Saturday, June 20, 2020

ANOTHER COUNTY HEARD FROM


The thing about being 82 is you have grandchildren. The thing about being 82 and semi-affluent is that most likely those grandchildren are fairly well educated. They can be very bright, and even more disconcerting, they can be assertive.


For them, now in their teens, mid-twenties and early thirties, the world is at a crossroads. They are not alone. I want to be with them. Really. Even at 82, I get it. Black lives DO matter, the constitution of the United States is under siege and the inequality that exits in America socially, economically, and in education, is not only unfair…it is dangerous. But I am 82…and feeling every hour of it.


I wrote about some of this in my last Blog…I know, I know, I promised to go back to being “entertaining”… and I meant it, but then I got this missive from my middle granddaughter about my last posting. She wrote (in part):


…it might be interesting to reflect on the fact that your stories, the ones you have “so many of,” could also be critiqued for their own respective lack of Black voices. All the names you listed were white. An investigation into this and further self-reflection about this, might be worthwhile, or at least might be worth a follow up blog post. How much of this pre-amble is really needed? Does it centralize yourself more than the information that needs to be spread?


Ouch. Not to be too defensive, but…well, there are certainly Black people in my life. One of my very closest of friends can attest to that, but then I harken back to the old saw of my youth, and the disclaimer one heard all too often, “…oh, but some of my best friends are Jewish.” Still, I could have mentioned, but failed to, that I have had productive and friendly relationships with actors Rosie Greer, Yaphet Kotto, Merry Clayton, Georg Stanford Brown, Carl Lumbly, Kathryne Brown, Jonelle Allen and Don Pedro Colley…but I failed to do that. I also worked with Black directors…the aforementioned Georg Brown, as well as Helaine Head and Bill Duke. There was also writer Samm-Art Williams. Sadly, none of them made the cut either… or, even worse, only a few got close to my “social circle.”


I have often imagined what Georg Stanford Brown felt, when at a post-EMMY party at my home he would be the only person of color in my crowded living room. I am then reminded of the days when my one-time spouse, Barbara Corday, an executive at first ABC and then at Columbia Pictures Corporation, was often the only woman in the room. I remember her trying to explain her feelings about that to her would-be feminist husband. To label her sense of those meetings as often uncomfortable and awkward would have to come under the heading of understatement.


My number two granddaughter called me out on all of it. Why was it left to her and not another of the three grandkids? Well, number one is too busy occupying Oakland as we speak, and number three? I think I was afraid to consult with her. She is not only super bright…she is 15. If that explanation is not sufficient, clearly there are no teenagers in your immediate sphere.


Number two had the temerity (with ease, I might add) to point out...well, here it what she wrote:


Speaking of Blackness---this might also be an interesting time to address the working class of Fisher Island being predominantly Black, and what this means and represents on a larger scale for your readers, as something too on which to reflect.


Oh my. I know I don’t even have to ask if once having Ophra Winfrey as a Fisher Island neighbor counts. It’s sorta cool to say it, but I know it doesn’t really belong in this discussion. Far be it from me to even bring it up.


In the original draft of the Blog I previewed with Greer (there… she has a name), my granddaughter
called me out on a joke I had written. It wasn’t much of a joke, so I cut it. It had to do with climate being important to me so I would be postponing any protest move to Canada until the Canadians conquered an Island in the Caribbean. Back came this from granddaughter number two.


Also, the bit about Canada colonizing a Caribbean Island---I see the joke you’re trying to make here, but at its core it represents colonialism/colonization of indigenous (Black) people by a white nation. I’d think about rewording this, or maybe just taking it out.


I took it out.


What’s a grandpa to do?

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Entertainer

Make ‘em Laugh

“Let me entertain you, let me make you smile…” Sondheim wrote that lyric for a Broadway musical about a strip-tease artist and I think it should generally be the goal of this fully clothed blogger as well. Still… nearly a hundred years earlier, W.S. Gilbert’s poetic advice to a court jester: “there are one or two rules, that all family fools, must observe if they love their profession,” seems to hold true now more than ever. How to keep it light…how to make them smile, in times like these, indeed.

