LURCH

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT!


Garry was wrong. It was NOT Fred Guinn. It was Ted Cassidy who played Lurch.

By Pleasure Island – Uploaded by We Hope at en.wikipedia – eBay itemphoto front photo back – Transferred from en.wikipedia by SreeBot, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/

This is Lurch. He was the butler for the Addams family. Maybe if you ask nice, he will be YOUR butler, too. Do you have high ceilings?

IF TELEVISION WAS REAL – BY TOM CURLEY

I watch a lot of TV. Probably too much. I’m fond of action shows. I’m really fond of all the various comic book shows.


The single thing these shows have in common is they all have at least one computer genius. A girl or guy geek who’s the best hacker in the business. They always have at least a half-dozen computer monitors in front of them. Each one has 10 or more windows open with lines of data scrolling by at about a hundred miles an hour. They can do anything and everything. Instantly.

falcontradingsystems.com

falcontradingsystems.com

BOSS: I know this is illegal, but I need you to hack into the CIA, NSA and FBI servers. They have the most secure and impenetrable firewalls ever designed. Can you do it?

COMPUTER GENIUS: I was into all three 15 seconds ago, sir. The ones that work for the FBI can find anything in 10 seconds or less.

FBI BOSS: Our serial killer is male, early thirties, white, and probably living in a two square mile region south of Albany, Georgia. He’s left handed  and likes string cheese. We need to narrow our search …

FBI COMPUTER GENIUS: Found him! His photo, home address and a copy of his permanent High School record have already been sent to your phone.

Not the real bad guy

Probably not the real bad guy, but this got me to thinking. What would these shows look like if they were happening in the real world?

BOSS OF SUPER SECRET GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION TASKED WITH SAVING THE WORLD FROM SUPER BAD EVIL DOERS:  OK, listen up. You two are the world’s best black hat and white hat hackers. We’ve brought you here because a Super Bad Evil Doer has stolen software that will allow him to access all the world powers’ nuclear codes. He is demanding 1 trillion dollars in ransom or he will launch all the missiles at once and destroy the Earth. You each have a whole bunch of computer screens in front of you with dozens of boxes open scrolling lines and lines of stuff. You have less than 10 minutes to somehow find our Evil Doer and figure out a way to block him from launching those missiles. Can you do it?

HACKER #1: Yes, but we will need to write some specialized software, at least 10 to 20 thousand lines of code.

BOSS: My God!  Can you do it in time???

HACKER #2: Already done sir. Now all we have to do is upload it to the Evil Doer’s computer. Ready to send in 3, 2 ….

HACKER #1: NO! NO! NO!

HACKER #2: What’s wrong? OH GOD NO! NO! NO!

BOSS: What’s happening?!

HACKER #1: My computer is shutting down!!

HACKER #2: MINE TOO!

BOSS: Are you being hacked? Have your computers been infiltrated by some kind of malicious software? Does the Evil Doer have a genius hacker of his own???

HACKER #1: WORSE! Windows just installed updates! It’s rebooting so the updates can take effect!

windows shut down

BOSS: Can you stop it!??

HACKER #2: It’s too late! Look! It’s already started rebooting and configuring the updates!

windowsupdateinstalling_40853_l

BOSS: There’s nothing you can do???!

HACKER #2: No sir. Look at the screen. It says “Please do not power off or unplug your machine while updates are in progress”!

windows updates 1

BOSS: How long will it take to reboot?

HACKER #1: God only knows! Look! It’s still installing update six of ten! This could take an hour! Even more.

BOSS: We have less than ten minutes before nuclear Armageddon! What are we going to?

HACKER #1: Wait! I’ve got it! I can use my smart phone!

HACKER #2: Yes! We will have to adapt about 15 thousand lines of code but …

HACKER #1: It’s done! OK now all I have to do is input and send the kill command. “NEUTRALIZE ALL NUCLEAR LAUNCH CODES”. And … done!

