Where Do We Draw the Line? All Things Are NOT the Same

The events of the last month or so – hell, if you want to be serious, it’s dating back to the 1990s – have opened the door of Pandora’s Box. Whether it is in the world of relations between men or women or even something as small as what constitutes a joke, it seems we want to eradicate the impropriety, even the ability to laugh at ourselves. If it delves into a needle of a person’s appearance, a stereotype, or a myriad of other situations, it seems as though it has become verboten. This has caused me to wonder a few things:  just where do we draw the line? And that led to my second thought:  all situations are not the same.

A couple of months ago, I saw one of my favorite films of all time. Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles was on AMC (and unedited at that!) and I laughed my ass off all the way through it. The performances were priceless in the film, from Cleavon Little’s streetwise (and black) Sheriff Bob to Gene Wilder’s drunken Waco Kid, there wasn’t a dull moment in the film about a black man assigned to be a sheriff for a racist town. There was also a litany of jokes about Mexicans, Indians, blacks, Jews, and a host of others that would be considered “inappropriate” today.

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Imagine my surprise when I heard Brooks discuss the issue in an interview soon after. In an interview with the BBC, Brooks commented that he could probably have done Young Frankenstein, but Blazing Saddles could never have been made. “Never ‘Blazing Saddles,’ because we have become stupidly politically correct, which is the death of comedy,” Brooks stated to the BBC. But Brooks’ groundbreaking and legendary comedy isn’t the only piece that might be “wrong” to watch today.

AMC was also the home of another cinematic classic I viewed recently. The original M*A*S*H, with Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye Pierce and Elliott Gould as Trapper John McIntyre, depicted the Korean War with all its warts. It is arguable that there were enough things to twist the panties of today’s sensitive souls, with just the name of one of the characters (‘Spearchucker’ Jones), the usage of drugs and treatment of women by…well, virtually everyone…to get outrage going.

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You think this was just something from the 70s? Another favorite film of mine is Doctor Detroit, a middling 80s comedy starring Dan Aykroyd as a nebbish college professor who, when plied with alcohol, drugs, and sex by a bevy of beauties (that included his future wife Donna Dixon), becomes a chiropractor/crime lord (and the women’s pimp) to not only save them but his college. In the 90s, it was Ace Ventura:  Pet Detective, the story of an inept detective chasing a transgendered (and very sexual, if you’re to believe one scene) former football player. The 21st century hasn’t changed this brand of comedy, or did you miss the Harold & Kumar series?

The movie industry in 2017 has been ravaged by the accusations of some of the most powerful men in Hollywood and the long-rumored “casting couch.” This trend caught one of the most powerful men in Tinseltown, Harvey Weinstein, who was alleged to have attempted to use his position as a “make or break” player in the movie business to have sexual relations (sometimes even forced) with women looking for their big break. Add in other alleged situations such as actor Kevin Spacey, director Brett Ratner and hip hop legend Russell Simmons, and now actor Jeffrey Tambor and it all is coming to a head.

This same year the same accusations have rocked the media and political professions, some proven, some “paid off.” Former Fox News president the late Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, now Charlie Rose…all have been alleged to have committed some form of harassment of women. In politics it dates back even further to the peccadillos of John Kennedy and Bill Clinton. For it to come around to today’s incidences, with both Al Franken and Roy Moore being castigated for their actions, isn’t surprising. And remember, more than a dozen women – and a rape allegation of a 13-year old – are awaiting the person who sits in the most powerful seat in the land (remember right after “grabbed them by the pussy” on the Access Hollywood bus?) To this day, he has never answered for those transgressions.

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I am reminded of when I was back in my radio days. At that time, the biggest name in the game was (and arguably still is) Howard Stern. Stern’s programs routinely featured (and still does) in-depth discussion of sexual actions, women’s anatomy, the derision of the handicapped, and basically set the format for “morning show” radio (the “morning crew” days). As someone who worked in those days, the different “morning show” crews were constantly trying to gain the edge over each other with who could put up the sleaziest, sexiest, most outrageous morning show, making the most fun of the most people that are in existence. And you know what? The audiences LAUGHED ALL THE GODDAMN WAY with them. (And if you want a look at what it was like for a woman in the music business, check out Lita Ford’s autobiography Living Like a Runaway for all the gory details.)