It’s not as if there is a scarcity of stories… like Jimmy Durante before me, “I gotta million of ‘em.” And I am not limited to Cagney & Lacey, The Trials of Rosie O’Neill or Daniel Boone. I have yarns about my tenure on Charlie’s Angels, other adventures from other shows, the world’s best Network meeting, and a few of the world’s worst. I literally have a book load of material to dribble out, in the unlikely event there’s a week where I can think of nothing to say.

For those of you who have forgotten, the book is called Cagney & Lacey… and me and I commend it to you via CagneyandLacey.com  if you want it personally autographed, or get it through the iTunes guys, or Amazon, if you want your purchase to be less sociable. Or, you could just be patient and read excerpts one blog at a time on this site. You may miss some of the flow of the original, but (hey) cheap is cheap… you want to read the book without paying, you gotta take it the way it’s doled out.

I’ve got stories about pitching an opera... an OPERA… honest to God… to a Network exec no less. I know, I know. There’s a reason they call it A-B-C. Or I could write about my grandmother, Fanny, who could be a laugh riot (when she wasn’t undergoing shock therapy). My days at USC were better than most, and the early days of my career, starting at MGM as an office boy and meeting Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Marlon Brando, Shirley MacLaine, Elizabeth Taylor, and John Wayne (when I wasn’t following Cyd Charisse, who looked absolutely fabulous in heels, a glen plaid double breasted jacket and a straight shirt that clung to her incredible body….)

But I digress.

There were some drinking bouts with Paul Newman, stories about Olympic champions I have known, and being on the set with such giants as John Ford, Martin Ritt, Tony Richardson (yuck), William Wyler, Patty Chayefsky, Vincente Minelli, seeing Barbra Streisand for the first time on Broadway. There is an entire other memoir in my head titled Cagney & Lacey…before and after, not to mention Notes from a Warm Island chronicling my 25 years on the Florida Island named for Carl Fisher.

The point is, there is no dearth of material. I’ve got plenty of stories to tell. The problem is how to be entertaining considering all that is going on in America today. Do I take the tack that things are so tough everyone deserves a break and a laugh? Tell that to my granddaughters. They are on the barricades, and they want old gramps at their side.

I can’t blame them. They have been hearing me rail about the system for all their lives. I think they believe, it is time for me to put up or shut up. Yet here I sit, at my desk on Fisher Island… the ultimate gated community, attempting to shame multi-millionaires to not have the Island’s Club apply for financial assistance from the government. That is the sum total of my contribution.

I know I should be out there on the balustrades. I know that black lives matter. I know how cruel white America can be to anyone of color, be they native Americans, black, Latino or Asian. I know that the stock market is not really a valid indicator for what kind of economy we really have, let alone what kind of a country this truly is.

Hey, kids… I am 82. Give me a break. I was ready to move, in protest, to Canada, but people my age need a warm climate and, frankly, I just cannot deal with the stress of trying to order an avocado salad in Greek…. or Italian.

I am also enjoying building up this column… happy to be communicating with so many friendly people long distance. (God forbid any of them were to show up at my door… which comes under the general heading of “scratch a liberal and you’ll find a monarchist.”) I don’t want to offend by lecturing people in this forum as to what they ought to be doing.

Okay… here is what they ought to be doing: first thing they should recognize is that what Americans have really gotten good at in the last fifty years or so is how to evade and avoid taxation. C’mon folks. This country was put together for one main reason: to provide for the common defense. It’s in Article 1 of the Constitution. Everyone agrees on that. Some want to build a wall to make that happen, or build bigger bombs; some want to pull up the bridge over the moat and not let anyone come in, and some realize that the common defense we should be focusing on is not only foreign invasion or domestic crazies. We also need to defend against disease and ignorance and so we need a country with a health care system that actually works… for everyone, an educational system that uplifts instead of perpetuates the status quo, and a judicial system that functions for everyone, not just the rich and the white.

