack.  Of course, when you mistakenly lower your guard…

The most terrifying “Indian Picture” I ever saw – I do not know the name of it because there were so many of them at the time and besides when you’re a kid who cares? – I would describe thusly: 

Ninety minutes of thrill-packed anxiety.

Here’s the situation.

It’s the dead of night.  Surrounded by Indians with no outside assistance in sight, the townspeople are huddled together in some building, the drums beating rhythmically in the distance.  And then, yes:  When those drums stopped… they attacked.

What was truly terrifying was the way the way they attacked.  High on the walls were these arched windows.  Suddenly, out of the terrifying silence (because the drums had stopped beating), a war-painted Indian appears in the window, and with a primal, piercing shriek, he comes hurtling down, menacing the panicked townspeople below.  Although truthfully, how much “menacing” can you actually do when you leap into a building filled with people alone?   

But that wasn’t the point.   The primal shrieking, the war paint, the chilling ferocity… you could have a heart attack waiting for the next Indian to show up!  Not just the townspeople – the audience!  If I thought about it, which I most likely didn’t, I never thought the Indians were bad.  They were scaring the pants off me!

Why did audiences accept these one-sided representations?  We did not know any better.  Historians knew, but who listens to historians?  And even historians, their publishers knowing that there are way more descendants-of-settlers book purchasers than descendants-of-Indian book purchasers…

You know what?  I’m going to stop this right here.

I’ll be honest with you.  This post was supposed to go in an entirely different direction.  I had this serious intention in mind, offering “The Winning of the West” situation as an example of  “True Believers” on both sides demonizing the opposition, distorting facts and omitting salient evidence, to the ultimate detriment of their respective positions.  I would proceed then to advocate an assiduous even-handedness, not for the sake of some “politically correct” idea of “balance” but as the most honest method of reaching an accurate assessment of the truth. 

I would then “open up” my argument, offering paralleling examples in equally contentious areas of dispute, arguing that we “turn down the heat” in the service of “turning up the light.”       

I think I’ll leave that for another time.

When I feel braver. 

And it is not such a nice, summery day.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"Welcome to 'Short'"

Where do I start with this? 

I guess it is here.

Not all Jews are short.  Of course, not all Scandinavians are blond.  It just seems that way.  It’s the same thing with Jews and “short”.  My friend Morrie is tall.  That is my entire personal list.

Looking back, the foregoing concern is never entirely absent from my mind.  In my Sociology class in college, I imagined a sociological experiment, a comparative study examining the relationship between crime and height.  (I discovered a direct correlation.  Although, coming clean, I may have unconsciously skewed the statistics.)   

Jumping chronologically ahead, during my toast at Anna and Colby’s wedding, I suggested, since Anna’s new husband was six-foot-four that “Colby is a welcome addition to the ‘Pomerantz Gene Pool’.”  Gratuitously adding, after skillfully timing the subsequent laugh, “Six foot-four is a Pomerantz standing on a chair.”

What can I tell you?  The truth is funny. 

Though we are admittedly not a tall family, I myself never felt particularly challenged.  That’s because, at five-foot-seven, I am taller than my older brother, which is the only relative comparison that matters.  (With humble apologies for the “relative.”)
Here’s the thing.

American culture values height.  Of course, it makes a huge deal about skin color so what do you expect? 

In a study concerning the heights of presidential candidates, cultural scientists – who appear to have an inordinate amount if time on their hands – observed that since 1900, the taller candidate has captured the American presidency nineteen times, while the shorter candidate has prevailed eight times. 

The only noticeably short winners (on the list I looked up) were presidents elected in our country’s earliest era.  James Madison was five-foot-four.  I have no idea who Madison ran against, but I can’t imagine the guy was shrimpier than that.    

Who knows?  Maybe back then, five-four was a reasonable height.  (What’s interesting is that they bothered measuring the candidates at all.  Somehow, height has always seemed to be important, voters drawn reflexively to the taller competitor. 

If George Washington had been five-three-and-a-half rather than six-two, it might have altered the course of American history.  Word is, George the Third himself was lineally tall.  Although cursory research suggests that nobody ever went up and said, “Excuse me, Your Majesty, do you mind if we measure your height?”  That appears more an American concern.  Plus, it is terrible manners to approach a Divinely ordained monarch with a tape measure.)

Anyway…. I’m stalling.  I could have easily removed the previous paragraph were I not trying to delay the inevitable.  And this disclaimer is hardly indispensible itself.


Okay.  I’m ready.

While acutely aware of the vertical continuum, I have been relatively content being five-foot-seven, probably due to my winning the “Head-To-Head Brotherly Height Sweepstakes.”   Though no one has ever unironically called me “Big Guy”, the “Familial Advantage” set me off on a confident trajectory.   

