Friday, May 31, 2019

"Root, Root, Root..."

Okay, this is weird.

I am watching the tail end of a Yankees/Padres game that I don’t care about, waiting for the start of a Dodgers-Mets game that I do.

I don’t recall the specifics – as I was just killing time – but suddenly, as they  mounted a rally in the ninth and last inning,

I found myself, rooting for the Padres.

For no explainable reason, I was hoping the Padres would win.  A team from San Diego.  Whose dominant “Team Color” is brown.

Think about that.  A game I was watching, only because the game I intended to watch had not started.  And there I am, (silently) chanting, “Let’s go, Padres!

Yes, I resented the Yankees since they swaggered to two “unearned” World Series wins against the superior Dodgers back in the 70’s.  But was that really a reason?  A fifty year-old grudge against a Yankees contingent, now retired, and in some cases, passed on? 

Apparently, it is.

Raising the more general question,

Can I not watch a game without reflexively rooting for one team?

In my personal experience,


The proclivity of rooting is more than “Let’s make the game interesting”, a reason for upping the “ante” in an uninteresting card game.  It’s like something inside me – and maybe others as well – makes picking a side an inseparable component in the game-watching procedure.

Consider the evidence.  (By which I mean mine.  But we can extrapolate, can’t we?)

When the Dodgers were in the World Series against the victorious ‘77 and ’78 Yankees, I had lived in Los Angeles, counting from ‘77, less than three years.  Which, you will, agree is not a particularly long time.

Yet there I am, screaming my lungs out when Yankees’ Reggie Jackson brazenly stuck out his hip – changing the course of the Series – and was not immediately called “Out” for “Deliberate Inference.”  I mean, three years, and I go nuts over a “blown call”, punishing “My team”?

How were they suddenly “My team”?  L.A.  With its smothering smog and its hideous traffic, where, five weeks after my arrival, the LAPD, looking for Patti Hearst, burned down a house, with five people inside it?

I’m rooting for that?

The process of rooting, which makes no reasonable sense, is as illogical as it is seemingly mandatory.  I mean, what are we talking about?  The players constantly switch teams.  Almost none of them come from the places they play for.  The one reliable “constant” are the uniforms. 

We are not rooting for people. 

We are rooting for their shirts. 

I pity the fans, supporting minor league ball clubs like the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and the Amarillo Sod Poodles.  They can’t help it.  Whatever the logo, sensible people are screaming,

Go, Sod Poodles!!!”

Savoring the “highs.”

Suffering through Sod Poodle defeats.

We seem viscerally “programmed” to root, automatically when it’s about nothing – such as the Padres – more rabidly passionately when it’s about something.  Which had me thinking about that today. 

I write this earlier that day, so I do not know the outcome, but starting last night, the Toronto Raptors – representing my actual hometown, whose local constabulary, to my knowledge, never incinerated a house with five people in it – made their maiden “NBA Finals” appearance, against the Golden State Warriors.

Which is exciting.

Except, backing the Raptors?

That is really going to hurt.

Having appeared in the finals in each of the past four seasons – winning three of those four consecutive appearances – the Golden State Warriors are the anointed “Team of the Century.”  While the Toronto Raptors, if they were lucky last night, are, at best, “The team of That Thursday.” 

What can I tell you?

I have to pull for Toronto.  I may pretend I don’t care.  (Due to the calamitous “mismatch”, I need emotional “armor” to withstand the inevitable.)  But deep down, I shall root for hopefully the Raptors.


Because they’re my Sod Poodles.

And I don’t have a choice.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

"Unjailing The Words"

Note:  I shall attempt to be “morally neutral.”  Consider “Part Marks for Effort”, as I am unlikely to actually succeed.  I mean, it is an “opinion blog”, after all, so if not here…

I like a backtracking excuse right of the top, don’t you?

Okay, here we go.

I had this idea for what I would write today.  Then, during a subsequent morning walk, I realized that the preambling setup for that idea was long enough to be an independent blog post of its own. 

Normally, I am unaware a post’s a “two-parter” till I see how much I have written without actually getting to the point.  Some might call that “bad writing.”  I call it, “Two for the price of one.”  And on rare, happy occasions, three.

I shall, therefore, deliver the preambling setup today, and write what I planned for today, tomorrow.

Unless the preambling setup runs long.

Which it is threatening to do as I type.

Okay.  And if I already said “okay”, okay again.

“Comedy” turned the page with Lenny Bruce.

And the next page was filthy!

(So much for “moral neutrality.”  I say, if you are going to “give it up”, “give it up” early, and be done with it.)

Unlike previous comedians, who went for the biggest laughs they could possibly think of, Lenny Bruce was first and foremost a satirist, mining comedy nuggets from “taboo areas”, like sex, cultural hypocrisy, and religion.  Skimming his “Quotables”, one that particularly tickled my fancy was,

“Never trust a preacher with more than two suits.”

The biggest issue – or maybe it became the biggest because of the problems it caused him – was language.

During his career, Lenny Bruce was arrested on numerous occasions for doing “obscene material” onstage.  In the states that arrested him, there was a literal, legal definition of “obscene.”  There had to be.  Otherwise, how would the police know he was illegally “Crossing the line”?