There should be zero deductions on the income tax form.  After the first $50K (which would be tax free) all other income would be taxed at a flat rate of 50%.  One half is for you and the other half is for the society in which you live… a society that would then be able to end discrimination, create opportunity for it citizens, have great health care for everyone, a brilliant educational system for children and adults, a new electrical grid, a place that would be safe to live in, with decent roads and bridges and modern airports and the latest in non-polluting train and automated travel.
The world has past the time of the rugged individualist. No one wants to hear any more about how you built… “all by yourself” …your mail order fortune from nothing. You live in a country with a post office and a transportation system that made your business possible, and there is enough security throughout the land so that you can be reasonably assured it is unnecessary to hire a private platoon of armed guards to protect your ever growing stash.

And what about the relentless capitalist who is first in line for government bailouts when things get tough? Not sure what you call someone who is a capitalist on the upswing and a socialist on the down, but “self-made” does not resonate.

The same goes for those who pay sub-standard wages and rely on the generosity of customers to provide tips that are so low their employees need food stamps. There is no fairness in a world where McDonalds gets richer while we as taxpayers subsidize their work force.

The minimum wage should be $25 per hour. If you cannot afford to pay that, do the work yourself or fold your company. If your business is so bad that it cannot pay a living wage to its employees, it should not exist.

Remember, Americans are supposed to get as their birth right “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Try to do that in the 21st century without a flushing toilet, clean water or a smart phone.

The disparity between rich and the working poor has reached the point of eruption. Revolution is in the air and it could get nasty. Better to give up half of your lucre in taxes then have it all taken away at the guillotine.

And all you folks in Palm Beach, who represent two or three generations of no work while living in your inherited mansions, get ready for the inheritance taxes that after the first $10 mil should be taxed at a rate of 100%. America was not designed for an aristocracy of mortals living off the accomplishments of their ancestors. Especially when the ancestors got rich by paying sub-standard wages (or none at all) to the people who actually did the work. That’s the old world. This is supposed to be the new.

And that’s my spiel. I hope my grandkids are happy now… just a little bit. I hope I haven’t lost too many readers in the process, and now Hailey, Greer and Zoey, may I please go back to my shtick of song and dance…

Let me entertain you, let me make you smile….

Next time. I promise.


Barney Rosenzweig

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

PROBABLY MY FAVORITE SHOW BIZ STORY…EVER




Last week’s musings regarding The Taxi Cab Murders brought to mind yet another film of mine that was way under length. The difference was that this one could not be easily corrected with something as simple as stock footage.

It was late in the 1960’s on an episode of the NBC television series, Daniel Boone, starring Fess Parker in the title role. I had been warned that the timing of this particular episode was running fast and by the morning before the final day of shooting, the script supervisor was able to predict that the episode would be about two minutes shy of the required running time for any hour-long Network series.

Back in the day, an episode of Network television had to be a specific length… no more, no less. In the case of an hour-long show, that length was 46 minutes (plus I forget how many seconds). The rest of the 60 minutes was filled with opening credits, closing credits, and commercials. So… good, bad, or indifferent, it had to run to time.

To be as much as two minutes short was unusual and having it happen on Daniel Boone presented an even larger problem than it might for other competing shows of the time such as The Rifleman, The Virginian, Cimarron Strip, Have Gun Will Travel, and the like. Those were all Westerns, taking place in the American West of the mid-to-late 19th century. Daniel Boone was television’s only Eastern; its setting was “the dark and bloody ground” of Kentucky in the 18th century. That fact alone eliminated most standard western plot devices like the fast gun, the arrival of the Stage Coach, the railroad coming to town, the community dance hall saloon, the cattlemen versus the sheep men, and the farmers in opposition to just about everyone else.

It made the use of stock footage as filler all the more difficult. Heck, in a Western, you could fill 20 or 30 seconds alone by adding to the beginning of the train’s arrival in town simply by going to the “library” for 19th century train footage. The same was true for the arrival of the weekly stage coach or the dance hall girls hanging around the saloon. On Daniel Boone we did not have that luxury.

What I did have was Jack Guss, a very facile, flexible, and talented story editor. All I had to do was walk the less than 50 feet to Jack’s office, tell him the problem, let him know what sets from this episode were still “hot,” which actors were still available, and how many pages were required to fill out the time needed. All that remained was for me to sit back and wait for Mr. Guss to create this last minute, additional scene.

