Attack of Five Things About Media and Technology Right Now

(I don’t know why I started giving these posts classic sci-fi/monster movie titles, but there you go. Here’s Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, and Part 9.)

1. Saturday Night Live went too far. While the first couple of Jake Tapper/Kellyanne Conway sketches were funny, they never veered into mean territory (and even if they did it was sort of a funny “mean lite”). The Fatal Attraction takeoff this weekend was way over the top. As I realized what direction the sketch was heading – they’re going to make her go full psycho? – I cringed. The show has now painted itself into a corner and has given people who hate the show a lot of ammo, just when it was relevant again (more importantly, the sketch just wasn’t that funny). Where do you go in the next sketch – and of course there are going to be more sketches – after you show her as a nutjob who tries to kill a news anchor and is then revealed to be the undead? (Also, come on: Tapper’s forehead isn’t that big.)

The Cheetos and Russell Stover sketches were good though.

2. When the first episode of a network show suddenly appears online before it premieres, it’s not a “leak.” It’s called “publicity.”

3. Geraldo Rivera has decided to leave his post at Yale University because they’re going to change the name of one of their residential schools, Calhoun College. James C. Calhoun was a slavery advocate and a white supremacist and students/faculty don’t want his name associated with it any longer. I understand the uproar against this, because we can’t go back and change the name on everything that exists because someone may have done something unseemly in the past. We’d have to change, well, everything that exists (though they couldn’t have made a better choice for the replacement than Grace Murray Hopper).

But I think I speak for everyone when I say…Geraldo Rivera taught at Yale?

4. I haven’t watched or cared about the Grammys since I was 25 (many years and four presidents ago), but this new world where “everything is pop culture and must be commented on by every media outlet” means I found out that they forgot Kay Starr in their “In Memoriam” montage last night and it really kevins my bacon. She was fantastic.

5. Hey, there’s a name for a 37-part tweetstorm. It’s called an essay. Or maybe a blog post? A column?

Remember?

Winter

It’s snowing again. Or maybe I should say “still.” After weeks of 50 degree weather we got 14 inches the other day. Another 3 expected today before we get another foot on Sunday night/Monday morning. It’ll nearly be like a picture print from Currier and Ives.

I’d like to thank the people who parked their cars on the sidewalk in front of my apartment the day after the 14 inches fell. Not only did you make it impossible to park any other cars in front of or in back of you, you made walking on the sidewalk more difficult. Well done!

Mary Tyler Moore

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Like most men of a certain age, I had an enormous crush on Mary Tyler Moore.

When I heard that she had passed away Wednesday at the age of 80, I got tremendously sad. As 2016 showed us, celebrities – just like real human beings! – die. But some deaths outside of your immediate circle of family and friends hit you harder than others.

She’s my first vivid female memory, if you don’t count my mother and sisters, and certainly my first vivid female pop culture memory, watching her play Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was five years old, and my writing hero has always been Laura’s husband Rob. It was because he seemed to have that unique mixture of a great-paying job and a healthy home life. A writer with a great-paying job and a healthy home life?

I’ve always had a dual personality. I’m constantly in a battle with myself (hey, I’m a Gemini). Part of me wants to be the world-weary freelance writer, aloof, always on the go, swinging in on a chandelier to save the day with my typewriter. No bosses, no time clocks, no time for staff meetings or Dilbert-like politics. The other part of me desperately wants to be Ward Cleaver, with a solid home, a wife, the two kids, the wacky neighbors, a lawn, and health benefits. All writers know that those two worlds can never exist together, right?

Then I met Rob Petrie. Well, if you define “met” as in “watched every single episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show approximately 75 times.” He had it all! He had style and was quick-witted and funny and wrote for a hit TV show with friends Sally and Buddy in this big city called New York, a world of advertising and martinis and skyscrapers. But after work, he had a house. In the suburbs! New Rochelle, to be exact. 148 Bonnie Meadow Road (the same street show creator Carl Reiner once lived on). He had the beautiful wife, the cute son, the milkman, the neighbors who were also best friends. Jerry Helper borrowed power tools from Rob and his wife Millie swapped recipes with Laura.

My God, I thought to myself. That’s what I want. How do I get that?

I think the 30-plus years I’ve been a writer has been a search for that life. I want that balance. I write full-time now but I haven’t found the wife or the kids or the home yet, but I will. I used to say that Rob Petrie was the big reason why I became a writer in the first place, and while that’s certainly true, I’m also a writer because of one of the most powerful goals in the world. I wanted to be married to Mary Tyler Moore.

Thanks Mary, for unknowingly pushing this Massachusetts kid to the life he wanted to lead. You not only turned the world on with your smile you turned my world on too.

Like

Anyone know what the world record is for the number of times sneezing in a row? I think I broke it. The record, not my nose. I have a head cold.

Speaking of counting things, let’s talk about “like.” I don’t mean the Facebook Like and I don’t mean your general, every day like, as in “I like ice cream” or “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing.” This is the other one.

I was sitting in the Barnes & Noble cafe, minding my own business, drinking a grande hot chai with a shot of vanilla when I happened to overhear the young woman at the table next to me talking on the phone. She was talking to a friend about what her dad expects from her. Apparently she was upset because her father expects her, at the age she is, to have certain things in life and be doing certain things in life. There was a lot of talk about feelings, the kind of explanation you might get from a girl in high school who draws hearts on the front of her textbook or a young woman in her sophomore year at a college with a lot of safe spaces. At one point she mentioned she was 25 years old.

