Wednesday, October 31, 2018

"The Gospel According To Jimmy Cricket"

With unmitigated surprise, I suddenly realized I’d been practicing a song on the piano that quintessentially expressed how I gained entry into show business, though there was no available proof that I could.

How about that, huh?  Snatching a moment from his busy life for an expression of genuine wonder and amazement?


Okay, that’s enough.

People have frequently considered – often in front of my face – how I, a hopeless lump of helpless humanity, had, against all reasonable predictions, landed in a world of driven and determined competitors.  Once, years after I had established myself as a recognized comedy-writer, a Canadian television executive proclaimed – walking across a crowded room to proclaim it, 

“I can’t tell you how surprised we all are by your success.”

After placing a silent curse on his head, my second reaction was an acknowledging,

“You and me, both.”

Exiting law school after only six weeks, I appeared to all – including myself – to be perilously adrift, with no discernible idea of where I was headed.

(Though no expert in equine terminology, “headed” sounds to me like a “riding” allusion.  You point your mount’s head in a certain direction, and that is exactly the direction it “heads.”  Interesting. Though possibly untrue.)

Habitually, myhead pointed decisively – or, more accurately, indecisively – downward.

Someone recently asked me where I originally contracted the show business “bug.”  My immediate reaction was camp, where I wrote and performed, to satisfying success.

But that’s camp, making me a “Rising Star” in Northern Ontario, though it’s no certain predictor of future endeavors.  Ask former campers who were similarly bitten, now drilling people’s teeth and helping fill out their taxes.  There are substantially more of them than there are me, many with, arguably, more formidable show biz abilities.

So yeah, there was camp. But that did not definitively get me from “there” to “here.”

What else could then explain where I wound up?  (And don’t think I don’t ponder this unlikely trajectory.  Of course, I ponder a lot of things. No answers.  Just pondering.)

In my early adulthood, such as it was, I had my selected medley of encouraging “Brave Songs.”  If you’re not particularly religious, and your family’s “Tough Love” admonition is, “Try something easier”, you need something to replace all the negative “Chuffa” – including my own – with unwavering belief.  So I’d sing, to vinyl original cast recordings, uplifting anthems like,

“Stand well back I’m coming through
Nothing can stop me now…”

Songs that nurtured my teetering spirits.  But, of course, it wasn’t enough.  I was performing those songs in my bedroom.  There were no agents, cruising the halls of our bungalow, no neighbors with their windows up going, “My sister-in-law’s nephew’s cousin knows this guy…”  

I was loud.  But I remained unheard.

Wanting to, but doing nothing about it?  How would that possibly do the trick?  I was a paralyzed dreamer, a traveler, with a colorful imagination but no ticket.

And that looked very much like how it would remain.  

And yet… this happened.  (Meaning, I did it.)

And I had no idea how.

Until, last weekend when, while casually walking beside the ocean, after many explanatorial “wrong turns”, the luminous message of a song I’ve been practicing burst into my consciousness, suddenly explaining it all.

And I mean everything.

How does a passive person lacking a plan wind up where he always secretly wanted to be?  Perhaps I was stronger and more fiercely determined than I consciously recognized, I have sometimes conjectured.  (The corroborating evidence here is spotty.)

Or maybe, one night, with ebbing hope and nothing to lose,

I must have apparently done this.

No embarrassing fervent imprecation.  More a nudging, “Come on.  What do you say?”

Then erasing the last ditch request from my consciousness.  Till the remembering song opened my eyes to “Aha!”

The clarifying ditty in question being the following:

(Written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington.)

“When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you

If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star as dreamers do

Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of
Your secret longing

Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dream

And it worked.

I know it sounds crazy, but, word for illuminating word, that is the most plausible reason for what happened to date.

Not giving advice here. But if you should find yourself in a similar predicament,

Why not give it a try?

It worked for me.

It might work for you.

(Written in a particularly good mood.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

"Locked Up At Home"

Two prisoners incarcerated in a local police station’s “Holding Cell.”  Neither looks particularly dangerous or suspicious, though one appears considerably more agitated than the other.

THE MORE AGITATED PRISONER:  “I have never done this before.”

