The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

THE LONE RANGER

Back in the 1950’s when television came in two versions – “black” and “white” and was promoted on only three portals, ABC, CBS and NBC – a program was broadcast, based on a Zane Grey novel.  It was “The Lone Ranger,” starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels as his faithful companion, Tonto.  One of my favorite shows, I was allowed to take a break from homework to spend a half hour watching the program.

There was a bit of a ritual surrounding watching the show in my house.  Five minutes before it was to air, my father would open the doors to the large sang de boeuf colored Chinoise cabinet, revealing the relatively small Dumont television it held.  He would turn on the power and the hum of the tubes warming could be heard from behind the set as it got itself ready for this week’s episode.  I remember holding my breath, hoping that the set would spring to life and that none of the vacuum tubes had failed.  And then the set would spring to life (usually).

There was no doubt that we were about to see yet another riveting episode when the stirring theme song for the program, the final, allegro portion of Rossini’s “William Tell” overture blared forth in pure unfettered monophonic sound and the announcer pronounced the Lone Ranger’s iconic words as he sat astride his almost equally famous horse and said, “Hi-Yo, Silver!”  And then they would dash off in a full gallop in pursuit of evil doers.

Back in those days it was always easy to tell who the “good guys” and the “bad guys” were because the good guys wore white and the bad ones wore black.  (It was a simpler time and nobody thought this was racist – or at least we didn’t have umpteen million chat room participants discussing that possibility – but then our chat rooms back then were found either in our schools or at the supper table at home).  Stick ball occupied a lot more of our time than discussions about surreptitious bigotry.

Television and media in general have evolved and now have the ability to represent our world in full panoramic colorization.  There are probably few of us, even those of us who hold a certain nostalgia for the olden days, who would want to return to them – at least in respect to how we watch our entertainment.  But the precision with which we could once identify good and bad, right and wrong has been blurred if not completely lost, perhaps because of our ability to see things in so many different shades.  That might explain, at lest in part, our present philosophy of “relativism” which essentially bastardizes principle and finds countless arguments to mollify wrongdoing.

The good news is that there are still some fundamental truths in which we might find security – if we may call it that.  One of those truths is as relevant today as when I heard my father promulgate it a half century ago.  “It is your responsibility to vote in an informed manner – and because you have taken the time to weigh the merit of each person’s candidacy and background, to cast your ballot for the one who will steal the least.”  And with that in mind, I will turn my attention to events that developed this week in my native state of New York.

New York’s Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver (D – NYC) was arrested and indicted on five separate federal charges of corruption.  If convicted, each charge could carry a twenty year prison term.  The charges allege that Silver used his position as Speaker to obtain payments from various law firms who benefited from his influence in directing public policy which directly benefited their practices.  Silver was reported not to have performed any services yet was rewarded with paychecks from one of the firms which amounted to $800,000.  In total, the federal government is alleging that Silver received a total of $3.8 Million over a period of several years and has seized the eight bank accounts in which the monies were deposited.

At his arraignment, Silver was released under a $200,000 personal recognizance bond but was required to surrender his passport.  This might put a crimp in his upcoming plans to participate in the foreign “economic development” tour which he, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Senate Majority Leader were to take, presumably for the purpose of attracting more businesses to open their doors in the Empire State.

The arrest comes at a time when Gov. Cuomo is under a great deal of criticism from the Republicans in the state’s two houses over closing down the Moreland Commission, a body which was looking into what is reported as widespread corruption among state legislative members.  Cuomo formed the commission in March, 2013 and abruptly closed it down eight months later which gave rise to the U. S. Attorney, Preet Bharara’s involvement.  He further suggested that this investigation has not concluded and there may be other indictments in the offing.

Silver’s supporters including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio advised a “wait and see” attitude, the mayor rightfully pointing out that we have a judicial process which we should allow to play out and praising the Speaker as “a man of integrity.”  Others have made comments about the culture to be found in the state’s capitol, suggesting that “no matter how virtuous a person is before election to the state legislature, there seems to be a corrupting influence which takes hold of even the most virtuous.”  That might be supported by the number of state legislators who have been forced to resign after their convictions on varying corruption charges.

Speaker Silver, of course, maintains his innocence.  But based on the scathing press conference which Bharara gave subsequent to the indictment, it would seem that he is confident that the facts he has uncovered will result in a conviction.  Since this is a “white collar” crime and the defendant has a long history of “public service,” it is unlikely that he would receive anything akin to the maximum sentence should he be convicted.  But it does seem likely that he would spend at least some time in the “Big House.”  And as we did on the Lone Ranger, we might hear the judge cry out, “Hi-Yo, Silver – away.”

