Best Sports Movies? [UPDATED]

For some reason, the question about which sports movies are the “best” or individual favorites has turned up in all sorts of places this week, I have no idea why. When it turned up during tonight’s Red Sox broadcast, I decided  it was time to give my list.

(The Red Sox and Rays are tied in the 7th, 4-4.)

Most sports movies are ethics movies, and my favorite five all fit that description.

1. “Hoosiers“(1986) The Gene Hackman movie about a tiny Indiana town’s surprise victory in the state basketball tournament (the actual 1954 team is above),  covers many ethics themes, including leadership, integrity, sacrifice , redemption, learning from past mistakes,  and moral luck. The basketball games are surprisingly realistic, and Jerry Goldsmith’s score, evoking bouncing basketballs on a court, is one of my all-time favorites. Favorite ethics moment: after training the team to obey him without question, and teaching them to play as a team, not individuals, coach Hackman tells his players with one play left in the championship game that they will use their star, Jimmy, as a decoy, and let another player take the final, game deciding shot. After a long pause, Jimmy tells him, “I’ll make it.” And like all good leaders, Hackman knows when to trust his subordinates. He let’s Jimmy countermand his order, and Jimmy indeed wins the game. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/19: Fake News, Twin Ethics, Bonnie And Clyde, And A Deadly Date

Good morning!

I would give you all a big hug, a squeeze, and maybe a sniff, but that’s not me...

1. This is fake news, you know. Today’s headline on the Times front page: “Barr Understated Mueller Findings, Some on Team Say.” Naturally, “some” are never identified. All this headline means is that some involved with the Mueller investigation wouldn’t have summarized the report as the AG did,  and some had a different opinion, and, presumably, some disagreed with them. Who didn’t assume this? This isn’t news. This is just pot-stirring and innuendo in service of a political agenda. Now if the Times’ sources went on the record and explained what findings they are referring to and why, that would be news. This isn’t.

2. Maybe just Ick, not ethics, but still, ICK! Kendall Jenner, who is famous exclusively because her half-sister sister bared all in a sex video that launched the Kardashian reality show empire, made $26.5 million for just 53 sponsored Instagram posts, according to Captiv8, a marketing firm that connects brands to “social media influencers.” Let’s see: is there anything wrong with Jenner letting companies pay her to send out social media hype? As long as she isn’t lying in her posts, I guess not...but if she becomes part of a fraud without doing her due diligence,  its not just unethical, it’s illegal. Is there anything unethical about paying a narcissistic waste of space who would lose a game of Scrabble to a sea sponge millions to promote a company’s product or event? No, if it works. Is there anything unethical about trusting a barely-educated celebrity because of her looks? Unethical, no…stupid, but not unethical.

3. On the suspension of ethics during wartime. Freddie Oversteegen, who died September in her native Netherlands, was just 14 when she joined the Dutch resistanceTogether with her older sister Truus and their friend Hannie Schaft, she murdered as many Nazis as she could, using a firearm hidden in the basket of her bike. The women had a  method: first approach a Naz in bars, seduce them, ask if they wanted to “go for a stroll” in the forest (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) and then, shoot the bastards, or as Freddie  put it, “liquidate” them.

 “It was a necessary evil, killing those who betrayed the good people,” she told one interviewer. When she was asked how many people she had killed or helped kill, she demurred: “One should not ask a soldier any of that.”

Freddie also blew up bridges and smuggled Jews out of concentration camps, so she was more than a black widow assassin. Is she justly regarded as a hero?

4. “The Highwaymen” My wife and I watched this new Netflix release starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson as the real life aging Texas Rangers who were handed the assignment of “stopping” Bonnie and Clyde’s deadly rampage through Texas in 1934. We liked it a lot, but then it’s an ethics movie, raising and debating the question—see #3 above—of how far one can ethically go to fight evil. Bonnie  and Clyde were evil despite their folk hero status at the time, and despite the sick glamorizing they received in the 1967 film starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, which made them the romantic rebels fighting a corrupt establishment—you know, like the arrogant creeps who shut down my college a year later.

The Highwaymen barely shows the two psychotic love-birds until they are being riddled with bullets, focusing on the real heroes of the saga, the law enforcement officials who hunted them down.