Lenny Bruce made the connection between language and liberty.  In a society with an actual “Free Speech” amendment in its constitution (excluding falsely yelling “Fire!’ in a crowded theater, and nobody wants that), how could you reasonably be arrested for “just sayin’ stuff”?

Lenny believed that “obscene words” would lose their power to offend if they were conventionally “normalized.”  You say “sassafras” enough times, and it loses its meaning.  (Note:  Insert “m.....f.....r” for “sassafras.”)

(Which, for me, has no meaning already.)

Lenny Bruce became a martyr to “language”, eventually losing his “funny”, reading transcripts from his many courtroom appearances onstage, instead of pleasing the customers.  (Glibly expressed, hubris and heroin ran neck-and-neck in doing him in.  Although which caused which remains open to debate.)

Here’s the thing, though. 

Well, first, another thing, which I have mentioned elsewhere.

If you don’t have “curse words”, what do you say when you legitimately need to curse?  (And “Shoot!” and “Phooey!’ won’t cut it.)

So there’s that.

Second – because I already did “First” –

Lenny Bruce did not liberate “language.”  He just made a trade, setting certain words free, while dispatching others to unutterable exile.

We know the words he set free, comedian George Carlin, following in Lenny’s footsteps, immortalizing them in “The Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television.”  I am sure there were more, but he was on television – cable television where you cansay anything – and had limited airtime.

While those “naughty words” were now liberated, words that lost there right to be spoken in public without punishing blowback are:




“Uncomfortable in certain arenas.”  (That’s a phrase, but revolutionaries are not nitpickers.)


“Witty.”  (Confusing crudeness with cleverness.)

And, come to think of it,


Including the phrase – and why wouldn’t you? – that’s seven words too.  Meaning,

While seven words were released,

Seven others were duly incarcerated.

So talk to me, here.

If some words are allowed while others are banned from usage without incurring the abuse once reserved for the now liberated “No-no’s”,

Where the heck is the freedom?

Tomorrow, I shall talk about Veep, a show that would make Lenny Bruce proud. 

Although less so, my mother.

Or – less punchlingly –


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

"Equine Burden"

The Concise Oxford Dictionary – which, by the way, is 1632 pages long so it may want to open itself up and check the meaning of the word because no book you can barely lift should be considered “Concise” – and by the way again, which words did they leave out of the “concise” version that they included into the “Multi-Book”, and how did they decide which ones to exclude?

“Yeah, it’s a word.  But we are trying to be concise.”

Or is the “Multi-Book” just the same words with bigger print?

Anyway… I’m lost.


Okay, I’m back.

I looked up the word “burden”, and I noticed that, as a verb, “burden” means:

“load with a burden:  encumber, oppress.”

“Encumber, oppress.”  That was precisely the meaning I was hoping for, which, if it didn’t exist, would seriously weaken my presentation to the point of abandoning this undertaking entirely, but now I don’t have to because it’s right.

What made me look up the word “burden”?

Two words.

Or more accurately a name:

“‘Hoss’ Cartwright.”

Allow me to backtrack.

With the availability of The Westerns Channel, watching westerns remains my “Go-to” location for protection from chaos, or what others call “life.”  I have mentioned elsewhere that all I have to do is see a horse ride into view and my blood pressure immediately relaxes.  I felt relaxed just writing that sentence.

Watching westerns was my “sanctuary.” 

Until “reality” kicked in.  (And I do not mean the actual history of the West.  Though that does keep me from watching western movies made after 1953.)

What recently changed is, when I now see a rider dismounting, I can almost hear the horse they rode in on go,

“Thank you.”

I mean, riding the range hither and yon – which can be “a f’ur piece” in the Pecos – and that cayuse looks plumb tuckered out.  (Translation:  The horse looks exhausted.)

I know it’s anthropomorphic to say this, but stick with me, ‘cause I want you to.

Carrying an adult person on your back for hours at a time, often through rough and undulating terrain?

What noise would you make when they finally stepped down from the saddle?

I don’t know either.  Likely a blend of relief and unspoken chagrin.

I don’t even want to think about “riding double.”  “Burden” doesn’t come close to covering that atrocity.  Two adult-sized bodies.  Two pair of spurs.

RIDER ONE:  “Quit kickin’ ‘im.  He’s going fast enough.”

RIDER TWO:  “Not for me.”

“BURDENED” HORSE:  “When you discussed ‘riding double’, if would have been nice to include me.”

“Single” or “double”, horses were never consulted about carrying people around on their backs.  There was no "What do you say?"  Someone fearlessly jumped on, and the rest is history – good for the rider, bad for the horse.

UPBEAT HORSE:  “It’s kind of nice, providing a service.”


I am aware of our cultural preference for cheeriness.  But before casting negative aspersions – if “aspersions” does not already connote “negative”, and I am unwilling to check the “concise” dictionary to find out – consider that that horse that is in low spirits may have been the selected mount of – and here we get to it – “‘Hoss’ Cartwright” on Bonanza.

