Sunday, March 3, 2013



First of all, Jews are everywhere.  Not to notice that they are here and make a significant difference in our lives at every turn is like Marlon Brando’s metaphor of pretending not to notice a hippopotamus head in the middle of the living room floor.  Second, I like Jews.  It is not uncommon for people to mistake me for a Jew – because of my name, I guess.  It is my theory that most people who dislike Jews are jealous of how they excel.  I admire their endeavor, their chutzpah and their humor.  Their words, particularly the Yiddish, have a certain je ne sais quoi that has become imbedded in our language and often fits better than any other words.  Try to find any single word in any language that comes close to describing chutzpah.  You couldn’t do it if I gave you a dozen words, already.  Yiddish is a gentle language of suffering and of humor and of wise observation.  There would be far less crime, war, hatred and cruelty if the world spoke Yiddish.

Jews have a way of seeing right to the point.  It’s hard to fool a Jew.  They are good lawyers, doctors, surgeons, researchers, musicians, politicians, producers, directors, entertainers, writers – in fact they are good at anything they want to be good at.  We depend on Jews in some way at least every day.  Think about it.  In your own personal life, you must certainly depend on Jews to live a better life.  Your doctor, your lawyer, the clothing store owner where you buy your clothes, the guy who stocks your wine and liquor, writes the news articles you read, the comedian who makes you laugh, the producer who brings you many of the best films, the musician who brings you sublime music, conducts the orchestra, produces the best dramas.  Think how empty our lives would be if all the Jews disappeared tomorrow. 

You never hear of a Jew on welfare.  They are patriotic and honor their mother and father, children and families.  From infancy, they think, work, learn and wonder.  When the Jews poured out of Europe to find a new life in America, they brought along their enormous potential.  I have often said that real opportunity was the little Jew just off the boat, with a pad and pencil and an orange in his pocket and a desire to become rich.  You can be sure that first he bought a pushcart, sold maybe socks or something for a short while, but only a short while, and then moved on to greater and greater success.  I can’t think of a better way to illustrate this than the following anecdote.

In 1974 or 75 I went with actress Leslie Parrish to a luncheon meeting at the Hillcrest Country Club with some successful merchants she was trying to get to support the public TV station she was starting up in Los Angeles.  As we drove up, I noticed the parking lot was full of Rolls Royces, Bentleys, Cords and Morgans, and here I was in long hair and blue jeans.  Leslie said they would think I was a big-time producer.

She went on to explain that Jews were ostracized from all the country clubs when they first came to Hollywood, so they started one of their own.  Many became ultra successful and built the most posh country club in California.  As we were being ushered to an elegant private dining room, I heard, “Paging Mr. George Burns…paging Mr. Carl Reiner.”  These Jews prospered from nothing and became American institutions that enriched all our lives.  DeMille, Zanuck, Spielberg, and on and on.  Think what a void there would be in the entertainment world if all the Jews had become carpenters and bricklayers.

In perhaps the greatest crime of all history, the Nazis destroyed the entire Jewish culture in Europe and left a vacuum that is filling up with hordes from the Middle East not out to help the world but to usurp it.  The bones of all the great doctors and artists, humanists, humorists, scientists, jurists and entertainers lay moldering in common mass graves or went up in smoke almost seventy years ago.  All Europe will pay an extreme price for this for which they will get nothing except the problem of dealing with a new and fearful entity. 

And only now are we learning the Holocaust was far worse than even the known horrors.  New evidence reveals there was a staggering total of 42,500 slave labor and death camps set up by the Nazis in Poland and Germany bringing the total of all victims to a shocking 15 million Jews and non-Jews, including Gypsies, Communists, homosexuals and anyone else the Nazis considered misfits, they, the worst misfits of modern times!

During those awful years, about 115 million people lived in Germany (80M) and Poland (35M).  Wartime losses reduced the total to about 100 million.  The combined land area of Germany and Poland is almost exactly the size of Texas.  The population of Texas in 2010 was about 25 million.  Even with only a quarter of the population of Nazi held territory in wartime, it staggers the imagination to impose 42,500 death camps on a land mass the size of Texas without a high level of public awareness.  That’s a facility every six square miles, a plot 2 by 3 miles.  At that density, an area the size of Washing, DC, would have had ten death camps.  It further staggers the imagination that the civilian population was unaware as claimed.  How could they not notice?

People have been perennially covetous of Jews and how they have been able to achieve prosperity from nothing ever since Moses.  Many Jews stand aloof from non-Jews, and who can blame them.  I would too.  A Jew is expected to exploit his one life and his God-given talents to excel, to master a musical instrument, to honor mother and father and bring pride to the family.

