Good news! You won’t be thinking I’m dead any more, at least not until I am. The combination of some complicated travel itineraries and the death of my laptop resulted in uncharacteristic interruptions of the dialogue here, twice causing soem readers to speculate on my demise, or at least incapacity. No, it was just that budgetary priorities made replacing the travel computer a bit less urgent than things like a new roof, a car that runs, things like that. Over the weekend I address the computer problem, and not a second too soon, as I will be setting off today on yet another New Jersey odyssey. Paul Morella and I will be presenting editions of our Clarence Darrow legal ethics program for N.J. lawyers in Brunswick and Fairfield, sandwiched in between about 9 hours of driving, but I should be able to keep the ethics fires burning to some extent. Unless I’m dead, of course. As my fatalistic father liked to say cheerily , driving my morbid mom crazy, “You never know!”
1. God bless them, every one! This is one example of non-traditional casting I agree with: increasing numbers of “A Christmas Carol” productions are casting children with disabilities to play Tiny Tim. I would fight to the death for the right of a fully-able young actor to play the roles, as well as for the right of a director to cast one. However, the show presents such an ideal opportunity for a child who normally might not have many chances to a play any role on stage because of his physical limitations that it seems like a shame to let it pass. I also agree with the directors who opine that having a genuinely challenged Tiny Tim gives some extra oomph to the show.
Is it exploitative? Sure, to some extent. That, however, is show business.
I draw the line, however, at casting Cratchit children who are different races than their parents, making it look like Mrs. Cratchit has been turning tricks to make ends meet, or “Tiny Tina.”
2. Here’s another kind of “fake news”…Yahoo! News felt that an entire post was necessary to inform the world that the President had screened “Joker” at the White House. Why is this news, or even mildly interesting? It’s a big movie, with lots of buzz. Presidents have screened movies at the White House for decades, usually without comment from the news media. Now, if he had screened the original “Birth of a Nation,” like racist Woodrow Wilson, or “Tusk,” that might be worth a small news item.
Let’s see, what other fake news items (as in thins that don’t qualify as news) are there on Yahoo!? How about “Michelle Obama Looked Incredible in a Yellow Corseted Schiaparelli Gown at the American Portrait Gala”? For some reason, I thought the fawning over Michelle, which as always hyperbolic and excessive, might have abated since she left the White House, after all, the news media quit going bonkers over every Jackie Kennedy ensemble once she wasn’t First Lady any more. Then there’s the matter of the gown Yahoo! is raving about…
Cal me cynical, but I’m pretty sure Michelle could attend an event dressed as Mister Peanut and we would see stories about how “ravishing she” was.
What else? Here’s a headline: “Trump’s ‘biggest fear is that he gets exposed’: Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.” How is that “news”? What does Chicago’s ex-mayor and the long-time Clinton and Obama flack know about what this President’s “worst fear” is? Such speculation as fact has been a popular variety of fake news for the past three years: any celebrity or individual who opines about the President critically is immediately a newsmaker.
3. How climate change hysteria is making people go crazy. Read this sad and disturbing op-ed by New York Times reporter Cara Buckley. It begins,
Have you ever known someone who cited the Anthropocene in a dating profile? Who doled out carbon offset gift certificates at the holidays? Who sees new babies and immediately flashes to the approximately 15 tons of carbon emissions the average American emits per year? Who walks around shops thinking about where all the packaging ends up? You do now…the barrage of cataclysmic planetary news, the galloping wildfires, the smack of 90-degree New York autumn days all felt so at odds with the regular tickings of human life that I often felt quite mad. I felt complicit by merely existing. After all, I belonged to the species that was taking most of the other ones down.
Note to Cara: it’s no illusion, you are quite mad. And a note to the Times: I don’t think it’s ethical to employ reporters in the throes of hysteria, paranoia, and impending mental illness.
4. I see presumptuous people! Philip Galanes’s weekend Times column “Social Q’s” highlights the complaints of three inquirers who don’t seem to grasp where their business ends and another individual’s begins.
#1 comes from a woman who is just certain that her annoying sister is “on the spectrum” and needs to seek help before she alienates the family. Galanes replies in part,
Oh, Sister, you have come to the wrong advice columnist! Make-believe clinicians who hand out diagnoses like Tic Tacs are dangerous. Unlike you, professionals have been trained to assess A.S.D. And pathologizing your sister based on an amateur understanding of autism not only hurts her, but also people who live with the disorder.Brilliant-but-difficult does not always mean Asperger’s syndrome. Moody is not a synonym for bipolar. And sadness is not depression. I know it’s become common to offer such analyses (maybe to make ourselves feel superior?), but they trivialize the disorders and perpetuate the stigma of them. Please knock it off!
On the other hand, such labels as “on the autism spectrum,” sociopath, narcissist and paranoid are highly subjective even when they are applied by professionals. There is nothing wrong with a non-psychiatrist opining that Donald Trump (or Barack Obama) is a classic narcissist, or that Bill Clinton (or O.J.) seem to fit the mold of a sociopath, as long as they can defend their opinion and don’t appeal to authority that doesn’t exist.
#2 is invited to her friend’s lavish wedding in Italy, but miffed that she was not invited to the states-side party for those who either weren’t invited to the wedding or who couldn’t attend. “To make matters worse,” the writer complains, “the bride was a bridesmaid at my small wedding two months ago. Do I ask why I was left off the guest list?”
Ugh. That’s a terrible spot to put a friend in, or even a non-friend, and I remember well being put in it by a woman in my office at the time of my impending wedding who confronted me because she hadn’t been invited. Like a chump, I “hominahomina-ed” and sent her an invitation. I barely knew the woman then, and may have spoken six words to her since. Galane: “No! Being invited to a party is not a right or something you earn by inviting people to yours. And scrutinizing the guest lists of other people’s parties (with that sense of entitlement) is a surefire way to make yourself miserable.”
#3 is the worst of the batch. He has a wealthy best friend, and is not rich himself. He bitches,
Recently, I adopted a rescue mutt and have been taking her to obedience classes at the local shelter. Shortly after that, my friend bought an expensive purebred and — even more annoyingly — sent it away to training camp for two weeks so he could have (as he called it) a “turnkey dog.” This situation pisses me off. What should I do?
The level-headed Gallanes again has the right response, though he is nicer about it than I would have been. Can you guess what he said?