Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Jury Duty

Well, here it is: my first post written inside a courthouse.  Yes, loyal readers, I write you from within the wearying bureacratic soul-suck that is...Jury Duty.  Where, as it turns out, they offer free computer access.  But not much else.  So, since I have a minimum of three more hours to wait and I've already read most of the interesting magazines lying around (well "interesting" is a stretch.  The most recent thing here came out in March.  This morning I read an issue of Harpers that was published during the Bush administration.  Really.)

What to talk about?  Well since I've spent the last hour reading every web site I can think of to kill time, I guess the news is a place to start.

Oh--first--jury duty itself.  This is my second time to be called to Jury Duty in LA.  The first time was at a different courthouse, one that sent most of us home by 10 AM.  I mistakenly assumed, receiving this recent summons, that I would be going to the same courthouse; in fact, however, I ended up at a court where they make you wait around all day.  I've been here since 8:30.  It's 1:30 now.  So far not one person in the room has been called.  I'm hopeful they'll start to release some of us soon.  Though since I know they won't I guess 'hopeful' isn't the word.  What, then?  Praying, maybe.

Back to the news.  It's sort of dispiriting, isn't it?  How about bullet points on the big issues.

-Can we all agree to be collectively outraged about J McCarthy being given a full time job The View?  I realize daytime talk is not exactly the Oxford debating society, but at least most of their regularly-scheduled idiots aren't offering opinions that might actually cause immediate harm.  Stay-at-home moms are the meat and potatoes of a show like the The View.  McCarthy espouses dangerous nutcase theories that lead to under-vaccination and, in some cases, death.  Yet ABC gives her a public platform in front of the very audience who she threatens the most.  Appalling.

-My take on George Zimmerman.... (as if the world needed more people talking about him).  The man is pathetic and foolish; he's like The Office's Dwight Schrute--only with a gun.  In a state that allows him to shoot people.  Still, I think that what he did was legal, at least according to Florida law.  The issue at stake--as many in the media have pointed out--is laws that allow "Stand Your Ground" justifications for the use of deadly force.  (A media meme has taken hold, recently, suggesting that "Stand Your Ground" actually played no role in his conviction; for a refutation of same go here.)  Florida laws don't seem particularly reasonable to me, and though I'm not qualified to pronounce on the subject, I don't see a need for "Stand Your Ground" type laws in general.  Though much about that night will never be known, Zimmerman seems to me to have been something more than an unsuspecting, innocent victim (the fact that he ignored the 911 dispatcher's order to say in his car and instead went back after Martin is telling).  At the very least, I believe he helped to provoke the violence that lead to Martin's death--but without any witnesses it's obviously impossible to say what actually happened.

My gut reaction to this kind of news is to say that nobody anywhere in the US should be allowed to carry a pistol (except cops).  I know that's a simplistic solution to a complicated set of problems.  Still, as ever in America, guns make things worse.  (As the mob was to the Sopranos, so guns are to America; they serve to turn every problem, disagreement or tension into a matter of life and death).   Any problem that exists in American society is made worse--deadlier and more horrible--because of the ready access of guns.  The Newton killings, for example, or the shooting in Colorado, the core problem, in both instances, is our difficulties in dealing with the mentally ill.   But guns make the problem worse.   In China, by contrast, mentally unstable people go on knifing sprees; people are hurt, and it isn't pleasant, but it's nothing like as bad as it is here.  There, the potential for mass violence is siginificantly absent, because guns are so much harder to come by. 

But I digress.
("But it's all there in the letter."  "Verbatim.")

I would say, as a sidenote, that I think the prosecution overcharged Zimmerman.  If they'd have gone for ONLY manslaughter, giving up on 2nd degree murder, they might have got a conviction.  Also worth remembering; the Florida crime scene people made serious errors in handling the evidence.  Had they bagged  Martin's bloody clothes correctly, DNA evidence might have been more conclusive.  Yet more proof that "CSI" and "Crime Scene" are the most arrant of fictions.

-I'm working now on a Modern Family spec.  Then, back to a play.  A different one, I think.
-It's been a tough summer.