BOSS: Thank God!

HACKER #2: Oh NO! You entered “NEUTRALIZE ALL NUCLEAR LUNCH CODES”!!

HACKER #1: What?! Damn you AUTOCORRECT!

autocorrect

BOSS: What do we do now!!

HACKER #2: You know what? Pay the ransom. I’ve had it with Windows. I mean look, it’s still on update 6 of 10! We’re going to be here all day!

HACKER #1: I agree. Pay the money. This is just too much trouble. I’m telling you, ever since my phone updated to iOS 9.0.1, nothing works right.

HACKER #2: Tell me about it.

ios-9-overnight-update

As the two hackers walk off into the sunset discussing whether or not upgrading to Windows 10 would make the situation better or worse, small mushroom clouds appear in the distance.

doodleordie.com

doodleordie.com

Yeah, that’s pretty much how it would happen. Here’s the actual TV show.

 

HOW STUPID ARE WE?

When I lived in Israel, there was a true story, heavily publicized in local papers, about a family who sold their house and used the proceeds to buy lottery tickets. They reasoned they had to win. Win big. After which they would buy a new house. It didn’t work out as planned. They ended up with a giant pile of worthless lottery tickets — and no house. It was a living example of “what could possibly go wrong” logic.

No people, no country, no place on earth is exempt from an unyielding belief that something great will happen in the middle of what is obviously a truly bad plan. It’s a people thing.

Watching television gives me many opportunities to ponder “what could possibly go wrong?” For example, last night, we saw an old CSI episode with Ted Danson in charge. He was using his lovely daughter as bait for a serial killer.

Really. What could possibly go wrong with that?

It took all the creativity of a team of writers to come up with a happy ending. It was unbelievable in the sense that I didn’t believe it. Garry didn’t believe it. I bet even the guys who wrote it didn’t believe it.

I try not to take this sort of thing personally. Can it be that the producers of television series think we are quite that stupid? I suppose these days, they may have a point … but they’ve been writing stupid scripts for a long time. Probably as long as there has been television.

When I worked at Doubleday, we wrote about books because, you know, Doubleday is a publisher. There were very few rules about how to write. We were allowed a great deal of creative freedom. But there was one big warning: never write “down” to your readers. As the editor in charge of the Doubleday Romance Library, I got to read surveys on who actually reads romance novels, an oft-maligned genre of literature.

These light, fluffy stories — all pretty much the same plot — always sold extremely well. It seemed that fans of the genre could not get enough of them. Yet survey after survey showed that the readers of romance novels were, of all of our reader groups, the best educated.

How could that be? Well, it turns out that many people in high-pressure professions don’t necessarily want a steady diet of serious books. They wanted books without ugly deaths or torture. They liked knowing there would be a happy ending and if they forgot to finish the book, it didn’t matter. It didn’t mean they didn’t read other stuff, but this was the marshmallow cream of literature.

Whoever is in charge of the story lines and scripts for television series have forgotten about not talking down to us. They think we are stupid. Okay, may some people are — but not everyone and not all the time. When the show gets sufficiently stupid, I stop watching. When the stories get ridiculous and the “what could possibly go wrong?” factor outweighs other entertainment values, I move on.

For me to accept a story, to suspend my disbelief, you need to give me a hook. Something that lets me accept whatever is happening as “possible.” Like, there you are on planet Alphabetazoid in the far away galaxy of ZYX900042 and everyone speaks colloquial 21st century American English. You want me to believe it? Tell me they are using their “Universal Translator.” Or they have babel fish in their ears. I want to believe, but you have to offer me a little help.

Of course, that’s useless when confronted by the vast real life ocean  of human stupidity. People who really do sell their homes to buy lottery tickets and vote for people who will destroy their lives. People who live an entire life composed of “what could possibly go wrong with that” scenarios.