In less than an hour Jack was back in my office with three pages in hand. Besides the character of Daniel Boone, the only others in the new scene were that week’s guest-lead, portraying a warrior chief of the Delaware tribe of American Indians, and the 10-year-old boy who played his son. All were still under contract to us for this episode so there were no hidden costs, no extra wardrobe needed, nor any casting concerns. The whole thing took place around a campfire (an easily put together setting for us).

In the scene, Boone and the chief were having a private moment away from the tribe (good story clarification dialogue by Guss and no need for any background players which we didn’t have available and couldn’t afford). Unbeknownst to the pair, the chief’s son was stealthily approaching his father’s private campsite. The young boy, who has yet to be won over by Boone, draws his tiny bow, aims at the alien white man, and lets his arrow fly, narrowly missing its target.

Angered by his son's inhospitable act, the chief moves quickly, raising his arm to punish the lad, but Boone intercedes. The frontiersman looks his contemporary in the eye, smiles, and says: “My
friend, the Delaware have a saying: 'Friendship without warmth is a waste of beaver.’”  Recognizing the wisdom of these words, the chief nods knowingly, returning his friend’s smile. End of scene.


This was the 1960's. There was no double entendre. A beaver was a furry little animal one made hats out of and/or used as a form of currency. That was it.

I called Jack back to my office. "Great scene, Jack. But tell me something: what does 'friendship without warmth is a waste of beaver' mean?"

"I don't know," came the reply. "I just thought it sounded kinda Oriental and mystical. I like it."

"Just curious," I said, then added, "I like it, too."

The scene was given to mimeograph and sent to the set to be filmed the next day, the last day of photography on the episode. 48 hours after first reading Jack’s new scene I was in the screening room looking at what had been committed to film the previous day.

There was Boone and the Delaware chief. There was the hostile boy reaching for his weapon and "zap," there was the near miss. (Nice job by the prop department). The chief quickly moved toward his son to strike him, but true to form…and script… Boone stayed his hand. "My friend," he said, "don't punish your son. There was no harm done."

"What!!?!" I screamed. "What happened to 'friendship without warmth is a waste of beaver’?”

"Fess wouldn't say it," the beleaguered director confessed, “said he didn’t know what it meant.” I stormed down to the set. It was the first day of shooting on yet another episode. I waited patiently for a break in the action, then motioned to Fess to please join me outside the stage.

"Mr. Parker," I began, "you are no doubt one of television's finest actors; there are even reports that you are a fairly decent director. But let me tell you something, sir, you are one awful writer, and if you ever again change another line of dialogue on one of my scripts without calling me, I will---in the future---have all scripts delivered without dialogue for your character, coupled with a notation that 'Mr. Parker will make up his words as he goes along.'"

The hair on the back of Parker's neck was curling. "What are you talking about?" he said through gritted teeth.

"I'm talking about 'Friendship without warmth is a waste of beaver.’”

"I didn't know what that meant," he was now talking as loud as I.

"Of course you didn't, you big donkey, but Daniel Boone would know! I don't give a damn if you 'understand' a line or not. What's important is that Daniel Boone knows and appreciates his friend's culture and customs."

At 29 years of age, I was then the youngest working producer in Hollywood, having only recently been promoted to this job. Fess was 6’7” tall and a major television star. He loomed over me. I am sure a debate was going on inside his head whether or not to squash me like a bug. (I am not mystical. All you had to do was be there and you could read it on his face.) But then his expression changed. I believe that he must have thought something like: "I own 30% of this show. This kid doesn't own diddley squat, but if he cares this much, I am not going to discourage him.” What he thought is, of course, speculation. What he said. was: "You’re right, Boss. It won’t happen again."

…And it never did. We were together for 78 episodes, shot over a three-year period, and that one line of dialogue was our only argument.