THE LESS AGITATED PRISONER:  “Been held over for arraignment, or peed in an exposed toilet?”

“Both.  I usually use the stall.”

“What if they're taken?”

“Then I wait!  Sorry for the outburst.  I’m a little upset.  It’s just crazy.  One minute, I’m sitting at the movies.  The next minute, it’s ‘Empty your pockets’ and ‘Mug Shots’.”

“What are you in for?”

“Um… I don’t mean to insult you, but are you one of those ‘Jailhouse Snitches’?  No offense.”

“And none taken.”

“It’s just… I don’t know you.  I could accidentally reveal something ‘incriminating’, and there you are, testifying against me in exchange for a lighter sentence for you.”

“Law & Order”?

“I’m addicted.”

“Okay, I’ll go first? I’m in here for ‘Forgery.’  And if it will help you, I did it.  Now you can testify against me in exchange for a lighter sentence for you.”

“I would never do that.”

“It’s all right.  I confessed.”

“Good.  I mean… I don’t know if it’s good.  Maybe the police’ll put in a ‘good word’ for you with the D.A. for cooperating.”

“I’m not sure they actually do that.  Anyway, if you don’t want to talk about it…”

“No, no.  I mean, I don’t think I did anything wrong.  I come out of the Men’s Room at the movie theater. I pass by the ‘Concessions Counter’. The rotating hotdog machine… I don’t know, there was this big spark, and then flames.  When I saw that, I immediately went, “Fire!”

“You did?”


“Was the place crowded?”

“It was packed.  Why?”

“Then you’re the first one I’ve ever met.”

“I don’t understand.”

 “You’re the proverbial ‘Man who shouted ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater’.”

“Because there was a fire. The thing is, a police officer there happened to be buying some Twizzlers and he immediately made an ‘Off-Duty’ arrest.”
“Just your luck, huh?”

“I think he was new. I heard him bragging to the woman beside him, ‘My first “collar”.’  Ithink I’m totally innocent.”

“So do I.  Hey, do you mind if I ask some questions?”

“I guess so.”

“Did you actually shout ‘Fire!’ or did you just say ‘Fire’?”

“I actually shouted ‘Fire!’”

“And you said the theater was crowded, so we can forget thosetechnicalities.  I mean, if you had said “Fire!’ in a crowded theater, or shouted “Fire!” in an uncrowded theater, we’d have a legitimate legal argument.  The only other angle is, does the lobby constitute ‘an actual part of the theater’, or is it merely a ‘contiguous portion of the building’?”, because if you shouted “Fire!’ outside a crowded theater, then maybe…”

“Are you one of those ‘Jailhouse Lawyers’ I’ve heard about?”

“No.  But I do have an ‘Acceptance Letter’ to law school.”


“I forged it myself.  You know, in a way, I feel as unfairly accused as you are.  I mean, think about it.  A person draws the precise likeness of a butterfly and they’re a ‘Botanical Illustrator.’  I brilliantly duplicate the Dean of Law’s signature, and I’m a condemned felon.  Does that seem justified to you?”

“I don’t know...”

“If you were on the jury, would you convict me?”

“I guess I’d have to follow the law.”

“Well then you are totally sunk, my friend.”


“Because you shouted ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater.  If they ‘Follow the law’, you are bound for the rock pile.”

“There were flames flying out of the hot dog machine, which were, like, ‘this close’ to the oil in the popcorn machine.  What was I supposed to do?”

“Look, they’re going to ask you ‘point blank’, ‘Did you shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater?”  If you say ‘No’, it’s ‘Perjury’.  And if you say ‘Yes’, good luck finding a cellmate as congenial as I am.”

“But it’s not right! I mean, I understand their not wanting you to shout ‘Fire!’ when there’s no fire.  But who wouldn’t shout ‘Fire!’ when there is?  It’s an instinctive reaction.  You see a fire, your first response is not, “Uh-oh, I better race into the theater to see if it’s crowded before I shout ‘Fire!’”  You want them to know there’s a fire!”

“Do you want to hear the counter-argument to that?”

“Okay, fine.”