The two ex-Rangers break quite a few laws in the pursuit of the greater good, and it is odd that there seems to be a resurgence in sympathy in the entertainment media for brutal police methods. In Dick Wolf’s “Chicago PD,” for example, Sergeant Hank Voigt (Jason Beghe) regularly threatens, extorts and beats people up to solve crimes–and he’s the moral center of the show. Is law enforcement more like war than we like to admit, where the ethical rules can be, are, and maybe need to be suspended?

Best line in “The Highwaymen”: Kathy Bates, as Texas Governor “Ma” Ferguson—I’ll tell her weird ethics story tomorrow—tells reporters that she is making sure that Bonny and Clyde are hunted down, and one of them references their image as Robin Hood figures. “Did Robin Hood ever shoot a gas station attendant in the head for four dollars and a tank of gas?” she asks.

5. Now THIS is weird…Twin ethics! In Brazil, when identical male twins  refused to say which one of them had fathered the child (DNA test proved inconclusive because they their were identical twins)  assuming they would then be able to escape having to pay, a judge ordered that they both had to pay child support. Each twin was ordered to pay 230 reais; ($60; £45) a month, or 30% of the minimum salary in Brazil. Judge Filipe Luís Perucaalso ruled that the names of both men would be on the girl’s birth certificate.

The twins had used their resemblance to impersonate each other and date as many women as possible, and then defend themselves from allegations they were cheating on girlfriends. Ah, memories! I see a reboot coming!

But they’re irresponsible illegitimate fathers!

Identical illegitimate fathers, and you’ll find

The look alike, deny alike, they go in court and lie alike!

You could lose your mind

When irresponsible illegitimate fathers

Are two of a kind!

Pre-Red Sox Opening Day Ethics Warm-Up, 3/28/2019: A Jerk And A Fick

Happy Day!

Just got home from a very well-received legal ethics seminar in time to get off a post, walk Rugby, pull on the ol’ Depends and settle in while the Boston Red Sox beat the Seattle Mariners in their first game defending their 2018 World Championship…

1. Humble Talent is back. Humble Talent, an Ethics Alarms  Commenter of the Year a few years back and one of the all-time outstanding participants in the ethics wars here, just registered his first comment in almost four months. Mu joy and relief are unalloyed. Welcome home, my friend.

2. A Keith Olbermann note. If you’ll forgive me for mentioning one of the biggest jerks in captivity twice in a day, Olbermann managed to enhance his reputation with this display of mega-jerkness. A Mississippi hunter  shot an unusual turkey completely legally, and KO decided that this was sufficient justification to ruin his life…

The editor of the paper had the proper bemused response, writing, “Keith Olbermann says Brian Broom should be fired for writing this story. What was I thinking? I guess I should have fired our outdoors writer for writing about a hunter killing an unusual turkey during turkey hunting season.” What kind of human being calls on the social media mob to make someone’s life  a living hell because he engaged in a legal act harming no one that that human being disagrees with? A really bad one—arrogant, cruel, irresponsible, and unfair. The Washington Free Beacon got a statement from ESPN, which currently employs Keith (when he’s in the mood, he’s an unusually astute and amusing baseball reporter), and they responded, “We have spoken to him about not making personal attacks.” Gee, that doesn’t seem to be working, does it?

3. A Fick sighting! Almost as rare as a white turkey is an Ethics Alarms Fick, a special designation for the peculiar ( and disgusting) breed of unethical person who is unethical, knows it, and rubs it in everyone else’s face, without regret or shame.

The Fick is pop star Cardi B, whose old Instagram video that resurfaced recently features her saying that she used to drug and rob men. The video, which Cardi says was made three years ago,  features the singer reminiscing about the time when she worked as a stripper — a time when, she said,

“I had to go strip, I had to go, ‘Oh yeah, you want to fuck me? Yeah, let’s go back to this hotel,'” she said an an Instagram Live broadcast filmed three years ago. “And I drugged niggas up and I robbed them. That’s what I used to do.”

When the immediate reaction was a series of attacks on Twitter, Cardi B doubled down, making it clear that she was perfectly at peace with her past crimes, tweeting to critics,

I never claim to be a angel I always been a street bitch Ya be glorifying this street rappers that talk and do that grimmey street shit but they can’t stand a street bitch!

and…

IM THAT BITCH THEY LOVE TO HATE,IM THAT BITCH THEY HATE TO LOVE ❤️ 😝and I love it 😍🥰🥰

Theeeeeen the criticism got a little too hot, and apparently the hip hop star’s publicist pointed out that defiance in this case might not be the smartest strategy. So then we got this:

Is that a wonderful parade of rationalizations and ethics rot, or what?