I was going to tell that story as part of my eulogy at Jack's funeral. His bereaved widow, Maggie, called and asked me to speak at the services. Then, in her confused state, she gave me the wrong time. I showed up 15 minutes before I was told to arrive, only to learn I had missed the funeral by one hour and 45 minutes. It was painful to miss the opportunity of bidding goodbye to this very special friend and comrade. All that I could think of was the final words I had planned to say that day:

Friendship without warmth is---indeed---a waste of beaver.

Barney Rosenzweig




Tuesday, May 12, 2020

A FAN’S NOTE:



Karen:” my response to an Email from a Cagney & Lacey admirer began. (I try to respond to each and every such missive… sometimes promptly, sometimes… well, not so much.)

I had always hoped these queries from the faithful would appear directly on the website, but alas the site was set up in the long ago and was too complex for me to run and even too much for my erstwhile loyal assistant, Carole Smith who, like her boss, is a died-in-the-wool luddite.

A true Web Master was needed. Jacqueline Danson volunteered but she resided in England, I lacked motivation, and…well…frankly, it all became too complex and too much trouble.

So, not unlike one of my old time pals here on Fisher Island---who has his Emails sent to his secretary in San Francisco, where they are printed, then faxed back to him in Florida---the fan’s notes for Cagney & Lacey (however circuitously) usually find their way to me.

In this case, Karen had written about an episode called The Taxi Cab Murders, interestingly enough the only one of the 125 episodes we made where the title of the episode appears on screen.

Here I digress… just a bit: I never liked on-screen titles for episodic television. Ever since my first year as a producer, where a Daniel Boone episode was named Then who will they hang from the yardarm if Willie gets away?

I mean, c’mon.

Sometimes it is possible to be too creative, and in my experience, titles always seemed to bring out the “cutes” in any writing staff. So…no titles.

The exception for this particular episode came about as an off shoot of the “final” cut being almost a minute short. You can’t have that happen in Network television without a whole brouhaha from Broadcast Standards.

My idea was to fill the 40some seconds we were lacking with New York stock footage of traffic… not just any traffic… but traffic featuring a whole bunch of taxi cabs. Besides establishing that we were in New York (always a good thing for a NY cop show filmed in Los Angeles), the music composer for the episode was asked to indicate something more sinister than the usual American in Paris kinda thing such filmed footage often evokes.

Why, you might ask, would an audience sit still for nearly an entire minute, watching taxis in traffic? Trust me, it helps if the music is a little sinister and there is a title that comes up proclaiming The Taxi Cab MURDERS.

Is this too much information? Let me return to the response to Karen.

“Always delighted to hear from fans such as yourself,” I wrote, then went on: “but you ask too much and let me tell you why. When titillated,” I continued, “I can come up with a whole bunch of stuff on any episode of just about anything I have ever produced... I am (was) always that ‘hands on.’ But the IRT route Lacey's youngest son took to get to Cagney's apartment? I must admit, you’ve got me.

As to your request that I look it up in the script, I am afraid those pages are not so easily come by. And there, dear Karen, lies a not uninteresting factoid:

Cagney & Lacey scripts were largely created before the common usage of word processors such as the PC or the MAC. A few writers used them in the early 1980’s, but they delivered their scripts to us the same as those who used conventional typewriters; scripts were then distributed to cast and crew by way of a mimeograph (or copy) machine. In other words, I just can't go to my PC, hit a keyword or two and come up with your answer.”

Not content to let it lie there, I went on: “To get to something as removed from my memory as your request, I would have to go to my den, get on a large step-ladder, try to figure out in which leather bound volume the episode called The Taxi Cab Murders exists (there are three to four episodes in each volume), then, having done that, I would have to climb down the ladder and go through the entire volume to come up with the answer to your question.

Karen, I am 82 years old. I ain’t doing that. It does occur to me, however, that if I make a posthumous donation of the scripts to my Alma mater, they might well digitalize the entire library of scripts to placate scholars as well as the simply curious. So, here is my answer:

Watch the obituary pages for word of my demise, wait a while, then contact the Cinema division of the University of Southern California. In the meanwhile, thanks for your interest and for making my day.

Oh yeah... you also asked where our two primary characters ‘lived.’ The Lacey's resided in Queens, and Cagney lived in the lower west side of Manhattan. The actual street addresses? That brings us back to the problem of the ladder.