THE TRUTH ABOUT ZOMBIES

There has been a lot of fascination lately with zombies.  Apparently, the most viewed show on television is “The Walking Dead,” a series devoted to man’s battle against these creatures.  Personally, I can’t get into the show as I accidentally had a brief glance at the opening scene of one episode two weeks ago which began with a number of people kneeling before a trough who were hit on the head with a pipe and whose throats were then slit, their blood pouring out.  This would, in my view, have been something that was in bad taste at any time – and in view of the videos that ISIS so proudly posted on YouTube is simply revolting.  But that’s just my opinion.

While the practice of voodoo has been with mankind long before African slaves were exported to the Caribbean, most Americans knew little about it nor cared much about it and its sister cults until the late 1950’s.  The Kingston Trio which had formed, primarily to perform calypso music, had been thrust into the limelight when their song “Tom Dooley” was an outstanding billboard success in 1958.

When Capitol Records approached them with a boatload of money and told them that they were now “folk singers” – a genre that was becoming increasingly popular – the three young men agreed.  However, keeping with their original motif, the following year they recorded, “Zombie Jamboree,”  a song originally entitled, “Jumbie Jamboree” and attributed to Jamaican, Conrad Eugene Mauge, Jr.  While I was first introduced to this song by them, I do prefer Harry Belafonte’s version which follows:

 

 

“Zombie Jamboree” came and went without having any major impact on our interest in its subject matter.  Until fairly recently.  The interest in zombies has exploded to the point that movies and television programs draw a wide viewership when they portray the living dead and mankind’s ability – or inability – to deal with them.  There seems to be a consensus that the way to stop a threatening zombie is either by shooting it in the head or applying an ax to that same body part with a great deal of force and vigor.

I wonder if that methodology was researched using taxpayer funds.  After all, last year our government gave a grant in the amount of $307,000 to inquire into the behavior of sea monkeys, $50,000 of which was allocated to study synchronized swimming by these tiny shrimp; another $856,00 to study how mountain lions adapted to being on treadmills; and $387,000 to determine whether rabbits who were given Swedish massages benefited from that therapy.  So why not a couple of million or so to determine the best way to defeat our zombie foes, if and when they should actually come into being?

I would attribute the intense interest in zombies to Ebola and stories about other possibly terminal diseases which seem to be erupting throughout parts of the world.  The general theme of how a person is transformed into a zombie usually centers around some new and horrible germ, virus or perhaps manmade chemical weapon.  Of those alternatives, I would give most credence to the third of them.  But the explosion in interest in zombies precedes these events by at least a number of years.

Perhaps my greatest hesitancy for believing in zombies is that they are supposed to be dead, mindless creatures – feasting exclusively on living humans.  In the first place, if they are truly mindless, why wouldn’t they just eat each other?  And have they never heard of Moo Shu or pizza?

On the other hand, if there is evidence that these creatures exist, there is probably no greater proof than that many of them will be voting on Tuesday – with or without state issued ID cards.

ROBIN WILLIAMS

For years you made me laugh – and now you’ve made me cry.

Rest in Peace, Robin.  I’ll miss you.

HOLLYWOOD’S WAR ON WOMEN

While I hate to reveal my own ignorance I figure that if you’ve been following along for awhile it’s already abundantly clear to you.  As you know, I seldom go to see a movie in a theatre designed for cinematic display and selling junk food.  And because my interest in the latest tripe that comes out of Hollywood is nil, I don’t keep up with who’s who or who’s doing what in that liberal paradise.

It just happened that I saw a news story yesterday about a law suit that is proceeding that involves one Bryan Singer.  I didn’t recall even vaguely ever hearing that name so I had no idea who he was or what he did.  I read the story.

I learned from the story, Mr. Singer is a movie director.  Without going into the somewhat sordid details of the lawsuit, suffice it to say that Mr. Singer has allegedly apparently been employing a version of  the casting couch but has transformed it into an after-parties venue where friends and associates apparently recruit young gay men who want to mingle with the rich and famous director.

Okay, this isn’t a post about morality.  But I was curious if Mr. Singer had ever directed a movie that I had seen.  As it turned out, while he has many credits in his portfolio which I have not viewed, one of his efforts, “The Usual Suspects” was a movie that I saw several years after its release when it appeared on cable.  I rather liked it but remember it as being a little strange.

But it occurred to me that as unfamiliar with Hollywood directors as I am, I would do a little investigation into who directs the movies which cause hearts to flutter every Friday when something new is released.  And I was very surprised.

In the entire history of the Academy, there have only been four women nominated for the Best Director Oscar.  And of those, only two – Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow – were Americans.  None of the four won the coveted award.