“What they are trying to avoid is ‘unnecessary panic.’  Shouting ‘Fire!’ – whether there’s a fire or no fire – could both possibly create that.  Therefore, the reality of the fire is irrelevant to the seeming intent of statute.”

“Well what was I supposed to do?  Track down the theater manager and say, in a calm, controlled voice, ‘I believe there’s a fire at a “Concession Stand’”, and then casually return to my seat?”

“I’ll take that ‘casually return’ part as sarcasm, which, by the way, I would steer clear of when testifying.  As for the rest of it, that would actually have been better.  You may feel you did nothing wrong but, at least technically, this is a serious transgression.  Shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater is the classic exception to the First Amendment protecting Free Speech.  And they significantly made it the First Amendment…”

“Actually it wasn’tthe First Amendment.  It was originally the Third Amendment, but the proposed first two amendments were not ratified by a sufficient number of states…(OFF CELLMATE’S ACCENTUATED YAWN)  Sorry.  I watch ‘The History Channel’ when there’s a ‘Criminal Minds Marathon’ instead of a “Law & Order Marathon.’  That show is relentlessly bleak.”

“Look, a smart judge will throw this case out because you shouted ‘Fire!’ but you did not falsely shout ‘Fire!’  The word ‘falsely’ was actually in the original decision by Oliver Wendell Holmes.”

“Wow.  You sure know your law.”   

“When you have a forged ‘Letter of Acceptance’, you have to work harder than everyone else.  Until they come in the classroom, and read you your rights.”

“I guess that rookie police officer was just showing off for his date.”

“Or following ‘Conventional Wisdom.’  People generally say, ‘You cannot shout, “Fire!” in a crowded theater’, invariably forgetting the word ‘falsely’, which, if they adhere to the Common Law principle of "General Habit and Usage’, then you are back in the soup.”

“I hate the law!”

“I thought of forging a ‘Letter of Acceptance’ to medical school but my handwriting’s too good.”


POLICE OFFICER:  “You are free to go.”


POLICE OFFICER:  “Not you. Him.”


FIRE SHOUTER:  “Did you really think that was going to work?”

“I never think that works.  But the audience laughs every time.”

Monday, October 29, 2018


I have probably mentioned before how contentiously difficult it seems to be to hold a belief or opinion that the person you are conversing with does not.  The seeming most one-side perspective you’d think everyone would agree on…

“I don’t like licking the sidewalk.”

CLOSETED SIDEWALK LICKER:  “So what are you saying?”

Bearing the pointed, unspoken inference, “… about me?”

That’s the extreme version, saying you can’t even be certain about that, being unable to anticipate the subliminal context.

“My Dadlicked sidewalks.  And he was a wonderful provider!”

And then you’re off to the races.  

“God!  You are so judgmental!

And before you know it, you’re down licking the sidewalk, trying to assure them you’re not.  

Well, Sir and Madam, and everything else along the genderical spectrum,

If you can incur hostile reactions to stuff you’d think everyone would agree with, imagine – as he comes to the point – what one has to put up with, not actively opposing, but just being shruggingly lukewarm to something enjoyed and appreciated by others.

Per exemplo:

Wanting to know more about your ancestors.

This has become “Big Business”, people laying out large sums to unearth unknown specifics about their family background.  I know a lot about three of my grandparents – the fourth one died before I was born, and – put down those rotten tomatoes – for me, that’s pretty much all that I need.

Combine my minimal interest in long-gone progenitors with being a congenital “Scam Detector”, and I’m just – hold the derisive abuse – not really a fan. 

Concerning the second point in that sentence, I am so adept at sniffing out “flim-flam”, I smell conspiracies when they aren’t even there. 

“I got a tax refund.”

MY ACCOUNTANT:  “Put it in the bank.”

“They don’t secretly wantsomething?”

“They are giving you backsomething.”

“Okay.  I just wanted to make sure.”

Acknowledging my innate suspicious proclivities, still – and I may be way off – the burgeoning industry of “Wanna know where you came from?” seem inordinately fishy to me.

My (second-hand) personal experience is that many people of my religious heritage have delved into their backgrounds, only to discover they are descended from the patriarchal Chief Rabbi of Lublin.

