Mrs. O’Leary’s cow may be the most unethically maligned animal in U.S. history. On October 8, 1871, something caused flames to spark in the Chicago barn of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary. The resulting two-day conflagration killed 200-300 people, destroyed 17,450 buildings, left 100,000 homeless and caused about $4 billion of damage in today’s dollars. While the fire was still raging, The Chicago Evening Journal reported that it all started “on the corner of DeKoven and Twelfth Streets, at about 9 o’clock on Sunday evening, being caused by a cow kicking over a lamp in a stable in which a woman was milking.” Then a verse to a popular song was added; pretty soon it was the only verse anyone remembered:
Late one night, when we were all in bed,
Mrs. O’Leary lit a lantern in the shed.
Her cow kicked it over,
Then winked her eye and said,
‘There’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight!’
There was never any convincing evidence that a cow started the blaze. The O’Learys had five cows, and they didn’t have names. It’s not even a sure thing that the fire started in the barn, but Mrs. O’Leary was a Catholic woman and an Irish immigrant, and Chicagoans were eager to have a scapegoat, or rather scapecow. One prominent historian who has studied the inquest transcripts believes that the true culprit was an O’Leary neighbor named Daniel ‘Pegleg’ Sullivan, who hobbled into the O’Leary barn to smoke a pipe, which then fell into a pile of wood shavings and subsequently started the fire. Nonetheless, Catherine O’Leary was ostracized, and became a recluse. In 1997, the Chicago City Council officially exonerated Mrs. O’Leary and her cow, which did just about as much good for Mrs. O’Leary as for the cow.
1. A new book shows that I have not lived in vain! Yesterday, a line from a depressing movie called “Kodachrome” sent me into one of my funks. During one of the many arguments between a dying artist and his middle aged son who hates him, the father (Ed Harris) sneers that he may have been a neglectful father, but at least he would leave something of importance when he died, unlike his son, a failed rock band recruiter for a record label. By purest luck, today I received a complimentary copy of “Reginald Rose and the Journey of 12 Angry Men,” a fascinating and thoroughly researched account of how the TV screenplay and the film came to be the iconic works they are. Author Phil Rosenweig also tells the weird story of how Rose lost control of the stage version of his work, and how for years the only script one could legally perform was a hack adaptation of the movie by a writer who didn’t understand it. Well, I’m part of that weird story, as is my old theater company, “The American Century Theater,” which became the first professional theater in the U.S. to present the screenplay on stage. Many were involved in the success of that production, including my wife,Grace, who produced the script by meticulously typing the screenplay from a recording of the movie (this was before the internet), and NPR critic Bob Mondello, who traveled by bus, in the rain, to a converted school auditorium to see the production, which he gave a sensational and much circulated review. There were many twists and turns after that, but eventually Rose’s version of “12 Angry Men” became the play most theaters produce. He got the respect he deserved, the endurance of the play, which is a genuine classic (I directed it four times) is assured, and yes, I was part of the reason why. Rosenweig, who interviewed me, accurately relates my role in the off-stage drama. You can find the book on Amazon, and here.
Now I can die in peace.
2. Good plan! While complaining to my doctor’s nurse about the difficulty of getting a prescription filled on time, both she and later,a pharmacist blamed the same phenomenon. The doctor’s office and the pharmacy are hopelessly understaffed because so many qualified health care workers have retired or quit. “We have been told repeatedly by former employees that they prefer to be paid unemployment benefits than to be working,” I was told in both places.
3. Is this ethical? A 100-year-old man went on trial in Germany yesterday on charges of being an accessory to 3,518 counts of murder because he served in the S.S. during World War II. The suspect, who was identified only as Josef S. in keeping with German privacy rules, is alleged to have worked at Sachsenhausen between 1942 and 1945 as an enlisted member of the Nazi Party’s paramilitary wing. Unlike the case of “Ivan the Terrible,” where a Cleveland autoworker was tried in Israel for war crimes after allegations of unusual cruelty to Jewish prisoners, there seems to be no claims that Josef S’s crimes go beyond serving as a guard.
4. Tales of the Great Stupid, humor crimes division:
- Sean McDonough, a veteran Boston sportscaster who was calling the final regular season Red Sox game on the team’s flagship station WEEI, mentioned the success of the 107-win San Francisco Giants, saying “A lot of people are surprised by the Red Sox’s 92 wins.Tell me, who saw San Francisco’s 107 wins coming?” “Maybe nobody outside of Farhan Zaidi and [Giants manager] Gabe Kapler; they just did an unbelievable job,” said broadcast partner Dave Flemming. “And who knows? Maybe we can have a World Series reunion.” Said McDonough after Flemming pronounced Zaidi’s name precisely: “Their GM’s name is ‘High Anxiety’?” (I might have made that joke!) But in San Francisco, the Woke mob is calling for McDonough to be fired for the “racist” act of joking about a Muslim name. Zaidi, a graduate of MIT, is the first Muslim and first Asian American general manager in major US professional sports. McDonough was recently named as the lead play-by-play voice for the NHL at ESPN, where he also calls college basketball and football. What are the odds that he keeps his job?
- But then McDonough isn’t black and a member of the superstar club, like Dave Chappelle, Despite being attacked by LGTBQ activists for his now familiar jokes about transsexuals in his latest Netflix stand-up special, an audience of 18,000, including many Hollywood progressives, at the Hollywood Bowl gave comedian Dave Chappelle a standing ovation. “If this is what being canceled is like, I love it,” the persistently politically incorrect comic said. “Fuck Twitter. Fuck NBC News, ABC News, all these stupid ass networks. I’m not talking to them. I’m talking to you. This is real life.” Anyone who can find a consistent standard in the treatment of Chappelle by an audience including Brad Pitt, Tiffany Haddish, Donnell Rawlings and other A-listers compared to the attacks on J.K. Rowling, to cite just one example, please enlighten me. [Source: Hollywood Reporter.]