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In a previous post I told you about Gross Bob. [Scroll. 2nd post down.]

We got away with it, you see. I had two problems. Or three. I wasn’t really in business school to be a business guy. I was trying to please my dad. I had an instinctive conviction that if I followed his true wishes, me going to law school, I would have had my mind destroyed. So business school seemed the lesser of two evils. Cornell the same. My dad went to Cornell. He never forgave me for going to Harvard (to his dying day). My sis was there for the same reason. It did certainly destroy her life, all those years in Ithaca. But I was playing the game. I was, despite my general uninterest, in the top third of my class. I could do it. Finally got on top of math for the first time in my life. Two week pre-enrollment course. One week of Algebra. One week of Calculus. All day, every day. How simple can things be?

The two problems the writer in me had. We got away with trashing a bar working class people depended on for a living. AND most of us were willing to leave one of our own behind to save our own necks. I can still hear the car revving in the parking lot: “Leave him! Leave him! We gotta get out of here.” The elite I was supposed to be joining didn’t have an ounce of honor among them. Or an ounce of common decency. I knew it was a bad deal all round.

I should have done something. I didn’t. I was still twenty years old and way behind where I was supposed to be emotionally given my board scores. I did what kids do. I flopped out.

I dropped out with one semester to go for my vaunted Cornell MBA. What did I do? Nothing. Took a County job publishing an historical magazine. Produced a reenactment of the weird little episode called The Skirmish at Quinton’s Bridge. Wrote road signs about it for God’s sake. Some of which are still there.

And I taught myself to write. Not Harvard writing. But writing writing. Typed and retyped and retyped and retyped the same paragraph with changes sometimes as small as a single word. My government office was up to my hips in discarded typescript.

They fired me eventually because I never even attempted to do my job. And then I started waking up to the song above. You know. It’s probably already infested your brain even as I’ve been talking drivel. I started hearing this song all night long in my dreams (along with this sleep mugger), a song I’d cued myself in countless Ithaca area bars.

And so I went back to work. As a proofreader, editor, computer analyst, corporate manager, management consultant, speechwriter for Fortune 10 executives, and consultant trainer for the pathetically undereducated drones who are expected to do work they can’t do.

But it’s a lie. I can’t help. I can only shine. And that’s never ever good enough.

There’s Frank Bogage and my wife and then there’s nobody else.

The overstuffed gray suit. With no face and no fingerprints. I was grand.

The overstuffed gray suit. With no face and no fingerprints. I was grand.

Thus was born Daniel Pangloss, eternal rider of the subway in Shuteye Town.

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Who vented my frustrations and failures to make any difference in a world of fools. Which was, of course, only Shuteye Town, locus of rails and trains and whistle wails.

The Lounge Conversations

God help you all. God save you all. I can’t.

A Never Say Die guy

A Never Say Die guy

We called him Gross Bob. Member of our class at the Cornell Business School. He had livid raised red scars on his face. He was happy to tell you the story. Got pulled over by the state police in Florida on a party night. They didn’t like his off-handed answers, his obvious disdain for their authority. So they beat the crap out of him with their nightsticks. He said he got in a couple of licks too.

He was smart. Good student. But he hadn’t given up partying. So one night a handful of us went to Trumansburg after hours, to a place with a bad rep but a late closing time. You know. Being at Cornell in the middle of nowhere makes you a risk taker unless you’re an Ithaca drone. So we we drank, played pool, drank some more. You know the place. Dark, dirty, wide bar with muddy mirror and a lot of resentful locals who don’t like the uptown outsiders on principle.

Which is why, as Gross Bob was starting on his umpteenth scotch, some local got in his face. Which was a mistake. Bob looked like he might be kind of soft, with that middle bulge and all. But it’s the same kind of build heavyweight fighters from the fifties had, and he decked the guy in two seconds flat. Then the others joined in, and Bob was laying them out like a scene in the movies. The action moved back toward the bar and the bartender brought out his baseball bat. So Bob hoisted the guy he was in the process of punching out and hurled him over the bar, into the bartender, and thereby shattered the muddy mirror.

Which kind of brought everything to a halt. The bloody faced bartender was on the phone to the cops. The little Cornellians were ready to flee. Honestly. They wanted to leave Gross Bob behind. I told them we couldn’t do that. So we gathered up Bob and sped off into the night before the police arrived.

The next day, Gross Bob had a cheery grin. “That was some fun last night, right?”

Yeah. It was. Why so many lesser folk are roaring behind Trump. The Gross Bob of 2016. Time to smash the mirror behind the bar. Don’t you think?