Too many, to my way of skeptical thinking.  If this revelation were actually the case, that patriarchal Chief Rabbi spent less time studying the Talmud than being fruitful and multiplying. 

Highly Suspicious Bottom Line:  When there’s inevitably glorious “good news”?

I smell a Genealogical rodent.

Here’s something I have never seen on Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s self-explanatory Finding Your Rootsshow,on those occasions I uncuriously tune in.

And here we go.


“What do you know about your family?”

“I know my paternal Grandfather invented the can opener.  But I guess that’s about it.”

“Are you ready to learn more?”

“Let’s ride!”

“I like your attitude. Now Daniel – so I am no talking about me – we’ve done some extensive research, tracing your ‘Family Tree’ back to the late 19th Century in Russia. And the earliest relatives we uncovered were your Great-Great-Grandfather – we have the Bialistok census records to confirm his original birthplace – Pincus Finkelman, who was a convicted kidnapper, and his wife Shprinzkale, pronounced Shprinz-ka-leh, who was a professional prostitute.”


“Interesting factoid?  He actually kidnapped her.”

“They must have been very much in love.”

“The local newspaper suggests otherwise.  Her parents, Morris and Dvosha Teitelbaum, were unwilling to pay the ransom, so he kept her.”   

“At least he didn’t throw her into the street.”

“Apparently, he did. But like a lucky kopek, Shrprinzkale kept coming back to the house.”

(SOMEWHAT WARILY)  “Anything else you discovered?”

“Lots!  Your Great Grandfather Moishie seems to have stolen an ‘Exit Visa’ from a neighbor, emigrating to this country under a false name.”

“So my last name isn’t real?”

“It’s real.  But it belongs to the neighbor.”

“Great Grandfather Moishie must have been pretty desperate to get out.”

“He sure was.  He had outstanding debts all over Bialistok.  He skipped town one step ahead of the law.”

(CONCEDINGLY)  “Okay.  How about the relatives on my mother’s side?  Any better news there?”

“This one goes way back.  During the 1820’s in frontier America, your maternal Great Great Great Great Uncle… CHECKING THE OFFICIAL RECORDS)… Irving Teplitzsky, a trader in dry goods, lived with the Seminole Indians in Florida.”

That’spretty cool.”

“Recently released documents indicate that during the infamous ‘Trail of Tears’, your maternal ancestor sold the tribe blankets before they left.”

“All right!  A compassionate relative.”

“They were apparently pretty thin blankets.  

“At least he was trying.” 

“And investing his extensive profits on a flourishing Department Store in Orlando.”

(VISIBLY DEFLATED) “Well, who wouldn’t?”

“You know, that’s not your family’s only connection to the ‘Great Moments in American History.’  During the Civil War, a distant relative, Mordechai Gottlieb, was imprisoned at Andersonville.”

“‘Andersonville.  I heard that was terrible!”

“A deeper dip into the archives reveals he sold out some fellow inmates planning an escape for a heavier mattress.”

“Can we move this along, please?”

“Of course.  During the Depression, your Grandmother Sadie opened a free ‘Soup Kitchen’ for indigent families.”


“Which was immediately shut down, due to a sudden outbreak of botulism.”


“That’s quite a legacy you are informing me about here.  Oh well. At least my paternal Grandfather invented the can opener.”

“I was just coming to that. According to an obscure self-published autobiography by Homer Spinney, who worked for your paternal Grandfather as a handyman, while re-hanging a door in the basement, your Great Grandfather locked Homer Spinney in the newly-repaired closet, ran down to the Patent Office, and registered the invention under his own name.”

“Come on!  You’re rescinding ‘The can opener’?”

“Not me.  Recorded history.  Now, would you like to hear some little-known tidbits about your parents?” 

“I think I’m finished.”

“Your call.  Still, it’s been pretty interesting, hasn’t it?” 

“Information I could not possibly have lived without.  Well at least I’m okay.”

“And against serious odds, it would appear.  Though your bloodlines remain questionable.”


Though I (inadvertently negatively) used a Jewish example, this historical “Beat- down” could happen to anyone. You exhume buried “‘Mysteries of History” and you have no idea what’s going to crawl out.

“ANCESTOR” ENTHUSIAST: “Which says exactly what about me if I want to.”