In real life, I will trudge on dealing with stupidity because that’s life … but at least on television, give me a break. Help me believe. Because I may be naïve and unaware … but usually, not too stupid.

Life is stupid enough. I don’t need extra help.

WHY ARE YOU WEARING THAT THING?

“How come Gibbs is wearing a coat in Arizona in the summer?”

I was talking to Garry. It was an NCIS rerun. We watch a lot of reruns, though this new fall season of TV is shaping up better than I expected, so maybe there will be new shows to watch.

72-Garry-Fenway-Park_152

The question about costumes comes up often and on various shows. One of the more common “duh” moments is when the male lead is wearing a coat and the female lead is skimpily dressed. No explanation needed for that one.

More weird is when each cast member is dressed randomly, apparently without regard for the plot. One is wearing a heavy winter coat, another a light denim jacket. A third is in shirtsleeves. Some are clothed in jeans or other casual stuff while others look ready for Wall Street … or a cocktail party. Women are supposedly hiking. Or running from or after serial killers while wearing 4-inch spike heels. My feet hurt looking at them.

Garry and I have done a tiny bit of movie “extra” work so I’m guessing it goes like this:  “Go find something that fits in wardrobe and be on set in ten.”

Everyone hustles off to wardrobe, which looks like a jumble sale or the clothing racks at the Salvation Army store. Most of the clothing in wardrobe probably came from some second-hand source or other. The cast dives in looking for something that fits. As soon as they find an outfit … any outfit … they head for a changing booth, then off to be on set before someone yells at them. Stars get slightly better wardrobe or wear their own clothing. Wearing ones own clothing, both on TV shows and movies is quite common. I understand why.

The real question is not why everyone on a show is poorly or inappropriately dressed. It’s whether or not the people who produce the show think we won’t notice.

My theory is they don’t care if we notice or not. They don’t want to spend money on wardrobe. They figure if you and I notice, we won’t care. In any case, we’ll keep watching. And they’re right. It’s a bottom-line  world. Wardrobe is an area where corners can easily be cut.

The thing is, we do notice. You don’t need to be a professional critic or especially astute to see the incongruities of television costuming.

72-Garry-Baseball-HOF_003

It’s not just costumes, either. Sloppy editing, crappy scripts, stupid plots that include blatant factual and continuity errors. Ultimately, we do stop watching. Because it’s obvious they don’t care so why should we?

You notice it on long-running shows that had good scripts and editing, but not any more. Quality drifts away. Producers are baffled when loyal fans stop tuning in. Obvious to a normal person, but apparently incomprehensible to network executives. Disrespect for viewers is at the root of much of the illness besetting the TV industry.

They should be nicer to us. We’re, after all, the customers. Aren’t we?

NINETY AND MORE: “IF YOU’RE NOT IN THE OBIT, EAT BREAKFAST”

A couple of nights ago, Garry and I watched an HBO show called ‘If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast.” It was put together by Carl Reiner and it features his gang of over-90 year old friends from show business. Many of them are enjoying what you could only call extraordinarily good health, but not all. It’s a pretty good show and if you get a chance, you should watch it. It’s funny — it’s Carl Reiner with a dollop of Mel Brooks, so why not? But it’s also good sense.

Courtesy: HBO

Listening to these guys talk about getting very old — not just regular old — brought up a lot of consistent themes. All of them were busy. All computer literate. Most of them are writers. All of them felt the quality of their work was as good or better than it had ever been. Many of them said how grateful they were for their computers and being connected … and at least one of them commented that he hoped to die with his fingers on the keyboard.

From left, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear and Carl Reiner in the HBO documentary “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast.” Credit HBO

There were other commonalities. All of them were healthy eaters. None of them were smokers. If they were ever drinkers, none of them are currently is. All of them exercised as much as life allowed. No one seemed resentful of having to give up fatty or fried food. No one felt that life wouldn’t be worth living if they couldn’t overeat or keep hold of their old bad habits. I got the feeling that most of them hadn’t had all that many bad habits anyway.