“‘Hoss’ Cartwright” (played by actor Dan Blocker) – this I did look up:

“Six foot-four, 320 pounds.”

You want to haul that guy around the Old West?

What say we hear a few words from the victim?

‘HOSS’ CARTWRIGHT’S HORSE:  “I remember the first day of filming.  The ‘series regulars’ are choosing who they’ll ride on the show.  Three regular-sized guys, and a mountain.  With a really tall hat.

“Comes ‘The Big One’s’ turn to pick horses.  I try ducking behind another horse, so he won’t see me.  I mean, even the script calls him ‘Hoss!’  That’s me, with two legs.  “Wouldn’t you know it?  He goes, ‘That’s a smart one – he wants no part of me.  I’ll take him.’”

“Thirteen years, he rode me.  “You heard of ‘sway-back’ horses?  Look at me!  I’m just a big ‘U!’

“Every night, I’d come home after ridin’ the range, the wife’s there with the heating pad.  No Aleve.  She rubbed hay on me.  That’s all we had.

“In one episode, they wrote in a ‘girlfriend.’  ‘Hoss” says, ‘Do ya wanna ride double?’  I heard that and immediately called up my agent.  He told me not to be ‘difficult.’ 

“Just once, I heard ‘Do you want to ride me?’  It was a long day.  I must have had sunstroke.”

“When he died, I cried.  Not being a phony.  I got kicked off of the series!

I can’t afford to drop westerns ‘cause I feel bad for the horses.  I require my “refuge.”

But I cannot watch Bonanza.

That horse looks too sad. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

"My Head Hurts"








I said that seven times when I saw this was in the paper.  And it merited each “Ow!”

I get it.  There are people who want money so badly they’ll say stuff that makes absolutely no sense to get it.  And then blame us for not understanding it.

I understand it.

I understand it makes absolutely no sense!

I also understand that people who want more and more and more and – let me put in another one – more money will say whatever it takes to accumulate it.  If you are succeeding, ‘nuff said.  If you are not, you promote poppycock, explaining you are.

Okay, here we go.

They call them the “Network Television Upfronts”, because every year in May, the old-time networks unveil their coming season of programming to advertisers, negotiating “upfront” – hence the name – rates of payment for inserted commercials, aired during the breaks in the programing.  (Advertisers consider the programs to be the breaks, but they’re wrong.)

Here’s the thing.  Hold on to your hats, and whatever else you don’t want to fly off in a whirlwind of brazen insanity.

Quoting the facts gleaned from reading that newspaper article:

Next year, the “upfront” revenues are expected to be 2.4% higher than the revenues for this year.

Even though – hold tight –

In the most coveted cohort of 18-49 , viewership dropped 11%  And a higher 14% for viewers 18-34.

In other words – for those who need other words and I see no reason you would –

Next year, advertisers will be paying 2.4% more to reach an audience that is 11-to-14 percent smaller.

Ow!  Ow!  Ow!  Ow!  Ow!  Ow!  Ow!  (Putting them on one line to save space.)

Why are they doing that?  Paying more for  “Good and Plenty” everyone knows “Contains less ‘Plenty’”?

There is an answer to that.  Though, if you are currently drinking milk, it may come squirting out of your nose.

Here’s the reasoning behind paying more for considerably less.  (The guy who invented the word “reason” may want to sue for egregious misuse of the concept.)

I shall quote directly from the article, sparing my delicate brain from arranging the nonsense.

“There is a finite amount of quality ratings points in (network) television.  Everyone fighting for that smaller and smaller amount results in inflation.”

Here’s that in English.

You think the network television business is cratering?  Think again.  This way.

You start with agreement.  “Viewers of network television are increasingly rare.”  And then you go here.  “And like everything else rare – diamonds, rhinoceri – those vestigial network viewers are, therefore, increasingly valuable.”

Ipso and its half-brother facto, the ”bump”is 2.4% more to reach less people next year than to reach more people this year.

Do you feel a skeptical chuckle coming on?  An eyebrow, raising entirely on its own?

Okay, so there’s increased competition.  Shouldn’t that make the networks try harder? 

Not necessarily.

And here’s why.

Following the prevailing “Business Model”, the more network viewership diminishes, the more the price to connect with that diminishing viewership goes up.

You can see where that leads, right?

If a diminishing audience size makes the networks more money, the way to win big is to ensure it continues to diminish…

By airing worse and worse programming.

Venn Diagram (or something thereabouts)

“Decreased viewership means more money for the networks.”

“Bad shows decrease viewership.”

“Bad shows means more money for the networks.”

Networks higher-ups aren’t idiots.  (“Good only for this argument.”)  They know that scheduling great programming would mean cutting their own throats.

They say they want to.  (To make their kids proud of them.)

But they don’t.  (To afford sending them to college.)

Suddenly, the applied strategy makes absolute sense.

“Victory Through Failure.”  (Which I believe is on the Trump Family Coat of Arms.)

Just remember.  Next time, you watch network programming and think, “This show is terrible”, somewhere a network president’s going,

“We did it!”

And you know what?

They did!