And there I am, back licking the sidewalk.

Friday, October 26, 2018

"Old And New"

They could not be more diametrically opposite.

Or could they?

Of all the original television networks, CBS is accurately recognized for attracting an older demographic.  Years ago, in a memorable “Top Ten” segment parodying television’s upcoming “Premier Week”, the needling slogan David Letterman announced to attract younger viewers to CBS was,

“Your grandparents like us. Why don’t you?”

Letterman – or, more specifically, his team of subversive jokemeisters – had hit the proverbial nail right on the noggin.

That was exactly CBS’sproblem.  Old people liked them.  Young people had no idea where they were on the dial.  (Thereby “outing” myself, using the word “dial.”)

Yes, CBS regularly accumulated the highest overall ratings, but that viewership was invariably older, meaning, though the numbers were larger, they did not attract the advertising revenues that networks with smaller but younger-skewing viewership were annually able to rake in.

That is simply the way it works.

Advertisers pay less for shows favored by older audiences.  Why?  Because they believe that, in terms of “purchasing flexibility”, older viewers continue buying the same products, while the less set-in-their-ways younger audience is flexibly available and therefore conditionable to become set-in-their-ways for a longer period of time.  (Because they will not die quite as soon.)

The challenging question is, “How do you successfully make the transition?”
This is the same conundrum I experienced at the “20 Visits Or More” brainstorming session recently at Rancho La Puerta.  The Ranch’s marketing department insisted the Ranch administrators “Think Younger”, even though nobody younger was showing up.  As a result, rather than accommodating the changing needs of their aging clientele that wascoming, they blithely dismiss those specialized needs, leading the Senior visitors to stop coming, although, to date, the replacement younger crowd has shown no detectable interest in filling the consequent vacancies.

“Let’s focus on the people who aren’t coming, ignoring the needs of the people who are.”

Time will tell how that strategy works out.

Though a person can reasonably hazard a guess.

Okay, back to television.

Imagine you’re a CBS television executive.  (In mandatory “Business Attire.”)  And they send you home with an assignment:

“Think of ideas for shows that will not drive away our older audience but will attract a younger audience at the same time.”

“Ouch!” the beleaguered CBS television executive might respond, “My head hurts.”

“We can’t do old shows, because they suppress our ad revenues.  We can’t do new shows because our audience is old. 

“‘Old and new.’  Isn’t that all that there is?”


Someone decided, in a flash of incendiary insight.

“We’ll make new old shows!”

To which their boss, when they pitched that to them, said,


“We’ll schedule old shows. But we’ll make them brand new.”

“I don’t know what that means.  And on top of that, ‘Why?’”

“To attract younger viewers with the shows’ newness, while retaining older viewers with their oldness.”

How do you define “Desperate”?  (And creatively bankrupt?)

See:  Two paragraphs above.

Although you have got to give these guys credit.  They put “new” and “old” in a blender and they came up with… 


That’s what we have now: 

“Nold Television.”

Which now dominates CBS’s 2018-19 lineup.

Hawaii Five-0.



Magnum P.I.

None of which are labeled “The New(INSERT “NOLD” SHOW TITLE OF YOUR CHOICE HERE.)”

They are promoted as if they were the same show.

Except they’re not the same show.  

Except they are the same show.

Except they’re not the same show.

Which is confusing.  (Not to mention repetitive.)

Especially if you remember the old show.

“What is this?”

“What are you watching?”

“I’m watching Magnum P.I.

“The one with Tom Selleck?”

“The one without Tom Selleck.”

Once, on a series called Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories, I wrote an episode entitled “Fine Tuning”, in which, for a school science project, teenaged boys develop a television antenna that picks up shows from an alien planet, discovering in the process that that alien planet has “lifted” their shows’ formats from television series made here on Earth.  They had I Love Lucy, but the “Ricardos” are robots.

That’s what this feels like – a bizarre replication of familiar television series, now inhabited by strangers.  Its like you come home from school, your parents are there, but they are not the same people.

Time will tell how that strategy works out.

My guess?

The younger audience will dismissively give these modernized reboots a pass.

And the older audience? 