So here we are, in the absolute epicenter of liberalism and is there a more discriminatory, anti-feminist environment in which a woman could find herself?  Let me be blunt.  In Hollywood, women are getting screwed right and left (and yes I did intend that pun).

I’m really hoping that the Huffington Post (which I’ve affectionately renamed the Huff and Puff Post) will carry a story soon in which the Democrats create a stink over the “War on Women.”  I plan on using some version of this post when it appears.

Of course I will have to do a bit of editing – first to get it by the censors and then to conform to their comment limit of 250 words.  But inspired by Hollywood, I will be able to pare this down to size, leaving the excess on the cutting room floor where it will keep company with the hearts and hopes of Hollywood’s female directors who are ignored and overlooked while their male counterparts talk about how life has been so unfair to them and others of their gender.

“ANNIE GET YOUR GUN”

It was the first movie that I ever saw.  Mom, grandma and I were in Carmel, NY and dad was on the road.  It was summer and we had rented a little cabin for a week’s getaway from the city.  There was one theater in the town with one screen and the movie that was playing that week was the classic, “Annie Get Your Gun.”  The film, loosely based on the life of sharpshooter Annie Oakley, starred Betty Hutton and then film idol Howard Keel.  I was too young to remember the film but I’ve seen it several times since and find it a charming, musical bit of fluff.

Sadly, today there probably would be little market for a film of this type.  To begin with no one was killed in the movie.  Worse yet, no cars exploded – because of course there weren’t any in those days – but they might, at the least have detonated a couple of horses.  They didn’t.  And worst of all was that our heroine was a gun toting sharpshooter who was able to get the best of her male counterparts.  Shock.  A woman being the champion rather than the victim.  That simply doesn’t fit the current narrative.

 

 

“I worked out of desperation. I used to hit fast and run in hopes that people wouldn’t realize that I really couldn’t do anything.” – Betty Hutton

If I didn’t know the source of that quote I would have thought that it came out of President Obama’s autobiography.

Under the heading of “Never let a good non-issue die” we have former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg now engaged in yet another assault on gun ownership – purportedly to the tune of about $50 MM.  That makes the Koch brothers look like small time pikers.  Apparently His Eminence is going to direct these funds from his personal treasury to developing anti-NRA ads.  This might prove to be yet another instance where in the interest of “doing good” the mayor might prove to benefit those whom he views as the source of all violence in America – legitimate gun owners.

There are a number of our incumbent Democrat senators who ware running against the gale force wind that Obamacare is blowing through the nation and who happen to represent either purple or red states where the electorate has long ago decided that legitimate gun ownership is a fundamental right, guaranteed by the Constitution.  The mayor’s efforts to coalesce anti-gun voter sentiment might very well backfire in Louisiana, Alaska and Arkansas, to name a few states.  So Bloomberg may be doing the GOP a great favor.

One of the (phony) arguments about guns is that their presence in a home significantly increases the likelihood that domestic violence is more likely to become fatal than if a gun were absent from the premises.  But what we have seen over the last twenty years is a significant reduction in the number of fatalities due to firearms at a time when gun ownership has increased dramatically.  Notwithstanding the less than riveting revelations that have been forthcoming from the Oscar Pistorius trial, there seems to be little to give credence to that argument.

Are women at risk in our society?  Well, I hate to inform the uninformed, but life is a risk and we all drink from the same punchbowl – male and female.  I cannot give you an exact figure, but of the women I know, probably at least half of them carry pepper spray in their purses.  If they felt secure would there be any reason for them to buy what is clearly a self-defense weapon?  Would they be more or less safe if instead of a spray they were armed with a small caliber weapon which they were trained to use, should the need arise?

It’s nice to believe that we can depend on our paid police forces to keep us safe from harm.  That is if you don’t live in Detroit where the average response time for an emergency call (when their 911 service even picks up) is currently over an hour and a half.  By that time your body has already begun to cool and the murderer is long gone.  But Detroit is not an isolated instance where the police are so overwhelmed that they can’t act in an expeditious manner.

Las Vegas’ Metropolitan Police Department recently announced that due to the volume of calls, officers will not be dispatched to the scene of a traffic accident unless there are people who suffer bodily injury.  If the police are currently so occupied with more serious issues than car wrecks, what level of safety might the ordinary citizen expect if something really serious, say a power outage, were to occur?  In that event were I a store owner, I’d want to have some protection in my shop from the mobs which might seek to take advantage of the situation.