Shidooby.


Can’t wait for the 200th pledge drive rerun!

It would be kind of sad if it weren’t so perfect somehow.

On cable, we have at least four channels representing various PBS outlets. Always the same thing. 20th century political pundits ranging from the antiquated News Hour to the downright saurian Bill Moyers, spinning and respinning the New Deal of the 1930s, followed by NOVA warnings of Global Warming and Frontline discovering new kinds of minority oppression. As well as five year old rebroadcasts of BBC shows like Foyle’s War, Midsomer Murders, and what’s the new one? Squiggly Manor? Uh no. Downton Abbey. Beautiful retread of Upstairs Downstairs, which funded PBS during its glory years. Yeah. Sigh.

Until the pledge drive season. When suddenly it’s time to rally the check writing troops and we get a spate of Great Performances reruns featuring Streisand from 1968, Bob Dylan tributes from 1992, and of course retreads of Sarah Brightman and the Blind Tenor, who was never quite in the same class with Domingo and Pavoratti, just close enough to tickle the generosity of pseudo intellectuals in Darien, Lake Forest, Beacon Hill, and Grosse Point.

Stuck in time. That’s my point. PBS is supposed to be the shining light of quality television, the TV that the best educated watch when they watch, presumably only so they can support the most intellectual and culturally polished aspects of the culture.

What a crock. PBS is actually a mirror of the ossified state of liberal/progressive mentality in America.

Watching PBS in any of its venues is akin to being pinned to your grandmother’s couch in the sixties watching the Lawrence Welk Show. It’s all for old people who don’t want anything to change. Yesterday’s news, yesterday’s opinions, yesterday’s entertainment, and constant reruns. Call it the Hillary constituency.

Without abundant government subsidy, the jig would already be up. PBS is being squeezed to death from three different directions. Forget the doddering pledge drive guys with the cultured voices and grey toupees. Forget the outrageous offers to buy DVDs for three times the price they’d be at Best Buy. Forget even the nerve of taking 15 minute chunks out of programming the octogenarians presumably want to see in favor of wide shots of young Marxists answering telephones while you wheedle your dwindling audience for more money.

Here’s the thing for all you hyper-intellectual progressives to take note of. The game is over. Done.

First. BBC America shows every sign of being a capitalist, profit-seeking network. PBS ain’t going to get a shot at Orphan Black or even the later versions of Doctor Who. BBCA haven’t even tried to show Downton Abbey. That tell you anything? They seem perfectly happy selling ads for shows people want to watch. Odd, eh? No sententious introductions listing foundations, trusts, and other nonsensical phantom sponsors of their programming.

Second. Netflix doesn’t have all the good stuff, but they have a lot. All of Midsomer Murders, most of Inspector Morse, all of Foyle’s War, and more Miss Marple than you can shake a stick at. And the biggest hit BBC1 has had in 10 years, Call the Midwife. Oh. And almost all of Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect. Without pledge drive interruption. And show after show after show that never turned up on Masterpiece Theater. Did American intellectuals ever actually have anything to contribute to television? Except Dick Cavett, of course. You know. The lofty view.

Ah. The third and most deadly source of squeeze. A living, breathing example of what public television could and should have been lo these many years. The Ovation Channel.

I’ll give the conservatives a breather here. Right wing as I am, I love the Ovation Channel. I’m sure most of its producers and creative lights are leftist as can be. But I don’t care. They sell ads and they are purveying art in every possible form. They roam the country looking for talent. They spotlight aspects of artistic endeavor you’d never think existed, and they make the creative, intellectual aspect of life vital again. They make it live again. What PBS should have been doing during my lifetime and never did.

I won’t run down the list of their programming, some of which is cheap fill in the blanks stuff but much of which isn’t. It’s new. I’ll direct you only to a surprisingly wonderful three part series called Big Ballet.

It’s a perfect microcosm of the channel’s mission. A diminutive former professional ballet dancer decides to stage Swan Lake with dancers who never got their chance because they were too large, too, well, fat. His partner is a former successful ballerina who was considered too tall. Together, they undertake this mission.

Reality TV schlock, right? No. It works. This isn’t about kicking people out a week at a time. It’s about the delicate balance between being demanding and kind. What should be the best in us. Three episodes. Spoiler. The finale, the performance, will bring tears to your eyes. Art should be accessible to everyone. It doesn’t belong only to the bluenoses of PBS.

Why the squeeze will probably finish off the mummy of government subsidized culture TV.