I decided to count how many times she said “like” in five minutes. I glanced at my Timex and silently said “go” to myself and counted. Total tally? 44 times. 44 times in 5 minutes! How many times is that a minute? You do the math. (No, seriously, you do the math, I’m terrible at it.)

What would happen if a bunch of “likes” were actually written in one paragraph?

I was, like, sitting in the Barnes & Noble cafe, minding my own business, drinking, like, a grande hot chai with a shot of vanilla when I happened to overhear the young woman at the table next to me talking on the phone. She was, like, talking to a friend about what her dad expects from her. Apparently she was, like, upset because her father expects her, at the age she is, to have, like, certain things in life and be doing certain things in life. There was, like, a lot of talk about feelings, the kind of explanation you might get from a girl in high school who draws hearts on the front of her textbook or, like, a young woman in her sophomore year at a college with a lot of safe spaces. At one point she mentioned she was, like, 25 years old.

Those “likes” don’t make any sense when you write them out, so why would you actually say them out loud? Where did this come from, and how did it become so ubiquitous?

If I were to give one piece of advice to teens and college age people – and also to 25 year-olds who have jobs, apparently – it wouldn’t be to save money or to be nicer to small children and dogs and it wouldn’t be to remember to floss, though all of those things are important. It would be to cut out the “likes” completely. You’d be amazed how much smarter you’ll sound.

Oh, and don’t say “um” either. But that’s a whole other rant.

Laura Petrie, lamb chops, and the way things happen sometimes

Walked to the store earlier today to get some milk. The weather was rainy and windy and cold and raw, the kind of weather people are supposed to hate and moan about. I love it.

Something happened this week that happens more often in my life than not, and I sometimes wonder why. I’ve been reading a classic collection of essays by Jean Kerr titled Please Don’t Eat The Daisies (something I’m going to write about in my Saturday Evening Post column on Friday). I saw the movie years ago but I’ve never read the book, which came out in the late ’50’s. In fact, I never even knew that the book was a series of essays, I thought it was a non-fiction memoir that was turned into a movie and later a TV series. Which I guess it is in a way. It’s a terrific book. The essays focus on her four sons and her husband and her life as a playwright, and if you like Peg Bracken and Erma Bombeck or just well-written observations about life in general you’ll like Kerr.

I read a couple of chapters and decided to put the book down and put on an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show. I chose “My Husband is the Best One,” the 1964 episode where Laura screws up an interview that Rob has with a reporter from Newstime about what it’s like to work with Alan Brady, talking about Rob so much that the piece ends up being about Rob and not Alan. A few days later when the article comes out and everyone at the office is mad at Rob, Laura mentions that even though they don’t like him down at the office, everyone in New Rochelle loves him. In fact, the people at the supermarket were so impressed with the article that they gave Laura the lamb chops they usually save for another regular customer.

The other customer? JEAN KERR.

I had to rewind the DVD – if “rewind” is what you do to a DVD – to make sure I heard it right. Yup, the Petries live near someone named Jean Kerr. Now, I’m thinking, is this the Jean Kerr, or someone with a similar name that has no connection to the Jean Kerr, or is it something in-between, the writers obviously knowing who Jean Kerr is and giving this fictional character the same name as an inside joke?

Not to get all Columbo about this, and there’s a good chance you’ve already clicked to another site to look at cats or something, but I think I figured it out. I did some checking and the real Jean Kerr lived in Larchmont, NY, which is right near New Rochelle, where the Petries lived (and where series creator Carl Reiner lived in real life), so the Petries and Kerrs shopped at the same supermarket. This was a reference to the actual Jean Kerr and that’s why the audience laughs at Laura’s line: the supermarket usually saves the pork chops for the famous Jean Kerr but on this day gave them to Laura because of the article about Rob. I bet there was an article about Kerr in that issue of Newstime Laura was reading.

It’s interesting because I wonder if you could even get away with that today. Would modern TV audiences believe that a “normal,” every day person like Laura Petrie would shop at the same supermarket as a well-known writer of plays and essays? Sure, Jean Kerr wasn’t Brad Pitt/Julia Roberts famous, but I wonder if it would ring true now or if people would consider it too unreal, simple name-dropping, a joke pulled out of thin air. It’s completely believable in the Dick Van Dyke Show world though. Considering where the Kerrs lived and what Jean Kerr wrote about, family life and raising kids and other everyday matters, and the fact that Rob writes for a top ten TV show yet still lives in the suburbs, of course Laura Petrie shops where Jean Kerr shops.

Wait, I’m not done yet. Later that night I was watching a repeat of To Tell The Truth on Buzzr, an episode from 1962 with guest Barry Nelson on the panel. Host Bud Collyer mentioned that Nelson was currently appearing on stage in a very popular play titled Mary, Mary. Guess who wrote that play?

Come on, guess.

 

Snow Day

Here’s the secret to shoveling snow: shovel more.

Eleven inches fell all day and night yesterday, and if I had waited until the storm was over to shovel it would have been a horrifying chore. But I went out every few hours or so and did the stairs and sidewalk so it didn’t get a chance to build up. A few rounds of shoveling yesterday and one early this morning to get rid of the 2 or 3 inches that fell overnight, a generous amount rock salt thrown down and it was done.

Last night as I was shoveling the sidewalk at the base of the stairs, I heard someone say “WHOA!” It was a guy – probably in his late teens or early 20’s – coming down the hill. My head was down and my hood was up so I don’t know why he exclaimed that, maybe he lost his footing, but as I looked at him he looked at me and said “THIS F***ING PLACE SUCKS!” Not exactly a moment that would inspire a Saturday Evening Post cover but I did laugh to myself.

Oh, speaking of: new column up.