It would be excellent if we could rely on our law enforcement agencies to keep us safe from evildoers – and for the most part they do their best to fulfill their responsibilities and protect us.  But in the event of something catastrophic, former Mayor Bloomberg (who has a paid, armed security detail attached to his person) might realize that – “Anything they can do, we the people might do better.”

WAS “SEINFELD” A CELEBRATION OF INTOLERANCE?

Jerry Seinfeld is a comedic genius.  The weekly sitcom bearing his name had a successful run for nine seasons – topping the Nielsen ratings in two of those.  From 1989 to 1998 Americans rushed home to catch their weekly dose of the comedy and catch up on the most current phrases of Seinlanguage that the show invented.  Rumor is afoot that there is going to be a reunion of some of the cast for a one time reprise of the show to be forthcoming soon.

The cast over those nine seasons was so large that Cecil B. DeMille would have been envious.  Many of those who were engaged for the show played only in one episode.  But I wanted to look at those actors and actresses who were featured in two or more episodes.  There were a total of 212 of them.

Now as late as the end of the show in 1998, being “out” as a gay man or lesbian woman was not much in vogue, although Ellen DeGeneres might have broken the ice in 1997.  But that openly gay people worked in the entertainment industry and that industry had no problems employing them because of their sexual orientation had most likely been going on since Hollywood rolled the cameras for the first time.

Estimates of the number of our population who are members of the LGBT community suggest that as many as ten percent of our population may be sexually oriented this way.  Although my feeling is that it’s neither of interest to me nor is it any of my business what a person’s sexual preference is, it seems that there are many gay people, now including at least one pro basketball player and one college football player, who feel that they need to announce their orientation to the world.  That is, of course, their choice.

For years the straight population made certain assumptions about gay men –deciding that  because of an effeminate demeanor a particular man was gay.  In many cases these assumptions proved to be correct.  Add to that certain professions in which these men engaged such as florist, interior designer or hairdresser and without further need for additional evidence, some people would quip, “Fritz is as queer as a three dollar bill,” or, “He’s a little light in the loafers.”   Perhaps the one industry that could have cared less was the arts.  That would include the movies, television, theatre, opera, ballet, and the symphony.

Returning to our cast of 212 multiple episode actors and actresses who played on “Seinfeld,” you can imagine my surprise that only two of those have “come out” and are openly gay or lesbian.  Considering the fact that the industry often attracts gay men and lesbian women if for no reason other than its acceptance of their lifestyle, this truly surprised me.  Naturally, in an age where any and everybody seeks out a niche where they can view themselves as a minority and thus are persecuted and demand justice, I did not expect that result from my research.  This, of course, lends itself to the question, “Was there anti-gay prejudice employed in the casting of the ‘Seinfeld’ show?”

There is an element of intolerance written into the sitcom.  Who can possibly forget “The Soup Nazi” who refused service to anyone whom he didn’t like?  I’m frankly surprised that the FCC hasn’t already looked into this – considering their recent decision (subsequently deferred) to investigate whether our news programs are “properly serving the public” in the eight categories of news that they believe are sufficiently important to be part of those stations’ agendas and regular broadcasts.

Governor Jan Brewer (R – AZ) currently has on her desk a bill that would allow the owners of a business to deny service to people with whom its owners chooses not to do business.  Proponents say that it merely defines an owner’s rights in the same way that, “No shirt, no shoes, no service,” does.  Gay activists make the claim that it is an open invitation for businesses to deny them access simply because they are gay.  I haven’t read the bill, but from the discussion that I have heard, both interpretations are possible.  So here’s a thought.

If I were an Arizona business owner I would simply disregard the fact that my clients are male or female, black, white, Hispanic or Asian, straight or gay and pretend that they were all – let me think – okay, they are all vampires.  Several television programs and a number of recent movies have been devoted to members of that group – and no one seems offended by them.  And I have yet to hear of a vampire filing a class action suit against anyone for discrimination.

I’m going to be sure to catch the Seinfeld reunion special when it airs.  I just hope it’s broadcast after the sun goes down.

THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT

If it weren’t so sad, it would be laughable.  We descry the violence in our society and our world.  The horrors of gassing civilians in Syria; the number of murders in our inner cities; the general disregard and disrespect for others in our self-centered culture.  And we find the causes to be plentiful.

There’s the breakdown of the traditional home where traditional values at least had the possibility of being taught to our children.  And then there’s the violence that they learn through our media, video games and the movies.  And we wring our hands and wonder why did our little darling go and punch out the neighbor kid just because he was wearing more expensive athletic shoes.