I do realize that this is a new age, a new era, but it is beginning to get a bit out of hand. Can anyone reading this tell me what they did 20 years ago? How about 30? Do you remember every interaction you’ve ever had with the opposite sex (or, in some cases, with the same sex)? Were they all innocent engagements with absolutely nothing memorable about them? Then ask yourself this:  is there a possibility that someone else you were with that they remember the situation completely different than you do?

There needs to be some lines set out. In a court of law, there are differing degrees of murder – first degree, second degree, manslaughter, all the way down to legally allowing a person to kill another human being (self-defense, or “Stand Your Ground”). Sexual assault and harassment can go in the same ways as there are differing standards that could be set.

To compare the pedophilic acts of Moore to Franken’s nobody comedy writer dream of getting to lock lips with a Hooters waitress who made it (and acting like a 15-year old virgin in the process of rehearsing it) is completely asinine. The actions of both men are a FORM of sexual assault. But to hold Franken up as “the same” as Moore – who allegedly fiddled with some 14-year-old child and cruised malls to score teenage girls as a 30-plus year-old man (and a District Attorney at that) – is outright lunacy.

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And just what should be the punishment for these actions? In the case of those in Hollywood, their careers have been destroyed, their reputations in tatters, while the women haven’t emerged any better for telling their stories. Franken may very well lose his seat in the U. S. Senate, while Moore should never be seated if elected next month. Is it worth destroying someone’s very existence for something that happened when they were at a completely different stage in their lives?

I don’t pretend to know the answers and, after reviewing everything, I myself am cloudier on the issue than when I started. But if we’re looking for saints in our politics, we’re going to have very empty chambers to decide the laws. If we’re looking for saints in business, comedy, entertainment, and the news, then there’s going to be a very bland life ahead for our progeny. Brooks said it best in that BBC interview when he said, “It’s okay not to hurt feelings of various tribes and groups. However, it’s not good for comedy. Comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks. Comedy is the lecherous little elf whispering into the king’s ear, always telling the truth about human behavior.”

We still have to find how far those risks can go, in comedy and other arenas in life, and, if they were violated long ago, what the appropriate punishments should be.

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“Timeless” A New Television Show That Will Work Your Mind

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If it’s fall, then it is time for the new programs to hit the television screen from not only the traditional networks but also cable and streaming services. Most of the time the programs presented – especially by the traditional network outlets – are simply retreads of past programs that do little to engage the audience or test their thinking capabilities. But there are some programs that have come out that might be worth checking out. We’ll take a look at a few of them over the next couple of weeks, but let’s start with the best of the lot.

NBC has been the purveyor of some excellent programs over the past few years. It’s been three years since The Blacklist premiered on the Peacock Channel and, just last year, NBC put on another fine action-drama with Blindspot. They may have topped themselves, however, with their most recent entry, Timeless.

Timeless is the story of Lucy Preston (actor Abigail Spencer), a college professor with an ailing, bedridden mother and her stay at home sister, Amy, who takes care of her while Lucy attempts to gain tenure and follow in her mother’s footsteps. Things take a turn, however, when the college she teaches at (and where her mother was quite famous) refuses to grant her tenure, leaving her in a difficult spot. That changes when Homeland Security calls Lucy in for a project.

Coming into a warehouse, Lucy is dumbfounded to meet Connor Mason (Paterson Joseph), a brilliant scientist who has been working on undisclosed “experiments” for the government. According to Homeland Security agent Denise Christopher (Sakina Jaffrey), one of Mason’s projects was a time machine that, after a raid by terrorists led by Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic, who has been making an excellent living playing bad guys of late…or is he…well, not yet), has been stolen. Flynn and his cohorts have taken the time machine back to May 6, 1937.

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As a historian, Lucy knows the significance of the date. It is the day the Hindenburg exploded upon landing in Lakehurst, NJ, but she still doesn’t understand why she’s there to help Mason and the government. Mason explains that, with her knowledge and background in history, she is the best person to send to make sure that history doesn’t change, lest something happens and the “future” from 1937 is altered. Mason explains that there is a creaky prototype of the “Mothership” (the time capsule stolen by Flynn), but it only holds three riders; going along with Lucy on the trip are Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter), a military man (probably Navy Seal from his apparent expertise) who has recently lost his wife and will provide the muscle for the team, and Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett), a computer wizard and engineer on the creation of the “Mothership” who can handle the prototype and get it to and from whatever period of time they have to enter and return.

