Friday, November 18, 2016


The night before the recent election, I tried to soothe my worrying stepdaughter Rachel, telling her, with as much authority as a reassurance with the word “probably” in it can muster,

“It’ll probably be okay.”

Well… it wasn’t.

And there I am – not alone, though that is hardly a comfort – looking like an idiot for getting it wrong.  Up to the last moment, I had received my reassurances from knowledgeable people in the media who imaginably received their reassurances from knowledgeable people up the chain of “Infallible Experts.”  

My information was woefully mistaken.  Which gives me a problem, beyond the difficult “Problem of Trust” for misleading my stepdaughter.

Tell me.  Where in the future do I turn for my reliable information?  I am guilty – inadvertently guilty but still guilty nonetheless – of being an undependable conduit.  I pass along the touted “Conventional Wisdom of the Day” and it turns out to be…   

Okay, that’s enough!  I want to return to my regular programming.  I just need to flip the switch.  It will take maximum effort.  There is the possibility I’ll fall back.

All right.  Here we go.


“Watch him teeter, Ladies and Gentlemen!  It’s going to be ‘touch and go.’  You want strength?  You went certainty?  You want unfaltering determination?  What the heck are you doing here?”

Okay.  Let’s give it a try.

“Closed Captioning”

Someone taught us how to access “Closed Captioning” on our televisions, which we’ve left functioning ever since.  Why do we do that?  Because we know that if we turn off “Closed Captioning” and leave it off long enough, we will inevitably forget how to turn it back on.

It is simply the way it is.  I change the time on my CD-clock-radio twice a year, during the semi-annual “Spring Forward” and “Fall Back.”  That’s too lengthy a span to keep in mind how to do it.  Meaning that, every six months, I have to dig up the Bose “Instruction Manual” – an unenviable task in itself – and re-program less the CD-clock-radio than re-program myself.
Why do we need “Closed Captioning”?  Not primarily for why you might think we need it. 

It’s for the numerous English murder mysteries we watch (e.g., currently, Shetland and Vera) whose designated locales are areas of the British Isles (respectively, the Shetland Islands and Northumberland) whose regional dialects are so thickly impenetrable we need “Closed Captioning” to understand what they’re saying.  (I have mentioned this before, but fear not.  Original material is on the way.)

Unschooled North American ears hear,

“De blech m’hee hemel femenal und oos weth oor jeets oop oor petroonis.”

(You see?  I never said that before.)

We avail ourselves of “Closed Captioning” for North American deciphering.  And it stays activated forever, even when we don’t need it. “Closed Captioning” is on all the time, on all of the channels.

Of course, “Closed Captioning” is not primarily for viewers who don’t understand what they’re saying on remotely set English murder mysteries.  It is an essential service for the “Hearing Impaired.”  Which is great.  Not all the “Hearing Impaired” can successfully read lips.  Even if they could, I defy them to crack the above-quoted regional “gibberish.”

The thing is, “Closed Captioning” is not restricted to merely the dialogue.  For reasons of their own – they’d say, “Why should the ‘Hearing Impaired’ be denied  ‘ambient sound’”? –  “Closed Captioning” also includes – in parenthesis – the non-verbal “peripherals” accompanying the narrative.

Random Examples:

By far the most frequent descriptive…


As if the “Hearing Impaired” cannot identify a sigh when they see one.

(door closes)

Thanks for the “update”.

(phone rings)

I wondered why she picked up the receiver.

(blows his nose)

A-yup.  There’s the hanky.

(dog barking)

Totally extraneous to the storyline.  The “dog barking” was inserted in “Post Production” to make the “Neighborhood Exterior” appear “lived in.”


Clarifying the perplexing mystery of the tears.

(gavel bangs)

A regular addendum to Law & Order episodes.  Although I have not experienced a (“chung-chung.”)


Witnessed on my way to more wholesome entertainment.

And from my extended periods watching The Westerns Channel

(the saddle creaks)

Is that really significant?

(horses nickering)

I appreciate the word “nickering” but “So what?”

And my all-time favorite in this litany:

(speaking Kiowa)

Which only Kiowas themselves would be able to authenticate.

Returning momentarily to Law & Order – another irritation, relative to timing…

Just last night, the words, “We find the defendant ‘Not Guilty’” appeared on my TV screen

… before they were announced by the foreman.

Thus reducing the accumulating suspense.  (Not all the suspense, but the duration of time between “What say ye?” and the foreman’s formal announcement critically modulates the excitement.  The “Hearing Impaired” as well would have enjoyed receiving the decision at the appropriate interval.  The “jumped the gun” subtitles seriously deflated the climactic balloon.)

Okay.  “Closed Captioning.” 

Hardly an earthshaking concern. 

But when you are attempting a comeback…

You have to start somewhere.

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