We are an acquisitive society and used to be a competitive one as well.  Keeping up with the Joneses was a well-known phrase and an acceptable form of behavior.  We have been told, and it is true, that the consumer drives the economy in the United States – at least two thirds of it.  So we invent new ways to suck the money out of consumers’ pockets and into the coffers of whatever company has created the latest diversion to amuse our citizens.  Of course, there are a lot of old and tried creations that have been re-invented or more highly glamorized which serve the purpose as well.

On Saturday, September 14th Floyd Mayweather won his latest pugilistic bout.  He was well paid for the effort – a reported $41.5 million.  Even after paying his agent and Uncle Sam, that will leave him with a tidy sum.   Good for him.  That’s entrepreneurship at its finest.

Mr. Mayweather has a talent and he is monetizing his abilities.  The fact is, however, that it is a violent skill which he has mastered.  But if it were not for the rest of us who pay to watch two human beings beat each other up, Pay Per View would not have been able to record its single biggest take for any sporting event.  It’s obvious that we do not condemn violence when we pay money to enjoy the thrill of watching it.

The same statement may be made with regard to the biggest single and, perhaps most violent sport which demands and gets infinitely more of our dollars than boxing – that is NFL football.  That it is violent is inherently obvious from the league’s recent agreement to set aside $675 million to compensate players who have suffered head traumas and brain injuries from their years of participation in the sport.

If football were a prescription drug, with the number of serious “side effects” that it causes among the patient population, the FDA would withdraw its use and further dispensation.  But there is too much, far too much money generated by football ever to consider such an option.  And so, perhaps it is true, that money is indeed the root of all evil.

I wonder if those who are rightfully saddened at the events of Columbine, or Newtown or Aurora have ever considered whether they should withhold their dollars from a sport that has resulted in hundreds of serious injuries that would simply have been avoided if the game didn’t exist.  Or, given the fact that they want to raise their children in a less violent society, they have forbidden their children either to watch football or, more to the personal safety of those children, forbidden them to participate in the game at their schools.  Probably not.

In some ways, watching violent sports is a voyeuristic way for us to release some of our inner hostilities and frustrations.  Most of us handle that fairly well and that is all there is to it.  But there are those who are the exception to the rule and whose inner psyche actually feeds off this violence.  It’s hard not to wonder whether, like those famous video games and violent movies, the game does not contribute to a need to vent feelings of violence by some viewers on those with whom they share our society.

Of course, that speculation is rhetorical in nature.  If it were proven that there is a direct correlation between watching a boxing match or football game and violent behavior, that study would be suppressed before it ever made its way into the light of day.  There is simply too much money involved to allow that sort of statement be aired.  Even our over-regulatory nanny government would keep its hands off because where there is money involved, politicians’ major concern is that they are the recipients of as much of it as possible.

If you consider this year’s unfortunate record of the number of NFL players who have been arrested for violations ranging from DUI to murder, it should cause us to ask the question, “Why are so many well-paid athletes getting themselves into trouble?”  In part, the answer goes back to money.  Take a kid out of the ghetto – and that represents the background of nearly half the players in the league – raised in a violent atmosphere – and suddenly reward them with incredibly large incomes and it is not surprising that they do not know how to handle their instantaneous new wealth.

Further consider that football, a “macho sport,” recruits those who are unafraid of risking their bodies in pursuit of moving the sticks along the sidelines.  These are tough guys on the field and they were probably the toughest guys in the hood when they grew up – which is how they survived long enough to play for the big bucks.  If they hadn’t made the NFL cut, they would most likely have had a career either running a gang back home or at least providing the muscle for it.  Should we then be surprised that so many of these men find themselves at cross purposes with the law?

The rules of basic courtesy and civility have either not been taught or have been ignored by a significant number of those who come from generations that succeeded mine.  Not that all of us Baby Boomers were always attentive to them.  But having no standards of basic civility quickly leads to outright disdain for others and from there it’s anyone’s guess what might happen next.  Well, we don’t really have to guess.  The newspapers and internet are chock full of the newsworthy reports of a morally decaying society.

Mom will have collected the football jerseys that the family wore on Sunday and gotten them ready for the laundry so they can be worn next week.  She and dad will give no thought to what those represent – other than their making a statement about the player and the team that they love and support.  It’s all in keeping with the celebration of the all-American pass time, Sunday’s newest god.

And the violence will continue throughout the country – a hundred or so new murders this week, thousands of cars being stolen and homes being burglarized.  The cycle will continue because, unwittingly, we tacitly endorse it – perhaps without realizing what our actions imply.  And the cost – well the ultimate cost is a society which will go from disarray to collapse as the prevalence of anger creeps into more of our hearts and as we become more inured to hearing and reading about it and perhaps being victimized by it ourselves.

That’s the cost of living in our modern world.  That’s the price of entertainment.

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