Upon reaching the flight line where the Hindenburg is landing, the threesome notice that the ground crew (the men catching the lines dropped by the dirigible to anchor the ship) are keeping the ropes off the ground, long thought to have been a theory as the cause for the grounding of the ship and the subsequent spark that set off the hydrogen gas in the blimp. The trio also see Flynn among the ground crew (having told them to keep the lines off the ground) and make chase, but are unable to catch him. Thus they have failed in their mission – keeping history the way it is known – and now must figure out why Flynn wanted to change it.

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Doing some research, Lucy learns that many noteworthy people – bankers, politicians, royalty and the elite – will be on the return flight of the Hindenburg to attend the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in England (which actually was supposed to happen in “our” history) and that Flynn is potentially looking to destroy the ship at that time to have the maximum impact on the future. Meanwhile, Wyatt hooks up with a reporter who reminds him of his deceased wife (and who was supposed to be one of the people killed on the ground in the original history of the crash), who doesn’t quite believe their story but does help them on their trek.

Our set of adventurers eventually end up in jail after killing one of Flynn’s associates (and finding a detonator in his pocket) and, in an attempt to escape to stop Flynn from destroying the Hindenburg, Rufus – who had previously stated to Mason that he didn’t want to go on the mission because as a black man “there isn’t a time in history that was good for me” – causes enough of a ruckus that the police come in, billy clubs brandished, ready to beat him senseless. This gives Wyatt enough time to pick the lock and, with Rufus’ help, immobilize the guards to stop Flynn.

The threesome board the Hindenburg and find the bomb, but are unable to stop it from exploding. They do, however, save everyone on board after forcibly taking over the ship and making it land, thus giving the passengers the quickest way off. During the resulting hubbub, Lucy comes face-to-face with Flynn and, to be honest, this is where it gets a bit interesting.

Flynn tells Lucy that he is looking to preserve history for the better, not destroy it, and tells her to ask Christopher about a certain group known only as “Rittenhouse.” He also shows her a diary that, to Lucy’s horror, is in her handwriting and apparently talks about the trips that are in the future. Wyatt comes upon them and tries to shoot Flynn, but he returns fire and misses Wyatt but hits the female reporter behind Wyatt after he jumps out of the way and kills her. With the Hindenburg now destroyed, the adventurers return to present time not knowing what they’ll find when they get there.

At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much wrong other than some altering affected by the crew’s forcible crash landing of the blimp. The team has learned that Flynn is there to alter U. S. history but, even though the history of the Hindenburg has been slightly altered and the passengers who were killed in the original history survived (while none perished in the new historical trek), there doesn’t appear to be much out of line. Christopher sends the team home, at which point the show takes another stunning turn for one of the characters.

Lucy returns home and calls out for her sister but, to her utter amazement, her mother calls for her and comes out of the kitchen. A flabbergasted Lucy breaks down in tears at the sight of her mother in vigorous health (remember, she departed with her mother bedridden), but she still wants to know where Amy is. Her mother doesn’t know what or who she’s talking about and, to Lucy’s horror, she picks up a photo that used to feature the three Preston women that now just features Lucy and her mother. As the pilot ends, Lucy is called back by Christopher as Flynn has taken off to another point in history in the “Mothership.”

The second episode – which dealt with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln – is pretty much along the same lines, but a couple more twists are tossed in. Rufus and Mason now seem to be in cahoots as Mason has Rufus recording all the interactions between him, Wyatt and Lucy while they are on their missions, with those recordings going to the shadowy group that Flynn talked about with Lucy after the Hindenburg crash. Second, upon returning from the Lincoln mission, Lucy learns that her father in her original history met and married one of the survivors of the Hindenburg disaster and that is the reason why Amy doesn’t exist. This also leads Lucy to wonder about her OWN background (logically) and, lacking an answer on that front and returning home, finds another change in her history as her mother is throwing a party for her wedding engagement (imagine if you walked in and your mother was doing THAT for you!).

Personally, I’ve always held a fascination with alternative history (if you’ll remember, I was also big on The Man in the High Castle last year) and this show definitely taps into that vein. It goes back to the conundrum about a variation of the Grandfather Paradox known as the Hitler Paradox – if you could go back in history and kill Hitler before he begins World War II, would you do it? The problem with these types of questions – and something that is done well in Timeless (albeit only to Lucy right now – it is supposed to also affect Wyatt and Rufus at some point) – is that changing any point in past history would have an effect on what occurs in the future.

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Without Hitler and let’s just add in World War II also, would the United States have achieved all it did as a world superpower? Would there have been the Korean War, the attempts to stop the Russians and the Domino Theory? Maybe someone who died in WWII would go on to commit worse atrocities than Hitler? Would nuclear weapons have been developed? There’s plenty to think about there (and it does apply to everyone’s life – change one thing in your past and it would alter who you are today).

