Monday, September 30, 2019

Rosh Hashana

Today marks the first day of this year’s Jewish calendar.

Calendars are very convenient.  Before them, you would ask “What day is it”, and the answer would always be ‘Today.’”  

Happy New Year to those who participate.

To those who don’t, have a glorious Monday.

Friday, September 27, 2019

"Playing Hurt"

A few days ago, a doctor told me I had bronchitis.   I shall now try to “write sick.”  Don’t expect much, and here’s why.

Writing is much more than the ability to string words together in an acceptable manner.  Sure, it involves that.  But it takes a vital “Support System” as well:




A fourth thing I can’t think of because I’m sick.

You see how that works?

Oh yeah.


I had the forming glimmers of an “idea” for a post.  I had read an article, explaining how two prominent attorneys had ruined their reputations, representing accused sexual predator Harvey Weinstein.  Not because they represented him, but because of revealed proposed “strategies” to smear and intimidate his accusers. 

Simultaneously arriving was a New Yorker profile of attorney Alan Dershowitz, proud defender of O.J. Simpson, and confidante to the current smarm-plagued president, among other enviable clientele.

What immediately came to mind was the standard line defense lawyers trot out when they represent truly horrible people, which is,

“Everyone’s entitled to a zealous representation.”

Which leaves me immediately wondering,

“What are the limiting boundaries of ‘zealous’?”

“We killed the witnesses.”

That’s probably “Too far.”

But shaming them into silence, and threatening their families and livelihoods?

“Sure, we do that.”

There is also an accompanying second question in this context.  Call it “The Lawyer’s Mother’s Question” to their Sonny Boy’s (or Sonny Girl’s) defending a moral malignancy because “Everyone’s entitled to a zealous representation”, the troubled Mamma inquiring,

“Does it have to be you?

Normally, that would just be my “jumping-off” point to a broader exploration of “acceptable behavior.”

But today, I shall stop here.

When you are not entirely “tip-top”, the best idea is,

You pitch a couple of innings, and you head for the bench.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

"The 'Me' Trap"

Playing quirky but lovable sidekick “Frog” (Rothschild Jr.) on Best of the West was veteran character actor Tracey Walter.  It was he who confided the mantra of, I imagine, all actors who are continually cast in similar roles when he said,

“I would rather be ‘type’ cast that not cast at all.”

To me – though apparently not Wikipedia, which has cast him in darkly malevolent hues – Tracey Walter was comedically oddball, while charmingly vulnerable.   “Charmingly vulnerable” sets him apart in the “Subservient” cohort, allowing him to steal scenes so easily, producers were regularly called to the set, to “put out fires” with exasperated co-stars.

“He is deliberately speaking too slowly.”

“I am just bein’………… maself.”

Tracey Walter is a unique standout in his “Type Casting” category.

But it is a category he can never escape.

Tracey plays “Ahnolt’s” sidekick in Conan the Destroyer.  I doubt if there was ever consideration of the two switching roles. 

AHNOLT:  “I don’t do ‘wimpy.’”

TRACEY:  “And I don’t do ‘Teutonic Pinhead.’”

That’s “Type Casting.”  In both directions.  Unequally rewarding, but only because our culture prefers heroes to hopeless nebbishes doused with the contents of “chamber pots.”  (Fictional Footnote:  It is the exact opposite in “Chelm.”)

Anyway – and here’s where I’m going, meaning to go there months ago but I forgot –

“Type casting” is everywhere. 

And, Tracey’s Walter’s bolstering remark notwithstanding, it is not necessarily a good thing. 

Case in Point:

Aaron Sorkin and To Kill A Mockingbird.

(Note:  I do not know Aaron Sorkin, though I admit to watching A Few Good Men every time it appears.  And that West Wing wasn’t bad either.) 

Aaron Sorkin is a really good writer.  (Not as simple as me, be everyone’s style is different.)

Sorkin accepted the challenge of adapting Harper Lee’s classic To Kill A Mockingbird for the Broadway stage.  It was a brave thing to attempt.  (Extraneous Side-Note: If they had asked me, I’d have said, “Let’s leave it a book.”)

The onstage version of Mockingbird is a commercial success.  (It does not hurt to have Jeff Daniels attached, starring as Atticus Finch.)  Based on his track record – though I have not seen the show personally – I have no trouble believing that Aaron Sorkin did a swell job on the theatrical adaptation. 

And yet…

When the Tony Awards nominations were announced last spring, Aaron Sorkin was not nominated in the category of “Best Play.”  (Meaning “Best Playwright.”)

The “Premier” writer in movies.

“Sorry.  Not nominated.” 

That’s strange, isn’t it?  Sorkin’s snappy style, so memorably quotable:  “You can’t handle the truth!”  “I believe I have a Rose Garden.”  “We are sitting on chairs!  (My all-time favorite from The Social Network.)

Who did Aaron Sorkin piss off?

Maybe – eschewing “envious pettiness” as a possible explanation for the slight because when has that ever happened in the theater before? – maybe, in fact, it was nobody.

Maybe the Tony nominating committee simply “tired of his act.”

“Sparkling dialogue, again?”

“People don’t talk like that, unless they’re in Mensa.

“They sure don’t talk like that in Alabama, I can tell you right now!”

Without direct experience of this work, I am thinking, maybe Aaron Sorkin has stayed stylistically “too long at the fair.”  Or maybe, although trying his best to write “country”, a little signature “smarty-pants” may have slipped in, signaling the “Death Knell” reaction, “Ah smell a No’therer.”

And there were vote-tipping “Southern Folk” on the committee.

I don’t know. 

But I do know this.

No one escapes.

Everyone’s ultimately, inevitably, and inexorably “Type Cast.”

When the work coincides with your “Sweet Spot”, you score.

And when it doesn’t, well…

“A pig may find truffles, but don’t ask him to hunt.”

As I have just proved with that analogy.