Wednesday, January 17, 2018

"A Passing 'Pappy' Post Of Personal Privilege"

(Written By:  "The Pacific Ocean Invisible Mariachi Ensemble", a Division of the "Invisible Sacred Mountain Mariachi Ensemble.")










One more, because I love who's in it.

"Earlo's Reliable Litlte Helper"

Once I was single. 

Twice when I was single, I had dates.

The second one’s somewhat of an exaggeration.  But it is an embarrassingly miniscule “somewhat.” 

In those days – and who knows, maybe still – men asked women out on dates.  Which gave women the optional alternative to say, “No.”  Who the heck wants to risk that? 

So I rarely ever asked. 

Once, around age 13, while pledging a high school fraternity – I was a “Legacy” from my older brother; otherwise, I would have never gotten involved.  (I know “You get jackets.”  But I already had a jacket.) – I called up a girl, at pretty much random, and in a trembling voice-changing falsetto, asked her if she would like to attend a fraternity party with me. 

It was the first time I had ever asked a girl out on a date.  She kindly replied that she’d like to, but she had a Bar Mitzvah to attend that evening. 

I hung up and never called anyone else for ten years.

I know men generally have (on aggregate) more physical and in later life, economic power than women, but the available punishing “Power of No” should not be dismissingly ignored.  I am not blaming women – it was just the way things were set up, and who knows, maybe predominantly still are – but to the “Sensitively Challenged”, even a polite “I’ve got a Bar Mitzvah that evening” turndown can sound resoundingly like,  

“You?  Never!”

This in no way balances the books.  But it deserves an acknowledging entry.       

One of my “fingers of one hand” number of dates was a traditional “set-up.”  A close female friend asked me if I wanted to go out with someone, and I unenthusiastically replied, “Okay.”  Although hardly excited by this “pig-in-a-poke” prospect, with the “Yay or Nay” ball, as it were, in my court, I had at least eluded the dreaded,
direct “Turn-down.”  Besides, if I had said “No”, I’d be rejecting my ostensibly thoughtful female friend.  And what did she do to deserve that?

Besides meddling in my highly protected personal loneliness.

We went out to a movie.

Which, finally, if you were wondering, being confused by the title, is what today’s offering is about.  Earlo’s “Essential Little Helper” –

The starkly revelatory moviegoing arena.

Here’s the thing:

The selected movie you attend tells you all you need to know about the person sitting beside you.  Meaning the one you came in with and most likely bought tickets for, not the one sitting on the other side.  They’re somebody else’s problem.  I had sufficient troubles of my own. 

I am sitting in the movies with someone somebody else believed was a “match.”

I don’t remember who picked it.  I probably did, because I really wanted to see it.  The movie was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  A “cowboy comedy”?  It was quintessentially up my alley.  Conventional Wisdom?  Butch and Sundance was indisputably hilarious.

My “Blind Date” for the evening




They recently swabbed some goo from inside of my nose, and sent the procured sample out to be tested.  It turned out I had a bacterial infection.

People’s reactions to movies provide an equally accurate diagnosis.

I never saw that humorless woman again. 

On a second occasion – I am chronicling (virtually) all of my dates in one post so as not to bother either of us with them again – I love Neil Simon and I adore Bruce Jay Friedman.  Neil Simon, adapting a Bruce Jay Friedman short story called The Heartbreak Kid into a movie?

That is unquestionably “Count me in!”

I am, once again, there with a date. 

The Heartbreak Kid (recently remade with Ben Stiller, but I passed) tackles darkly uncomfortable terrain with edgy, comedic intentions.  Its provocative “What if…?” hypothesis:

“What if you meet the proverbial ‘Girl of your Dreams’ while on your honeymoon with the woman you have recently just married?”

It is imaginable that lurking insidiously in the unconscious of at least some newly wedded men – and who knows, maybe newly wedded women as well – is this “One chance in a million but still possible” nightmare scenario: 

You get married for life.  And then immediately encounter “The One.”

In this case, the new bride is stereotypically Jewish (complete with errant egg salad ensnared in her ethnically ringletty hair.)  The mythical “One” he meets on the honeymoon getaway is a radiantly dazzling Cybil Shepherd.  (Read:  Iconically Gentile.) 