  • Nobody has to drug men (or women)and rob them.  That’s not an “option” for anyone with a conscience. No, she did not have to harm and rob men “to survive.” Millions of people in dire circumstances find legal ways to survive that don’t require harming others.
  • The men she drugged and robbed were “conscious and aware” that they were going to be drugged and robbed? Does anyone believe that, including Cardi B?
  • “Right or wrong”? “Whether they were poor choices”? Psst-–moron! It was wrong, and they were poor choices!
  • “I never claim to be perfect” is an especially dumb variation of Rationalization #19. The Perfection Diversion, or “Nobody’s Perfect!” and “Everybody makes mistakes!” We’re supposed to applaud because someone who drugged and robbed men doesn’t make the bananas claim that she’s perfect?  I bet she never said she was a walnut, either. So what?
  • “I always speak my truth” means she wouldn’t know truth from a bag of gummi worms. “My truth” is signature significance for an adherent of ethical relativity: whatever she thinks is right, is.  Cardi B. is a narcissist and a sociopath.

Several commentators claim that this junk shows that Cardi regrets her past. Boy, I wish I had more Brooklyn Bridges to sell. I doubt that she even wrote this herself. I also doubt that those sympathetic critics noticed what she tweeted before she was told to stop doubling down. Meanwhile, what would happen to a male singer who admitted that he needed to drug and rob women to survive?

Ethics Quiz: The Senator’s Mockery

Arguing with apologists for the ridiculous Rep. Ocasio-Cortez makes me feel like I’m going crazy. They claim that the Green New Deal isn’t the same as the bizarre, silly, rapidly removed “FAQ” posted by the Democrat’s “It Girl, with its talk about rebuilding all of our buildings, eliminating air travel, and a living wage for those who “choose not to work.” Thy say that what almost all the Democratic Presidential hopefuls say they support is just an “aspirational” goal  of conquering  creeping climate change within the imaginary 12 year deadline (and I do mean dead.) “What is it they are supporting?” I ask. “The Green New Deal!” they answer. “What is the Green New Deal they say they are supporting” I ask, “if it isn’t the only printed description of the goals as defined by the Democrat who coined the phrase?” “That wasn’t what they are supporting,” these climate change alarmists “explain.” “There’s nothing in the Green New Deal about eliminating cows and airplanes.” “Then what is in the Green New Deal?” I ask. “It’s aspirational,” they answer. Round and around.

I wonder how Democrats and progressives feel about the fact that their party and ideological clan has abandoned all responsibility, professionalism, principle and common sense as it sinks into some kind of collective nervous breakdown triggered by Donald Trump, Obama’s failures, Clinton’s loss, its increasingly obvious hypocrisies, and the fact that it has embraced one irrational “do something!”position after another. Surely not all of them are sharing the delusions. Surely there are alert and uncorrupted Democrats who can see what is happening to a once honorable and trustworthy American institution. Following close on the fumes of the three year failed effort to remove the President between election while poisoning the public’s trust in him, the Democratic Senators revealed the  phoniness of party endorsements of Ocasio-Cortez’s juvenile delusions when none of them would go on the record and support a motion to advance the  Democratic Green New Deal resolution.

There wasn’t  a single “yea” vote from Democrats, not even from the 2020 wannabes whose names already appear as co-sponsors on the Senate version of the thing.  (Nancy Pelosi won’t permit such a vote in the House.) The final tally was 0-57, with forty-three Democrats voting “present,” and three Blue Senators from “red states” doing the expedient thing and voting with the Republicans. There’s no way to spin this, though in their infinite belief in the stupidity of the American people, Democrats tried, with the help of its captive media, of course. The vote was a GOP gimmick, you see. Ocasio-Cortez:

“The GOP’s whole game of wasting votes in Congress to target others “on the record”, for leg they have no intent to pass, is a disgrace. Stop wasting the American peoples’ time + learn to govern. Our jobs aren’t for campaigning, & that’s exactly what these bluff-votes are for.”

The woman has been saying and tweeting that there is no time to waste, and that the nation needs to take radical, society-shaking measures to prevent doom NOW, yet somehow voting on a resolution of her own making to weigh Congress’s position on her policy demands is a waste of time. Meanwhile, her colleagues in the House have announced that their top priority isn’t substantive legislation, but continuing to pursue endless investigations in the hope of justifying impeachment.