Then, not long ago, visiting my cardiologist for my annual checkup, the office nurse measured my height…

You likely now know where this is going.  But in the name of getting there no sooner than necessary, one last strategic digression.

Why the fu… sorry, I have intense feelings about this…

Why the heck do cardiologists need to know how tall you are? 

ANXIOUS CARDIOLOGIST:  “I can’t reach his heart!

Anyway, for some unfathomable reason, they dutifully calibrated my height.  And for the first time since puberty…

I am no longer five-foot-seven. 

No, Wise Guy, I am not taller.  I have dropped down, to the top echelon of that measurement but still

The high five-foot-sixes!

(My salvaging consolation being that my older brother is shrinking commensurately, so I continue to be “the taller one.”)

It was a traumatic revelation.  All my life, I have been hovering within “shouting distance” of the “National Average.”  Now suddenly, I am shriveling into the abyss.

And that is all I have to say about it. 

This post may be somewhat shorter than it usually is.  But now, apparently…

So am I.

Monday, August 29, 2016

"Love, Love, Love"

“We love you!”

A welcome sentiment, to be sure.  More gratefully, by far, received than…

“You’re roobish!”


“We love you!”

Shouted from a crowd to a performer – or performers – onstage, though more likely to a single entertainer, as loving a group can prove pinpointingly problematic.

AUDIENCE MEMBER TO THE ONSTAGE BEATLES:  “We love you!… Though we are less enthusiastic about Ringo!”

Then there’s the problem of speaking unsolicitedly for the entire audience. 

We love you!” 

I mean, sure, the people are there, demonstrating some modicum of interest.  But their mere presence could reflect anything, including, “I couldn’t get tickets for the ‘Stones’” and “My date wanted to come and I was hoping to get lucky afterwards.”  Hearing shouts of “We love you!” one can imagine other audience members thinking, if not outwardly mumbling,

“Well I wouldn’t go that far.”

I don’t know about you, but I cannot see myself professing public affection for an entertainer.  Not that it’s scary or difficult.  An anonymous “We love you!’ from a darkened auditorium, and it’s over.  The risk is minimal.  Little chance you’ll called up on stage and told, “Prove it!”

All right.  So what brings all this up?  (Some people care about that.)

A review of a Barbra Streisand concert at L.A.’s Staples Center.  Barbra, who’s been performing for six decades, is releasing a new album.  Ipso facto – a series of accompanying promotional concerts.

Here’s what happened at the reviewed event.

Barbra delivers one of her trademark numbers – “Don’t Rain On My Parade”, or something she recorded with Neil Diamond – the audience goes predictably crazy and someone from the audience shouts out, “We love you!”

To which the verbally nimble Ms. Streisand, when she could have simply said “Thank you” responds…


Which struck me as… hmph.  (Not a pejorative “hmph”, but a skeptical “hmph.”)

I read this and I’m immediately thinking, “What exactly should be taken from the response, ‘Still?’”

What initially comes to mind is,

“That’s a long time to love me.”  (The assumption being that the love was of six decades’ duration, although it is possible it was a spontaneous reaction to the previous song.)

My subsequent reaction to “Still?”

“I understand loving me when I was young and vibrant, but you actually love this?”
(Implication:  I have plenty of days when I don’t love ‘this’.”)

And my final thought about “Still?”:

“I understand your loving me originally – I’m Barbra Streisand! – but still?’” 
Moving on… considering performers also include politicians….

“We love you!”


Okay, that’s sweet.  (Nixon never said that.)  The thing is, if he really loved us, how come the president never says, “I love you” to us first.  It’s always a reaction.  Leaving some of us – the highly emotional contingent – warily suspicious of his sincerity.

When stepdaughter Rachel was young and going to a party, I’d say, “You look beautiful.”  To which she would inevitably reply,

“You have to say that.”

That’s how it feels when the president’s “I love you” comes second.  What exactly at that point are his options?

One additional comment in this context…

You call out “We love you!” to a president because shouting “I love you!” could find you surrounded immediately by Secret Service agents.  (Their perhaps over-zealous rationale:  “I love you.  Michelle has you.  But a certain action on my part will have us bonded forever in the history books.” 

It’s not a smart move.  One “I love you!” and you’re in a room in the back, facing hostile questions and psychological profiling.  Safer, by far, in this situation:  We love you!”

My last and favorite public “We love you!”, one I actually witnessed in person…

James Taylor performing at the Universal Amphitheater – wrapping up “Fire and Rain” or maybe “Sweet Baby James”, and someone from the audience calls out,

“We love you!”

The onstage Taylor, seemingly familiar with this reaction, shoots back,

“That’s because you don’t know me.”

Not really what you expected.  But eminently quotable down the line.

The adoration of the multitudes.  Something you dream about in your bedroom.  (Did I just give too much away?)  My imagined reaction, if “I love you!” happened to me:

Instantaneous blushing.

Hardly historic.

But it’s better than “Still?”