My date for the evening is Jewish, although uniquely, and appealingly, herself.

The film’s dramatic crescendo – the man abandoning his “newly united” for the unattainable “Nordic Princess” – is achingly uncomfortable.  More so in the film version than in Friedman’s original short story, which, with the advantage of being seven pages long, sidesteps the inevitable “yucky parts.”  When fully extended to “movie length”, a purely imagined “Theoretical” plays out considerably more hurtfully. 

Though, as a man – even, shamefully, a Jewish man – I was unaware of how hurtfully.

At one point, my evening’s companion abruptly excuses herself.  It is only later, upon leaving the theater, that she reports that she had exited into the lobby and ferociously berated the manager, screaming,

“Why do you show such terrible movies!!!”

Message, concerning what I took as an allegorical comedy, loud-and-clearly received. 

It was not going to work out.  (As it eventually did not.)

Movies cost more than they used to.  But for learning what you essentially need to know about someone who might ultimately matter,

They are a revealing and determinative bargain.

(Though you should sneak in your own more reasonably priced popcorn.)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

"Your Route Guidance Begins... Never"

I could not write this idea.  And part of “I couldn’t” was “I didn’t want to.”  And part of “I didn’t want to” was “I didn’t know how.”  

It’s interesting.  (To me.) 

An idea comes to you and you think, “I can write that.”  And then you don’t do it. 

For months. 

Lemme tell you, post ideas are not easy to come by.  And yet, you got a good one wriggling on the hook, going, “Reel me in, Writer Boy” and you continually go,

“Eh.”  (Rhymes with “Feh.”)

If you’re me – a not particularly busy person – you curiously wonder what’s going on.

(Note:  I shall try to keep this concise.  At this writing, we are flying home from Toronto and, as a courtesy to the customers, I am determined not stretch this distraction-from-my-awareness-of-sitting-in-a-heavy-object-inexplicably-up-in-the- air out until we land.  Quoting the itinerant beggar in Fiddler on the Roof, speaking on your behalf, “If you have a long flight why should we suffer?”  (Which might have been used in the show had the Anatevka evacuees flown into exile.)

Anyway, here’s “the idea that seemed pretty good” I felt perplexingly unmotivated to write: 

“A driver in strange surroundings turns on “Route Guidance” to assist them and proceeds to ignore everything the Route Guidance announcer tells them to do.”                                             

Sounds promising, doesn’t it?  You track the “Route Guidance” announcer’s mounting frustration as the driver insistently overrules them following their own directions instead, the assisting announcer trying to nudge them into compliance, their reasoned persuasion escalating into annoyance, building to a crescendoing,

"Why did you turn me on in the first place!?!"

The comedic elements are all present.  The “Route Guidance” routine, as they say, virtually “writes itself.”

“Hm.” – he spontaneously perceives.

Maybe that’s the inhibiting obstacle right there –

The yawning predictability of the concept.

The funny yawning predictability – because I am, after all, a professional comedy writer– but “yawning predictability” nonetheless.

Suggesting – as I ponder it further – I am a limited professional comedy writer.

Borrowing from baseball, I can make – using a “writing” descriptive – the original plays but cannot comfortably execute the routine ones.


“Two strangers, connecting on the Internet, meet for the first time for coffee.”

A consummate professional would immediately jump in with both feet.


(“URKEL”-ISH) “Do I have to?”

When I am not writing “conceptually” – a Southern diplomat proposes a Civil War-averting compromise in which the South agrees to free the slaves two days a week – my companion literary “Comfort Zone” is “writing from experience.” 

I have zero experience with “Internet Interludes.”  (I am 72.  I have been on, like, six dates.)

“You’re a writer – make it up”? 

Sure.  But I’d be counterfeiting reality.  The Result:  Superficial and shallow.  Easy jokes and clich├ęd choices.  Still funny – because – he professed humbly – it’s me – but lacking the leavening ring of resonating veracity.  

(That was me, trying to be a writer.)

If I had to do it, I would wind up mimicking my professional “betters.”  To me, that’s not writing.  It’s connecting the dots that other writers laid down.  

Taking the creative “high road”, not because I am a superior person but because I am unable to do otherwise –whatever I write, I am required – by myself – to find a uniquely Pomerantzian perspective.  Otherwise, why am I bothering?