Is the public really so stupid that such obvious corruption and dishonesty…and disrespect  for those who they are supposed to represent…escape their notice? The Democrats appear to be betting on it.

Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee delivered a speech on the Senate floor using pure mockery to illustrate  the Green New Deal lack of seriousness—which the subsequent vote confirmed.  No, Lee shouldn’t quit his day job, but his routine had its moments. He began, Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/23/2019: Hypocrisy, Rationalizations, Spin, And Things Your Facebook Friends Will Hate To Pieces

Good Morning!

Doesn’t Barbra sing beautifully? Does knowing she’s ethically dead inside ruin her singing for you? (see #2)

1.  How arrogant and incompetent is this? UNBELIEVABLY arrogant and incompetent. Apparently Jared Kushner and the President’s daughter, Kushner’s wife, have been using private email accounts for official business. It’s against the law. it’s absurdly hypocritical, after the (deserved) criticism the President leveled against Hillary Clinton for her private server shenanigans. The Justice Department should prosecute both of them, and if the President had anyone else competent that he could trust as a close advisor—he fear he doesn’t—he should fire them both.

2. Wow! Barbra rationalizes sexual child abuse! Will this mean that Babs will no longer be welcome at Democrat fundraisers? Doubtful. Progressive never met a double standard they wouldn’t use.

Here is what the singing icon said to the The Times about Michael Jackson’s recent accusers (via documentary and lawsuits), Wade Robson and James Safechuck, and hold on to your heads:

“His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has. You can say ‘molested,’ but those children[ now grown-up Robson and Safechuck] as you heard, say they were thrilled to be there. They both married and they both have children, so it didn’t kill them.”

Should I rename the infamous Rationalization #22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things” after the Funny Girl? Her statement is a perfect example: a child being raped by a grown man isn’t a big deal if the kid doesn’t die. Then there is #42. The Irrelevant Mitigation: “He’ll/She’ll/They’ll get over it”:

” #42 is pure callousness mixed with consequentialism, and thus beyond redemption or ethical application.. It holds that wrongful conduct is somehow mitigated by the fact that the wound heals, forgiveness is granted, or time breeds forgetfulness. It isn’t. How and whether victims recover or get over their anger does not alter the original misconduct, mitigate it, and certainly does not erase it. Those who cite this rationalization are shrugging off accountability and are signalling that they will repeat their unethical conduct or worse, counting on their victims to give them an opportunity to harm them again. Anyone who employs The Irrelevant Mitigation cannot be trusted”

The despicable suggestion that Jackson’s alleged victims consented to being raped, however, because they wanted it, is really revolting. This is #48. Contrived Consent, or “The Rapist’s Defense”, which…

…aims to cleanse unethical conduct by imagining that the victim consented to it, or secretly sought the result of the wrongful act. The most infamous example of this rationalization is, of course, the rapist’s defense that the victim either was inviting a sexual assault by flirtatious conduct or provocative dress, or secretly “wanted it.”

It is, perhaps, the ugliest rationalization of all.

The good news is that these idiotic comments, signature significance for someone whose ethics alarms have turned to moldy cheese, are attracting appropriate condemnation. Good. [Pointer: Other Bill]

3. Here’s some dishonest leftist spin for the Mueller investigation, as the impeachment hounds try to somehow make the facts consistent with their delusions. From ThinkProgress:

“Mueller’s team has filed dozens of indictments and secured convictions and guilty pleas in the conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 election: Six of Trump’s close associates and employees have faced charges. George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser; Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair; Rick Gates, a campaign aide and longtime Manafort business partner; Michael Flynn, a former foreign policy adviser; Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer; and Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, have all been charged by Mueller. Manafort and Cohen have been convicted and sentenced to prison.”

That’s multiple lies framed by a lie. None of Mueller’s indictments involve any conspiracy to interfere with the election except the symbolic charges against Russians,  and if there had been any evidence of such a conspiracy, an American would have been inducted on those grounds. Manafort was indicted for his own crimes, not any related to the campaign. Flynn and Cohen had no involvement with Russia either. The others were charged with process crimes: lying to law enforcement, not “colluding” with Russia.