“I don’t know.  It’s the same theme song.  It’s the same car.  It’s the same Hawaii.  Why does it bother me?”

“‘Magnum’ got older?”

“No!  He got younger!”  

Saying, “It’s not the same” (“And what happened to the mustache?”), the departing Seniors eventually turn the show off, leaving CBS with nobody, and try once again to find Netflix.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

"The New Landscape"

Which, if I’m finally noticing it, is probably not really that new. 

I recently attended a Bar Mitzvah that was celebrated on a boat.  The assigned Torah portion the Bar Mitzvah candidate chanted was about Noah, so a Bar Mitzvah on a boat was totally appropriate.  Lucky for him, it wasn’t the biblical portion about Jonah.

“Please move back in the whale.  We have a lot of people to fit in.”

The selection of a boat as a Bar Mitzvah venue related more to wanting to do something original.  The invitation called for “Navy Blue Attire.” Leading me to arrive, sporting a new pair of Navy Blue “Anchor Socks.”  (Socks with embroidered anchors on them.)  Which, I will, hopefully, be able to wear on subsequent Bar Mitzvahs-on-a- boat, “Anchor Socks” being sartorially questionable for less imaginative Bar Mitzvahs, held in synagogues.

Here’s the thing about a party on a boat:  You cannot get off in the middle.  You get on at the announced “Departure Time” and you stayon until they dock.  Uber sees you’re on water, and they’re not showing up.

“Your ride will arrive in seven minutes.  Look for Reynaldo in a brown rowboat.”

That is not happening. (Without the additional “nautical” app.)

Party on a boat, 

and you are there, 

for the duration.  

Which I actually did not mind for the first three or four hours, because it was  arguably the best Bar Mitzvah-on-a-boat I had ever attended. Of course, the comparative sample is statistically miniscule.  (Though a tick or two up from Bar Mitzvah-on-a-submarine.)

You learn a lot of interesting things attending a party on a boat, between checking your watch for “How long till they turn back?”  Not that it wasn’t enjoyable.  The “Bar Mitzvah Boy’s” recitation was soaringly spectacular.  If they have a special “Haftorah” episode on “The Voice”, there is no doubt he would win high praise as “definite ‘Cantor’ material.”  Or ‘Broadway’, if he were equally capable in English, which I am certain he is.  If you can dazzle ‘em “right-to-left”, you can dazzle ‘em, “left-to-right.”

Another gratifying “high point” of the experience was the realization that the actual service would take place, sitting still.  It was only afterthe ceremony that the boat would start moving.  Meaning, if you were rocking back and forth earlier, it was religious fervor, not seasickness.

Here, though, is the big“takeaway” from an evening, rocking on the Marina.

Since the father of the “Bar Mitzvah” is a successful television writer, many of the guests were themselves television writers, friends of the father, and/or workplace compatriots.  Though hailing from an earlier generation, I was invited because I had encouraged the father when he first came to town.  Our personal connection derived from the fact that I had gone to (a Toronto) high school with his father, who, upon this recent reunion, reminded me that we had known each other for sixty years.  

I wanted to throw up. And it had nothing to do with the boat.


I met five writers on that boat, the majority of them younger than me, although one of them, not so much.  And what I realized, conversing with them, was that all of them had jobs, working for Apple TVNetflix or Amazon.

Do you understand what that means?  did.  And you are at least as clever as am, that being an embarrassingly low bar.

Every writer I met on that boat was employed by an entity that did not exist during my long though abruptly terminated career.  Not a one of them worked for traditional television networks.  (Although a talented Amazon Prime show runner assured me that there was the same amount of “network interference” and that the meddling executives, many of them traditional network “transplants”, were still idiots.)

The undeniable fact is, there are more jobs today.  And not low-paying, terrible jobs.  You just have to look at the lavish “Promotional Box” I received for The Romanoffs.  Those people are loaded.

They may not have dreamed of working for less visited “streaming services”, but those dreams are now passé. These people are pioneering the Future. And, more importantly, they’re working. Which, possibly otherwise, they wouldn’t be.

Obvious Follow-Up Question:  “Were you envious?”