That’s where I was with the “Route Guidance” possibility.  I could not conceive of a fresh – and thereby inspiring – humorous approach.


As it often does, during my mediation, an intriguing direction suddenly materialized.

Which, if this plane gets me uneventfully to my destination,

I shall deliver when next we meet.

It may not be good.

But at least it’ll be original.

A burdening prerequisite, looking back,

That may have seriously hampered my career.


I got sad.

Monday, January 15, 2018

"Outsider's Perspective"

I shall deliberately keep this short so as not to bury the point in exceptional writing. 

(Normally, I would make fun of that hyperbole.  But not today.  I am in a hurry.)

(Although that parenthesis admittedly took time.)

(As did that one.)

(As did… okay, I’ll stop.)

“You enjoy the attention, don’t you.”

I…  yeah… I guess… yeah…


I am visiting Canada, watching Canadian TV in my hotel room.  (Because I have looked out the window and, as with my entire “Winter Experience” growing up, going outside is not a reasonable alterative.)

If this post were to be written in one line, that one line would be this:

Wait.  A preamble to that one line. 

I am watching a Canadian commentary show, eager for an illuminating insight expressing an “Outsider’s View” to the "revoltin' development" south of the border.  And wouldn’t you know it? 

Canada broke through the baloney and hit it right on the head.

I do not know her name or her job or her relative status.  I recall only this line on her way to making a substantive point, which, for me, is of secondary significance, as her preambling pronouncement made bells of awareness go off in my head.

“President Trump”, she explained simply, “is an American character.”

Sit with that for a second. 

President Trump is an American character.

Not, as has been opined by learned historians, “An aberrant character in the Oval Office.”

Not, as Democrats gleefully brand him, “A Republican character.”

Not, as media pundits proudly profess, as it jacks up their importance as well, “A Frankenstein’s Monster character created by the media.”
An American character.

That’s all, and that’s it. 

Not saying there have not historically been Americans embodying the same characteristics, in the service of their country and their fellow persons (while enriching themselves enormously as well; they are Americans, after all, not saints.)   But check the “Needle of Proportional Consequences.”   Does it primarily point to “Benefits Us”, or more alarmingly – and exclusively – to “Benefits Me”?

No matter where the benefits ultimately reside, the exhibited behaviors are recognizably familiar.  Note the cluster of cultural characteristics the American value system prizes and praises and munificently rewards:

The Winner.

“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”

Sound familiar?

The Unstoppable Self-Promoter.

“I am the Greatest!”

Sound familiar?

The Shameless Manipulator.

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Sound (suspiciously) familiar?

And then, there’s this.
Roy Cohn, Donald Trump’s lawyer and mentor adamantly denied he had AIDS till the day that he died. 


Sound familiar?

The Canadian commentator clarified a point unincluded in the American discourse.

I guess they just didn’t notice.

Americans searching for answers to their current sorry predicament need do only one thing.

They need to look in the mirror.

Friday, January 12, 2018

"Picking At 'The Post' (Conclusion)"

Venn Diagram:

All old people do this.

I am an old person.

So what the heck do you expect?

I try to firmly withstand its septuagenarian draw.  But it’s no good.  Its magnetic pull is as strong as that third slice of pizza.  The best I can do is admit to it up front and let the tortilla chips – which I am also unable to resist – fall where they may. 

What do all old people do?  They insistent proclaim that

“The old stuff was better.”

In keeping with yesterday’s writing’s assertion that All The Presidents Men was (an is) superior to The Post.

Oscar nominations involve only the pictures of that year.  2017’s The Post will not be competing with 1976’s All The President’s Men.  The Post should be grateful for that reprieve.  If they’d gone “head to head”, I’d predict a punishing third-round knockout by All The President’s Men, the groggy Post lugged back to its corner, face-savingly mumbling,

“We were good for 2017.”

You cannot penalize a movie for the story it tells.  One movie tells one story; another movie, another.  Still, “One-on-One”, All The President’s Men chronicles a more powerful, dramatic narrative.

I am not discussing the ultimate stakes involved here.  In both movies, seminal constitutional issues are on the line.  In The Post, it’s the Freedom of the Press.  In All The President’s Men, it is the question of whether the President of the United States is above the law.