And all of them were enthusiastic and excited about life, even though — obviously — all of them had lost many friends and family to death. Because at that age, that’s the way it is. For that matter, at our age, that’s also the way it is.

Courtesy: HBO

It was the energy and enthusiasm which was so striking. And the writing.

I have always thought writing is one of those things that keeps your brain alive and working. When people ask me why I do this — blog — and why I write so often, I just smile. What else would I be doing if not this? What else could I do that would make me feel as involved and alive as writing does?

Young people assume that all very old people must be creaking along, barely able to walk, much less think. Some of us may have trouble walking, but mentally? I don’t think there is a smarter group of people anywhere.

CRISP TREES AND TELEVISION TESTIMONY

A CRISP AND SHINY DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Today is one lovely early summer’s day. After all the cold and rain, this is the kind of day you hope for. It’s the first beautiful day in a quite a while.

It’s also the day James Comey — America’s former FBI Director — is giving live-on-television testimony about his relationship with America’s president. We are expecting a great television experience.

For a goodly number of us, it brings back nostalgic waves of memory for the Good Old Days of Dick Nixon and Watergate which oddly, doesn’t seem like nearly as big a deal now as it did then. Time puts everything into perspective.  I do not have my popcorn ready because it is too early in the morning for anything quite that salty and crunchy.

Later, after the Big Show, I’m sure I’ll have something more to say on the subject. Or not. It’s hard to know how I’ll feel. Later.

To keep your visually occupied,  these are some very crisp photographs I created last night while I was messing around with pictures. That’s what I do while there’s stuff on television in which I’m not terribly interested. I go through the files of pictures from the past few months to see what I’ve shot, but never did anything about.

These were originally photographs of young, leafy oak trees on a very bright day in May.

I love shooting upward towards the sun, but I’m never sure what to do with the pictures. Unless there’s a special set of clouds or birds or something, well. There are just so many pictures of leafy trees that anyone needs, so I wanted to find something different for these.

I think I would call these pictures crisp. Let me know what you think. They are a highly filtered form of line drawing or sketch. I think I like them.

WITHOUT A TRACE

“Without A Trace” was a television show where the FBI searched for missing people, often children.

It was a pretty good show. It went off the air a few years ago along with a lot of shows we used to watch. Speaking of “without a trace,” so many of the shows we used to watch have ended and the replacements are … well … not so wonderful.

We like “Bull”, Michael Weatherly’s new one. He’s really still Tony from NCIS, but more mature and a lot less annoying. They have removed his childishness, which was his least attractive characteristic and I’m glad his show is doing well.

We finally turned off “The Black List” the other night. I loved the show when it came on.  James Spader as Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington was a complex, lethal, but fascinating character. Somewhere during this past year, they seem to have lost their path. In some attempt to make the show “different,” it merely became intensely brutal and violent with revolving plots about the exact same stuff they supposedly fixed in previous seasons. I hope they find their feet again. Sooner would be nicer than eventually.

So much of our television has moved to the streaming channels of Roku. Netflix and Acorn are the big winners and last night, finally, season five of “House of Cards” came back to our screens.

It’s still an amazing show, but reality has so altered since “House of Cards” went on the air, that the bizarre stuff they are doing in fiction hardly seems crazier than what our so-called government is doing. That is not the fault (obviously) of the show. It just demonstrates how bad things have gotten here in the United States. How terribly frightening. There’s nothing they can do in fiction that we aren’t sure is being done for real in Washington DC.

Yesterday, many shows were talking about the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. We watched him speak. We listened to the elegance of the language, the hopes for our future and the future of the world. We mentally compared it to the travesty of our current government.

Personally, I cringed. The United States has become an embarrassment internationally, a horror show domestically. A shame. An indignation. A frightening joke among the world’s players.

How did we let ourselves fall to this? How could this happen?