Timeless taps into this uncertainty and, while Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus are attempting to keep history as they know it correct, there are just enough things that they don’t or can’t prevent that it still has an impact on the present day world (Lucy’s sister disappearing, her mother healthy, etc.). What happens, for example, if they come back from a mission and Wyatt’s wife is suddenly alive? Does he quit? And what about Rufus? What is his purpose and why is he recording the crew?

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The possibilities are endless with this show. Future episodes are looking (and this is from my own knowledge of history and the titles of each episode) at the Manhattan Project, the siege of the Alamo and the Watergate burglary, but there is a wealth of situations that could be investigated. The characters are what keep you interested, critical for any drama, as you try to figure out if Lucy goes mad at some point from all the changes in her personal history, which in some way causes Flynn to start his criminal (hey, we’ve yet to figure out if it is criminal or not, remember) actions, can Wyatt overcome the loss of his wife and the mystery of Rufus (not to mention Morgan, Christopher and this mysterious organization).

Airing at 10PM on Mondays after The Voice, Timeless is a way to test your mind and expand your thinking while being entertained at the same time, making it a fresh show amidst the mindless banter out there (really, do we have to see Kevin James doing a new version of King of Queens? He really isn’t that funny to begin with!).

Wondering Whatever Happened to…For January 14

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Sitting around wondering whatever happened to Suzi Quatro while pondering…

So I Guess ANYONE Can Be a Hero Now – When someone is injured in the course of defending the country in a time of warfare, they are granted the right to wear the Purple Heart due to their injuries (if you’re my silly little brother, you refuse the reward after nearly losing an eye in the First Gulf War, but that’s another story for another time). If you perform feats of heroism above and beyond what are expected of mere mortals (or perhaps because you’re scared shitless), you earn more prestigious medals such as the Bronze or Silver Star or the ultimate expression of heroism, the Medal of Valor. Whenever you normally see these awards, you can be assured that the person wearing the award has performed a very special feat…or can you?

A federal court in California ruled earlier this week that a former Marine can wear certain service medals he did not earn, somehow determining that this was a “form of free speech.” Apparently Elven Joe Swisher, who served in the USMC after the Korean War and was discharged honorably in 1957, has taken to wearing the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. The problem? He was never awarded either military honor.

In 2001, Swisher filed paperwork for disability payments for post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in the military, in particular “secret combat missions in North Korea.” He was granted the payments and, in 2004, wore the Purple Heart when testifying at the trial of a man being tried for solicitation of murder in an attempt to make him look more reliable as a witness. When this came out – after the passage of the Stolen Valor Act – Swisher was charged under the Act and his payments stopped.

In 2012, however, the Stolen Valor Act was challenged in the Supreme Court, where the Justices ruled that it was “free speech” to just WEAR the medals, as long as you didn’t CLAIM you earned them. In 2013, the Congress changed the Stolen Valor Act to remove the illegality of wearing a medal from its verbiage. The decision by the federal court on Monday set aside Swisher’s 2007 conviction for violating the Stolen Valor Act but did not overturn his conviction.

We constantly hear about “respecting the military” from those who have never served. Add this to the list of the continued disrespect that the military receives.

It Was a Tragedy, But You’re Pushing It Here – Once again out of California – who seems to want to challenge Florida for the title of “stupidest state in the U. S.” – the widow of one of the victims of December’s mass shooting in San Bernardino has decided to file a lawsuit against the county. In her claim, Renee Wetzel, the widow of Michael Wetzel, says that the county and 25 unidentified individuals and the respondents to the shooting were “negligent and careless” in their actions and that her husband’s death was preventable. If this weren’t outrageous enough – no other family member of a victim from the shooting, which was an act of terrorism by two radicalized Muslims (one an American citizen), has filed any court actions – the price tag on the lawsuit will make you choke.

Wetzel is asking for a grand total of $58 MILLION in damages in the case:  $3 million for lost wages from her husband’s death, $25 million in general damages and $10 million in general damages for each of the couple’s three children. The county attorneys haven’t responded as of yet out of respect to those who were victims of what was a horrific crime; even one of the woman’s attorney, Andrew J. Nissen, wouldn’t indicate where the alleged negligence came from that the county supposedly committed.