4. “Worst Nazi Ever!” That’s Instapundit Glenn Reynolds gag tag for Trump actions like declaring that Israel should  have sovereignty over the Golan Heights, ending decades of U.S. policy of tip-towing around the issue. It also fits here: The President issued an  executive order directing federal agencies to “take appropriate steps” to “promote free inquiry” at institutions that receive federal research and education grants, including thorough compliance with the First Amendment.  F.I.R.E. approves.

5. Surprise! Your Facebook friends are wrong, and don’t know what they are talking about...It is overwhelmingly likely that the supreme Court will approve the use of emergency powers to build “the wall.” Richard H. Pildes, professor of constitutional law at New York University, wrote a convincing article, “How the Supreme Court Weakened Congress on Emergency Declarations,” in which points out…

  • The National Emergencies Act (NEA), passed by Congress in l976, never defines that an emergency is, largely leaving that assessment to the President.
  • Presidents have used the NEA 58 times. In every case–every case!— the President spent funds not appropriated by Congress.
  • In no case did the Supreme Court overturn the action.
  • The Supreme Court decision in Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha, which declared that “legislative vetoes are unconstitutional,”  including vetoes of Presidential actions under the National Emergencies Act.
  • Absent Congress overriding Trump’s veto of the bill designed to stop his declaration of the emergency at the border, a result that is unlikely, there is no legal way to block the Trump as he acts on the authority of the NEA.
  • Trump neither violated the Constitution nor violated the separation of powers. His unilateral action was a constitutional power ceded to him by an act of Congress
  • President Obama used the act to transfer funds without congressional authority to his health care act.

I didn’t think there was a chance that the President’s power to do this would not be upheld, and the article makes me more certain than ever.  I also agree with Ronald Trowbridge that if the Justices were capable of ruling only on the law rather than partisan politics, the decision would be unanimous.

 

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/22/2019: “I’m Mad As Hell, And I’m Not Going To Take It Anymore!” Edition

Good Morning!

Time for “Singin’ in the Rain” again, when I’m in this kind of mood…It helps.

Fridays have been discouraging of late. The already diminished traffic here, which always slowed to a crawl on Saturdays, is now almost as weak on Fridays and Sundays too. I have no idea why this is, but it gets old devoting two to four hours a day on weekends producing blog content that I think is worthy of readers’ time and thought while knowing that it will be largely ignored. Of course, running a home ethics business, weekends have meant nothing  for many years, holidays as well, and I don’t know what this “vacation” thing is that my friends keep blathering about. To be clear, I love doing what I do, or I wouldn’t do it. I just wish I were more effective at persuading others to care about the topic of ethics as much as I do.

1. How to beat Facebook! I tried something this morning: I posted an essay without including a photo, and tried to post it on Facebook. It took! No error message! Then I added a photo after the link was on Facebook. The link still worked! I’m going to see if this was just a fluke or not, and I’m going to post a few things without graphics or videos to see if readers have the same luck posting and sharing them. If the photos being removed actually does get around whatever it is causing Ethics Alarms to be unsharable on Facebook, then I’ll have a decision to make. Obviously the photos and videos enhance the posts, and are sometimes essential. Is it worth the trade-off to stop using graphics if it allows more circulation on social media? My choices are…

  • Refuse to compromise the integrity of the blog to satisfy Facebook. (You know this is my default reaction.)
  • Leave photos off posts until I’ve put them on my Facebook page. This will allow people to access Ethics Alarms using that link.
  • Leave photos and videos off all posts.
  • Leave photos and videos off selected posts that I think are likely to be shared.

All of these, of course, assume that I continue to investigate and try to find out why Facebook won’t accept Ethics Alarms posts as they are.

2.  You don’t get business from an ethics company by lying in your introductory pitch. Just got an email beginning thusly…

We would like to share our observations pertaining to your website. Though, your website is great and has all the information that prospective customers of your niche will search for. However, it has a lot of scope for getting optimized in line with Search Engine Guidelines so as to come on the first page in search results.   We have conducted a meticulous SEO audit of your website and found that it can give you more return than it might be giving you at present.

Right. It is obvious that you have NOT read this website, because if you had you would know that it is not seeking “potential customers” (though my other website is) and that you currently have no clue about Ethics Alarms, its scope or its “niche.” This is a form letter, pretending, and badly, not to be. If you are this incompetent in your own marketing, why would I trust you to advise me regarding mine?