Of the negotiated paycheck, the respect of my peers, the creative synergy, the chance to work at the top of your abilities?  Plus a parking space with your name on it?  (Meaning I was actually leaving the house?)  Of the incomparable feeling of being nerve-endingly alive?


But envious of the schedule, the pressure, the executive oversight and the excruciating hours?

No, thanks.  I’m okay right where I am.

Of course, that answer is totally theoretical.

Nobody offered me a job.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

"Good Intentions, 438 Times"

And counting.

I’m a little shaky on this one.  But once it’s out, I can move on.  Though possibly not without consequence.

I had in mind to write this a couple of weeks ago.  Some time, in the mistily distant past, I stopped watching Law & Order SVU “cold turkey.”  You know me and my inflexible discipline.  I eat one sour persimmon, and I cut it dead as a vegetable.  Or, possibly, a fruit.  Whatever it is, you will see no forgiven bags of persimmons, sitting in my shopping cart.  


After years of regular SVU viewing, binging on the stacked-up syndication version where I’d consume episode after consecutive episode after consecutive episode after consecutive episode after consecutive episode after consecutive episode, and then some, (to provide a literary sense of how many I watched in a row), I decided to cut Law & Order SVU from my videographical “Playlist.”  (Although not the original Law & Order.  A man has to watch something.)   

Since that momentous, life-changing decision, as with persimmons, I have assiduously stuck to my guns.   

My abandoning  the SVU ship was made easier when Elliot startlingly “turned in his papers.”  (Meaning he retired from the police force.)  In the history of television – and I personally personify the history of television – when my parents brought me home from the hospital, they stopped off to pick up a television – not exactly, but close – I see Elliot and Olivia as one of the greatest performing duos since Laurel and Hardy, a reasonable comparison because there was no structural imbalance in their relationship; they were indistinguishable equals.  And, like Laurel and Hardy, they had incendiary chemistry.  (Being admittedly less funny, carrying a piano.)

When Elliot abruptly “turned in his papers”, I thought very seriously about turning in mine.

But I didn’t.

Then Munch “turned in his papers.”  

And then Cragen turned in his.

Leaving just me and Olivia. 

And Ice-T, and some “replacement characters” who weren’t nearly as interesting.

As you can see, I evaluated SVU(which loyalists “shorthanded” “Svoo”) unilaterally as a show. Now, however, minus the happy distraction of the characters who had drawn me in in the first place, I experienced the structural “bones” of the enterprise.  And I woke up, feeling retroactively queasy.  

Sex crimes is a devastatingly serious concern.

But more and more, I was unwilling to accept it as entertainment.

Suddenly – maybe because they had expended their most persuasive ones, the show’s stories, particularly the ones involving sexual misconduct towards children, gave off – for me – an exploitational aroma.  I had, in fact, always felt that way.  But I had previously quieted my discomfort, focusing on the drama.  

And then I stopped, deciding, paraphrasing “Down By the Riverside”.

“I ain’t gonna watch that show no more.”

And not just because of the accumulated queasiness.

Okay, here’s where it gets dicey.  Where I say something arguably accurate, and then suddenly, I am all by myself.  

Anyway, here we go. Try not to be unkind.

Sending the message of “Zero Tolerance” acceptability of sex crimes?  


But I heard that last week.

All right.  I’m in it.  So I am going to keep going.
Imagine a series called Under The Influence, where every episode offers a different alcohol-induced car accident (and its litigated aftermath.) It’s an unquestionably  serious issue.  But how many of those can you watch?

But that’s me, exaggerating for salvaging effect.  (Although second thoughts suggest Under The Influence is a show networks –and possibly audiences – might love.)

Hardly a “forgotten issue”, life itself regularly showcases sexual misconduct.  We had a Supreme Court nomination hearing about that.  (In fact, we’ve had two.)  You look at the president, that guy's a walking SVU multi-part episode.

A longtime series, reiterating the message 438 times…

That’s where I was at.  A growing discomfort with flogging agonizing experiences for personal enrichment, mixed with acknowledged sex crime “Message Fatigue.”

Then, I saw an article in the paper, promoting SVU’s return for a record-tying (with Gunsmoke and the original Law & Order) 20th season.  The story told of some viewers’ intimate identification with the series, thanking the producers for telling “their stories”, and helping them feel less isolated and alone. 