Barney Rosenzweig

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

WHO WOULDA THUNK IT?





“This is against our nature,” Dan Barry wrote in the NY Times regarding the Corona Virus and sequestration, “we are meant to be together. Blending voices in worship and clinking glasses in taverns. Line dancing at weddings and standing in line at wakes. High-fiving at ball-games, applauding shamelessly at school concerts, moving as one in packed subways lurching forward.”

Not so much, I have come to learn. Sharon and I are getting along just fine in isolation. She is at her desk… or sprawled out in the living room… composing the third draft of her memoir for 2021 release by Simon & Schuster. I am busy… doing not very much, which suits me just fine. It used to be a bit tricky, avoiding the neighbors, now it’s a breeze. There are, of course, things that I miss, but overall, I find reports of “cabin fever” and folks going “bat shit crazy” highly overstated.

My old college roommate and his spouse send out daily e-mails describing in detail the evening meals they spend all day preparing and the wine they select to go with the repast. In almost every way I can discern, they are having the time of their lives.

My lawyer here in Florida has always worked from the day she became an early  grad out of law school, supporting a husband and two kids, then being widowed and continuing her career in one of the nation’s top firms while raising those kids on her own. She has now left her law practice and is home alone. Turns out it is her longest running fantasy… to be in that house, on her own, to get it organized, and---for the first time in her life---experiment in her kitchen with the art of cooking. In twenty years, I have never known her to seem happier.

I acknowledge that these references are to folks who are all eligible to collect Social Security, but sometimes, with age comes wisdom. The world is an interesting place. Sometimes we… as individuals… can be the most interesting thing in it. Introspection, inner dialogue, reflection, time on the deck admiring the view, or appreciating the plants both in and out of doors.

I know that it is “old hat” to admonish folks to take a beat, to smell the flowers. But… honest… do it. Really. Bake some bread. Clean out a closet. If not now, when? Barney Rosenzweig

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

HAPPY ENDINGS




As if there were not enough shows to watch at home these days, Sharon and I have taken to revisiting Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom. We both commend it to you.  It borders on the redundant to say Sorkin’s writing is brilliant. The show is just so smart, so well made, so perfectly cast… do yourself a favor and use your HBOGO to watch at least the first of the three years. We are mid-way through season two and recommend a re-visit highly.

Season three of Killing Eve has come out (at least the first three episodes). Big drop off from seasons one and two and were it not for Ms Jodi Comer and Sandra Oh it would be close to unwatchable. But Comer and Oh are there… one or the other (and sometimes both) in almost every scene. Thank goodness for that.

I have just given up on Westworld mid-way through season three. It has nothing to do with the early days of the show which were, at least intriguing. What is going on this season is just plane silly. One saving grace is the City of Singapore which is well covered throughout the show. If I were a travelin’ man I would go there. Not the show, the city.

The Showtime series, HOMELAND ended last Sunday night. I am going to miss it. More than any other show this century, it is what I can only hope would have evolved from my own Cagney & Lacey. The character Carrie Mathison is Christine Cagney on steroids. I loved it.

Beyond that, what I appreciated was the way they ended it. Think how many wonderful series have been sullied by their creators in the ways they chose to end their shows…. Deadwood, Game of Thrones, (and some say) The Sopranos. Magnificent shows with endings that (to say the least) disappointed, even cheated their audiences.

I’m going to give David Chase sort of a pass on The Sopranos last episode. It was almost perfect… until the very end. A few moments earlier and I think his point would have been better made, but it was a choice someone (he) might defend.

David Milch has no such excuse. He decided to wrap up his brilliant series, years later with a one-shot movie made for HBO. The Deadwood characters looked and sounded great as always, the production values were smack on, but in wrapping everything up, the whole thing appeared to be too tidy and way too quick. Three, four, or even six episodes could easily have been derived from that one two hour “special.” What a shame.