Go away. I hate you.

3. Watch “Network” again, if you haven’t lately. TCM has been running movies about journalism on Thursdays this month. Why do I suspect the network was lobbied to do this as CNN et al. try to make the false case that journalists are noble, ethical, devoted and trustworthy as a public defense against President Trump’s attacks on “fake news” and the “enemies of the people”? Well, most of the journalists portrayed in movies are like that. One reason I question the motives of the series is that it left “Absence of Malice” out, one of the very few negative (and  accurate) Hollywood portrayals of journalists.

TCM could not credibly neglect to show “Network, ” however, Paddy Chayefsky’s  wild satire of TV news that was a runner-up to “Rocky” as Best Picture at the 1977 Academy Awards, and is now on Broadway in a stage adaptation. (I agreed with that award then and do still: “Network”is intellectual and satiric, “Rocky” is visceral and emotional, they are both classics, but if they are both showing at the same time, I’m choosing “Rocky,” which makes me feel good, over Network, which makes me want to jump into the blender.) Watching it all the way through for the first time in many years, I realized that the film should be required viewing for all American citizens. What seemed hilariously cynical and over-the-top 40 years ago seems depressingly prophetic now.

The film (Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky was the sharpest and most flamboyant of the great quartet  of Golden Age TV writers; Rod Serling, Reginald Rose and Abby Mann were the others) portrays a TV network culture that is amoral and ruthless, willing to breach ethics, taste and decency, not to mention journalism ethics, to pursue ratings, dollars, and power. I don’t know if he was making a prediction, warning us, or just trying to be entertaining, but by brilliance or chance, Chayefsky was giving society a preview of what would constitute “news” in 2019. The result is that what was funny in 1977 is horrifying now.

The TV shows “UBS” puts on the air all have direct avatars today in reality shows and other genres that didn’t exist pre-cable. The veteran newscaster-gone-nuts whose live rants become a sensation, Howard Beale, the Mad Prophet of the Airwaves, no longer seems like an outrageous invetion. We have seen many “mad prophets” in alleged newscasts since “Network.” Glenn Beck may have been the closest to Beale, but Bill O’Reilly was in the ballpark, and Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo and a raft of MSNBC talking heads  routinely say things at least as outrageous as Howard, before he would suffer a seizure in his passion and collapse at the end of every broadcast.

Moreover, the iconic moment in the film  where Beale spurs people all over America to run to their windows, open them, and shout, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!” is another excellent metaphor for the 2016 election (though I like teh parade in “Animal House” best). The network executives are the personification of the smug, arrogant “elites” who were (and are) so, so confident that they knew what was best for the public, while they lied, manipulated, postured and profited. Donald Trump was elected less as an individual than as the physical manifestation of shouting out the window, and it was a symbolic and necessary message that the two parties and the news media  still haven’t received.

I am proud of Americans for sending it, and the unethical alliance of elites who refuse to understand are playing with dynamite.

Pacific Coast Time Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/20/19: Guys and Dolls

Good morning from San Diego!

Well, I was speaking to 600 seats just now, but only about 300 lawyers. Several came up to me afterward, inspired or stimulated, and thankful. In ethics, as in the theater, I have come to adopt William Saroyan’s creed that if just one person sings your song, your life as an artist has meaning. Like Saroyan, I have come to adopt that out of self-preservation and to stave off insanity.

1. It looks like a Saturday Night Live writer plagiarized at least two skits this season. The story is here.

The combination of SNL’s insane schedule, the pressure to be different and edgy week after week, and the temptation of YouTube made this inevitable. The rules on borrowing, adapting, copying comedy material has always been a gray area, often settled by the good faith and collegiality—or not—of the comics themselves. By accident, I just saw an old “Everybody Loves Raymond” episode which was an obvious rip-off of an even older Dick Van Dyke Show episode in which Laura writes a children’s book, and professional writer Rob offers to help her improve it.? Plagiarism? Comedy skits in vaudeville were passed around like the flu: Abbot and Costello weren’t the first to do the “Who’s On First?” routine, they just did it so much better than anyone else that they owned it. Was Lucy plagiarizing Red Skelton with her “Vitameatavegimin” skit, where a pitch woman gets drunk doing multiple takes of a TV ad that requires her to drink the alcohol-laced product, when Red had been doing the same routine for years as “Guzzler’s Gin”? Continue reading