-I'm getting back into tennis, trying to get back into serious shape.  For most of last year my main exercise was walking.  That allowed me to listen to books on tape, and for that reason I relished it (I "read" all of Trollope's Barsetshire Novels while walking around the Hazeltine/Sherman Oaks park last year.  Wonderful.)  But walking, while relaxing, doesn't soup up the metabolism like I now think I need.  It also take time from the day.  So back to running, jumping rope, and--for now--tennis against the backboard.  Lessons may resume shortly.

-Okay, time to go read the January 29 issue of National Review.  Really.

-Addendum: Jury Service ended at 3:30.  Now, to nap.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Call To Action

Hi everyone. This is an unusual post for me; I almost never try to advocate for or against...well, anything. But this is different. This is about Jenny McCarthy. The rumor is that she is currently being considered by ABC as a potential host for The View. Anyone who's followed the anti-vaccination debates knows that Ms McCarthy has been one of the most vocal advocates against vaccinating children. Her work is dangerous and it's ill-informed; giving her a voice on national TV is only going to give credence to the substance of her ideas.

Therefore I'd like to ask--to plead, in fact--that everyone who reads this site click on the link below taking you to ABC's feedback page. There, I'd ask you to leave a short, polite note, expressing your opposition to McCarthy's candidacy. I've pasted a sample (taken from Slate) to give you an idea of what might be an appropriate note.   Please.  It will take literally two minutes of your time; and it has the chance to do a lot of good.  Also, if you could forward this information to anyone else you know who you think would be willing to post, I'd appreciate it.


Sample Letter to ABC (taken from here):
Dear ABC- I've heard that Jenny McCarthy is being considered to co-host of "The View". I strongly urge you NOT to hire her. Ms. McCarthy is a vocal activist for highly dangerous health ideas, including the mistaken belief that vaccines cause autism. While the world suffers outbreaks of measles and pertussis, Ms. McCarthy continues to advocate against vaccines. Having her host a respected show like The View would damage its reputation. For more info: goo.gl/hXJos.
Thank you,

link to feedback page for ABC

link to discussions of McCarthy's dangerous anti-vaccination work
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Sunday, July 7, 2013

When I Walk Into A Room, I Do Not Light It Up

Why Must Everything Have A Title?

I have, I know, posted almost not at all over the last month plus.  This is because I've had, in a way, too much in my head to put it out.  And then again the medium, the blog, it's not ideal.  It's far worse than not ideal, really.  It's quite unsatisfactory.  And I, too, am unsatisfactory.  More than unsatisfactory, insignificant.  So I feel less and less inclined to impose--or seek to impose--my insignificance upon the world.  Or, rather, the minor subset of the world which constitutes my readers.

But I'm having some difficulties.  Let's say only that.  Let's not devolve into self pity and the rending of clothes, or even the rending of pretend clothes.  Let's not do that.  So I'm going to locate myself in the familiar and banal, which is safe--or safe enough.

And in that world, the familiar and undangerous, I'll say a few small things about what I've been reading and viewing.  To wit: 1) Chabon's Kavalier and Clay very much lived up to all its hype.  I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a good--a great--book.  In a Martin Amis review of Updike he says something to the effect that, reading his first Updike novel he has the sensation--the unpleasant and regrettable sensation--that "now I'm going to have to read everything he ever wrote."  I understand completely what he means.  And this is how I feel about Chabon.  Every time I read a new piece of his, I am again reminded that I need to just get on with reading everything he ever wrote.  Because he's worth that time.

Old John Williams, the New York intellectual, put me in the way of The End of Vandalism by Tom Drury.  And that was very very funny.  He was right, that intellectual Brooklynite.  Worth a read.

I've found a website--for which I surely SHOULD provide a link--in which you sort of..toggle various adjectives (funny/sad/erotic/serious) and adjust them, really, to various degrees... (i.e.: adjust 'funny' to..not at all funny, or to very funny, or whatever) and based on the degrees that have been toggled, book recommendations are produced.  I could easily find the link, I'm sure, but I'm not going to.  Anyway, the first book it spat out was "The Ask" by Sam Lipsyte.  Who seems to be a rising cougar, in the great savannas of the night.  But, no, I say--no.  The Ask is yet another example of an artifact which substitutes cynicism for wisdom.  It's a snide fried dough pie of trite Brooklyn intelligensia despair.  If it were to be burned at the stake--and such it surely deserves--the stake in question should be best a cheap, East Texas pine.  Certainly nothing like cherry, or mahogany.