Big doin’s. 

Both worthy of a movie.


Contrasting All the President’s Men wherein the future of Nixon’s presidency is its first and foremost consideration, in The Post – by its own prioritization –

You have a seemingly “in-over-her-head” female publisher facing an unavoidable crisis.  You have the imminent future of a family-owned newspaper.  You have the competitive rivalry between the Washington Post and The New York Times

And you have the volatile issue of “Freedom of the Press.”

Never before has the “Free Press” concern run fourth in the “National Significance” Sweepstakes.  (In Constitutional days, ”Freedom of Speech” was originally the Third Amendment.  But that’s as low as it got.  This one beats it by a notch.)

So there’s that – what each movie is essentially focusing on.  In which, All The President’s Men resonates higher.  (If “comparative resonance” is a measurable category.)  

Then – and herein lies the disparitous margin of victory – there is the way each film goes about its narrative business.

From beginning to end, All the President’s Men involves an excruciating effort at ferreting out a carefully covered-up story involving hours of tedious “Library Time”, the ubiquitous “working the phones”, the endless knocking on doors, and coaxing terrified witnesses to step up and reveal “on the record” what they know, underscored by the drumbeat direction of “Deep Throat”, urging them to unwaveringly “Follow the money.”  

It is deservedly beyond dispute that All The President’s Men is the finest depiction of shoe-leathering “journalism in the trenches” ever depicted in the movies.

By contrast, here’s The Post.

A reporter immediately suspects who is disseminating the Pentagon Papers and after three dead-end phone calls before “Bingo!”, Daniel Ellsberg gives him the Pentagon Papers.

Not quite as compelling, is it?  (In the screenplay, referencing following the trail to the furtive Ellsberg the reporter himself admits, “The bread crumbs weren’t too hard to follow.”  (Versus Woodward and Bernstein’s working themselves into exhaustion.) 

There’s an enormous difference between a story in which the various pieces of the puzzle must be painstakingly assembled, where relevant witnesses require delicate cajoling to speak up and a self-proclaimed “Whistle Blower” eager to spill the beans to the newspapers.

Two differently weighted stories, one, dramatic and fascinating, the other, absorbing if you are tracking Katharine Graham’s evolving “rising to the occasion” but otherwise, we are watching hardworking journalists, under enormous time pressure, piecing together a voluminous document without the benefit of page numbers.

I will engage in few “actor comparisons”, other than to assert that Jason Robarts (as Ben Bradlee) is a man, and Tom Hanks (in the same role) is the kid who dances on pianos with Robert Loggia.  A sentence of “Worthy Mention” for All The President’s Men’s “Honor Roll” of some of the finest “character actors” of its era, including Hal Holbrook, Martin Balsam, Jack Warden and Jane Alexander.  Plus, Alan Pakula’s workmanlike direction, sensibly in tune with the storyline’s mundane journalistic “legwork.”  Not even talking about the “Lead Actors” (Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman) submerging their vaunted “Star Power” into an effective symbiotic collaboration.

Meryl Streep’s borderline mesmerizing performance is a Master’s Class in “Creating a Character.”  But otherwise, there is no comparison.

All The President’s Men is indisputably better.

And yet, even with this ironclad argument in All The President’s Men’s favor,

I will still be accused of living in the past.

What can I tell you?  Give me a worthy contemporary offering, and I shall lavish it with praise.


(Credit Where Credit is Due:  My favorite line from The Post?  When a reporter informs Bradlee it will take him a couple of days to write up the story, Bradlee sardonically retorts, “Well… what if we pretend you’re a reporter and not a novelist?”) 

(Follow-up Observation:  In a TV documentary, sponsored bizarrely by the Spielberg movie itself, a 2017 Daniel Ellsberg admits disappointment that the release of the Pentagon Papers had not, as he had imagined, turned the people against the war.  Isn’t that weird?  A movie, sponsoring a documentary undercutting its own historical importance?)

Final Thought  (I promise):  I could not help thinking, “What if the Pentagon Papers, or its like, were released to the public today?  In this “Two Truths” environment, would it have any mind-changing consequence whatsoever, or would it, as with all factual realities, simply drive the opposing sides further apart?)

Over and out.