Look, it is tragic what occurred in San Bernardino, but this doesn’t give you the right to make a mint off the situation. It just goes to demonstrate that there is serious need for tort reform – and a method to punish frivolous lawsuits – in the United States.

And On the Other End of the Spectrum – The family of a 12-year old girl in Pennsylvania who was shot to death by an elected constable isn’t blaming the man for the death of their family member but rather her father, who escalated the situation.

According to reports, Constable Clark Steele (in Pennsylvania, a constable is an elected position that can serve warrants, transport prisoners and perform what would be administrative law enforcement powers) went to a home in Duncannon, PA, on Monday to serve eviction papers on the residents, Donald and Sherry Meyer. When he knocked on the door of the address, Steele was met by the business end of a shotgun being aimed at him by Donald Meyer and Steele fired one shot in self-defense. That shot traversed the length of Meyer’s arm, shattering the bone, and exited at the elbow. It then hit Meyer’s daughter, Ciara, in the chest as she stood behind him, killing her on the scene.

Family members, in a refreshing change of pace, didn’t immediately castigate the officer, however. “None of us in our family have any hard feelings toward him,” one family member commented. The family knew about the history of the male Meyer and asked a reporter, “Did anyone let him (the constable) know that he was going to be walking into a rat’s hole?” Meyer, who was due in court later this month for a case on a DUI and resisting arrest (the eviction was a separate case) now is in jail for aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and other counts.

The family may very well receive some settlement from the police over the unfortunate death of their family member, but at least they realize there wasn’t any malicious intent in the constable’s actions.

Sometimes, There Are No Other Words That Can Be Said – In Virginia, Delegate Mark Cole decided that 2016 was the year that the state government had to make sure that restrooms in public schools were being used properly. On Tuesday, the representative for the 88th District in the Virginia House of Delegates filed a bill that would require students that use the restroom at school to use the “designated restroom for a specific gender” or be fined.

The law defines gender as “anatomical sex, mean[ing] the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined by a person’s anatomy.” To most, that would mean that a physical examination of the person – in this case, a child – would be necessary to determine if the person was going to the right potty house instead of trying to “sneak a peek.” For his part, Cole has said that it is simply a bill that will only be used if there is a “complaint.” He also says that it wouldn’t require a “genital check,” but a simple look at someone’s student registration or birth certificate.

You would think there were other things in Virginia to be concerned with…

Now the answer to the question…whatever happened to Suzi Quatro?

Many might remember Quatro for her quick – and I do mean quick, as in fleeting – appearances on the television series Happy Days in the late 1970s as Leather Tuscadero, the little sister to Fonzie’s girlfriend Pinky Tuscadero (herself a fleeting memory), who fronted a powerful rock and roll band that “broke the norms” in the 1950s. As it turns out, to those who thought that Quatro was “just an actress,” there was a whole lot more in the package than they expected!

Happy Days wasn’t Quatro’s debut in show business. In fact, Quatro had actually been around much longer than that, especially making a huge impact in the music business. In the 1960s at the tender age of 14, she joined with her sister Patti in a band called The Pleasure Seekers, finding some success in the Detroit music community. After turning 18, Quatro then would move to England and became successful in West Germany as a hard rock act. From 1973 to 1980, Quatro would win some form of the West German magazine Bravo’s Bravo Award (73-74 the Gold, 1975, 1978 and 1979 the Bronze and 1980 the Silver) for Best Female Singer. The U. S., however, preferred their Suzi to be a little softer, with her only success in the States a tune called “Stumblin’ In” that peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979.

Quatro has served as the inspiration for many of the women who have gone on to have success in the world of hard rock/metal in the music business. It is arguable that, without Suzi Quatro, there wouldn’t have been The Runaways and, as a result of that, no Joan Jett, who is now enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Others who have given Quatro credit for inspiring them to get into music include the Talking Heads’ Tina Weymouth (who was encouraged by her then boyfriend and now husband, fellow Heads’ member Chris Frantz, to listen to Quatro albums to learn how to play the bass) and singer/songwriter KT Tunstall.

Quatro calls England home nowadays and it appears that she’s beginning to slow down a bit. She last appeared in the United States in 2013, when she was given the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Detroit Music Awards (her birthplace) and, in 2014, Quatro performed what has been called her “final” Australian tour. At 65, Quatro has a handful of shows scheduled in Europe for 2016, where she will continue to rock the fans who come to see her. But don’t expect her to just quit; on her website, Quatro states, “I will retire when I go onstage, shake my ass and there is silence.”

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