Reading those sincere testimonials, I thought, not “Don’t write it”, because that’s what I do.  But it did put my troubling concern into eye-opening perspective.  

Okay, so a producer’s cashing in, cranking out questionable programming and frequently, in my view, “Kiddie Porn”, delivering a message it has weekly, for 20 consecutive seasons, delivered before.

I agree this important story needs to be told.  

For the support of people who experienced it. 

And for the education of people believing it will never happen to them.

Bottom Line:  I can’t watch SVU anymore.

But I am glad it’s still on.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

"Sticky Business"

“How oddly fascinating, silly and fun.”

That was my reaction to a recent, “California Section” front-page article in the Los Angeles Times.

(Though they were other reactions.)  (Making me feel less guilty for appropriating three adjectives for myself.)

I am happily used to discovering – to my delight and amazement – reportorial unusualities included in the periodicals of the various places I am visiting – the Michigan City “Police Report”, leading with the unauthorized pilfering of unsecured garden hose, or last summer’s London article about a hawk named Rufus, hired to keep overhead pigeons from pooping on “Center Court” at Wimbledon.  

By contrast, my hometown newspaper covers the serious business of rampant crime and legislative corruption.  None of it silly, fascinating, or fun.

Imagine my surprise then to find an uncharacteristic inclusion I could really sink my morning smile into.

(Although other readers were irate.)

The story-in-question began thusly:

“A teacher who recounted how a Senior Aide to the President ate glue as a third grader has been pulled from her classroom.”

That’sfascinating, isn’t it?  And also silly and fun?

(Though reactions angrily varied.)

Here’s what, the Los Angeles Times reported, had happened.

In an article posted in the Hollywood Reporter, a 72 year-old Santa Monica third grade teacher had apparently first compared her former 8 year-old student to the congenitally messy character from Peanuts, “Pigpen”, and had then proceeded to reveal:

“He would pour glue on his arm, let it dry, peel it off and then eat it.”

And now, he’s a Senior Advisor to Trump.

Two determinable factoids. No inevitable judgment.  

Which did not avoid inevitable judgments.

(Not discounting that my “No inevitable judgments” is itself an “inevitable judgment.”  As is “harmless atrocity.”  You see how challenging it is to write without “inevitably” taking sides. Even a trained professional like myself is not immune to the difficulty.)  

Okay.  Here come the inevitable outraged reaction to this – to some, though I shall leave you to decide for yourselves – “partisan revelation.” 

The identifying of the 72 year-old third grade teacher as a “Registered Democrat” – which, assiduous “digging” (in “Facebook”) revealed, “supports causes associated with liberals and progressives, such as gun control” – opened the door to virulent Republican backlash.

“What kind of teacher goes to an entertainment newspaper with gossip about an eight year-old boy? … What kind of human being does that?”  (The Washington Examiner.”)

Yet another measured response:

“This is nothing short of character assassination.”  (“The Forward.”)

Apparently, an uncrossable “line” had been breached.  You can be accused of alleged child molestation or walking in on teenage girls changing their clothes during a Beauty Contest (because you own the pageant), and that’s just “Locker room banter.”  But breaking the sacrosanct “Teacher-Student Confidentiality” concerning a third grader, habitually wolfing down glue?  

Some things are simply unpardonable!  

Being scrupulously “fair and balanced” in these matters, I do admit to a troubling concern that no Pulitzer-hungry reporter investigated whether that senior Trump government official eats glue today.  This seems like something the American People would want to know. But, curiously, no one has assiduously followed up.  

Are we looking at an addictive, glue-eating “cover-up” here?

I’m just asking…    

For her part, the veteran teacher has been placed on “home assignment”, while authorities investigate whether she complied with “applicable laws and district policies.” Santa Monica school board officials will have to ultimately adjudicate whether a childhood revelation of “Chronic Mucilage Consumption” qualifies as punishably “spilling the beans.”

In this hotly contentious era, it is difficult to be truly impartial about anything.

But to me, notwithstanding the adversarial hubbub, this situation is ultimately,

“Much a-glue about nothing.”

Though it makes for enjoyable reportage.