Benioff and Weiss should really be ashamed. They nurtured and dragged out their Game of Thrones for years, then collapsed the final season into but six episodes. The lives of several of the key characters were rushed into being resolved in a few lines of dialogue rather than dramatic portrayal. For eight years we had been lulled into the detailed/deliberate pacing created by these two brilliant producers. Now, all of a sudden, they were in a hurry and their audience paid the price.

I loved how they ended Veep… one of the best endings ever, for one of the best comedy series of the last decade. Still, there is a long history of terrific endings for comedy shows (M*A*S*H and The Bob Newhart Show most obviously leaping to mind).

There are complexities in drama shows and the urge to make it all “neat and tidy” at the end can be overwhelming. There are even unintended consequences: back- in-the-day, catching the one-armed man in The Fugitive cost the producers millions of dollars in syndication and I would bet the residual dollar value of Game of Thrones was substantially reduced by dealing with several key characters either off-stage or with voice-over dialogue.

Homeland did it brilliantly…thank you Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa. It is sad to see this wonderful show go, but very satisfying to see it go the way it did.

Barney Rosenzweig

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

To Zoom or Not to Zoom




Christine Cagney once said, “change equals psychological loss." It has been almost 40 years since I wrote that line. Now I find myself reconsidering.

The Pandemic is slowing everything down, moving the world from a frenetic pace to a manageable tempo. All I need do is survive it. Hell, at age 82, that was pretty much all I had to do when the reference to Corona was limited to a very mediocre Mexican beer.

But depression, recession, folks out of work, people remaining in their homes... all that is familiar territory to someone my age. Consequently, my period of adjustment has been relatively smooth. Until now.

I have come under a lot of pressure of late to Link up and ZOOM. Face Timing, Linking, Zooming, App downloads... trying to buy toilet paper on the Internet… now, that connotes psychological loss to me.

Still, I am told that virtual Seders at Passover were quite moving… and, I would guess, not nearly so fattening as the real thing. I am also informed that virtual family Easter gatherings were, in lieu of the actual, very satisfying (except for Sharon, she wanted a Honey Baked Ham).

In this time of restriction and social distancing, doctors have found Zoom to be a great way to “see” patients. They won’t do the same thing by phone as they will by Zoom, which, I suspect, may have something to do with their ability to charge your insurance company for an office “visit.”

Business meetings are giving in to this new technology. I am trying to imagine a Network “pitch” meeting being done this way and… well… I just can’t.

Folks sentenced to sequestration seem to crave connection via their I-Pads, PCs and Macs. Not me.

I have thought about it though… being one of those talking heads reporting from home, and just how to do it. Placing those Emmys of mine (and Sharon’s) not so discreetly in the background, the lens (where is the lens on a PC anyway?) being elevated enough to obliterate some of my cragginess, but not so high as to expose my considerable girth. The newest of my large collection of caps would probably work well and it would certainly cap off (no pun there…honest) any need to curtail the glare from my cranium. And where to put that light source? Even more importantly, how could I preview what it was I’d be projecting out there to… well… whomever was out there?

I have observed the (supposed) pros on the newly sequestered cable talk shows and it is, at best, a very mixed bag. Most everyone looks awful, their words often out of sync with their mouths, plus those interminable delays between question and answer.

There are the most recent headlines about “Zoom Bombing,” with its potential for loss of privacy, the invasion of personal space, and the very real threat of identity theft.

I think I’ll stick with this venue. You may, or may not, be “out there in the dark,” but whatever, I will be comfortably robed, taking breaks whenever I want, pausing when I want to receive a phone call and… where necessary… massaging thoughts I have had and… who knows?... Maybe improving upon them with a change of punctuation, or the omitting of a word or two.

Like you I have no idea how much longer this will go on. I could, for instance, predict that because of the Virus there will be no football season. Truth to tell, I am not sure if this is pessimism or (given the scheduled USC opener against Alabama) wishful thinking. Mainly I won’t miss the crowds, even though they were once (for me as a USC head yell leader) what it was all about.

I miss my kids and their visits. That said, pretty much everything else about this sequestration business is okay with me. Maybe, like the groundhog, I will come out of my hole when I can no longer see Donald Trump's shadow...over everything.



Barney Rosenzweig