So, I include Jews in my writing because I like them and they are imbedded everywhere in our lives and have done so much provide us with so much worth writing about.

How could you not notice?



I am an American and proud of it, but I feel disposed  to say I think we are as a whole moving away from something that gives us our strength as a nation.  Is it pride?  Not exactly.  Is it patriotism?  Not exactly.  But something akin to things like that.

I still get misty-eyed thinking back many years to the haunting soft and slow notes of a bugler sounding “colors” as the flag is lowered at day’s end, when I held my salute until the final note had faded.  I never reach the end of The Star-Spangled Banner with dry eyes.  My dearest friend of seventy years believes that only God merits such homage as salutes and pledges and are exclusively in His purview.  In all those years, and as many times as we have been together, there has never been a moment of discomfort over the differences in what we believe.  I know him to be a man of courage and principle and respect and accept that what he believes are to him true values.  There are far more similarities in our beliefs, respect for the truth, loyalty of friendship, honoring commitments and consistency of character.  Standing side by side if a flag were to pass in front of us, neither of us would feel discomfort with one saluting and one not, as being emblematic of the freedom America accords all of us.

I think one of the reasons for our drift is more that we lost our self-confidence in being able to say no and mean it.  In my view, the lack of self-confidence crept in because we didn’t care deeply enough about our history, our country, our education and our children to invest whatever time and effort was necessary to find out what is going on and become confident that we knew.  This is not an easy thing to do.  It is so much easier to succumb to the temptations and distractions of modern life than to work hard to be a good parent and to seek the knowledge and make the contribution that is the hallmark and duty of a good citizen. 

The camel’s nose appeared under the tent many times when a firm no might have kept the rest of the beast from coming any further, but we failed to say no and hold to it.  (A friend says when you see the camel’s nose, you should keep in mind that the ass is not far behind.)

Atheists or the like who demand that we exchange our principles for theirs. – I was a Marine and include atheists among those I would have fought for – but for their freedom, not their ideology.  Everyone from Madeline Murray to the local school board who demands we take In God We Trust off our currency or say we can’t set aside a quiet minute in the classroom for reflection on whatever our children want to use it for should be told, in justifiable self-righteous indignation, to go to hell.  We didn’t do that and still aren’t doing it and tiptoe around every crackpot view on whether or not we have to whisper God’s name and give the Constitution as justification.  If you have never read the Constitution, how can you have any confidence in whether this is what it means or not?  If you have never attended a school board meeting how can you judge whether or not these are good citizens dedicated to finding solutions that make sense through a democratic struggle for consensus or are simply a roundtable of strut and big egos taking safety in numbers for any decisions made.

People who demand special status, not because of talent or accomplishment, but because of what they bring from birth –  I accept if you are black and female, for instance, you understand discrimination better than I ever will, and I would be first among those who say all of society should want to see justice done.  But I would say to you to do whatever you can to help it along.  Show the world why faith in you is well-placed and you’ll get there long before those who don’t.  The only thing that can possibly help you overcome those things you cannot change about yourself including your talent and still hope to compete in an indifferent world is a dedicated and driving will combined with hard work, hard work, hard work.  It is a formula by which you can change the world as did Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison and Winston Churchill, all of whom were adjudged to be losers at one time or other in their lives.  If you are not willing to make this kind of effort, go ahead and sit on you ass and vegetate, and no one will feel he owes you a damn thing.

People who haven’t the foggiest notion of the principles upon which the country was founded – It is a travesty to have easy access to such a wealth of material as we do today and have the time and freedom to explore it and not do so.  I am about to stop and go watch the Redskins and the Steelers.  We need fun and distractions in our lives, but we also need a sense of accomplishment that helps us to be proud of who we are and gives us that little extra bit of courage to stand up and say no when the time calls for it and to have a clear understanding of what you are voting for when you go to the polls to vote soon.  You may never feel you are entirely right about any decision, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to give it your best shot whenever you can, for your country, your friends and family and for yourself. 

I say these things with the conviction of being right and remain open to being convinced otherwise.

(I just watched the Redskins and the Steelers and wish now I hadn’t.)

Monday, February 18, 2013



At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy, something has been sticking in my craw.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think there is a better example of how we have allowed – with about as much discernment and taste as a herd of lemmings –  the medium of television to make fools of us all than it did with the much ballyhooed Super Bowl performance of Beyonce and company.  This tawdry, exaggerated, hip-twisting gyration proudly hit the air noisily as the Super Bowl centerpiece and enjoyed notoriety before, during and after and was all the rage for a while with the on-camera, ex-jock pundits who toiled to find any unused hyperbole with which to extol that spectacle over and over as something America could be proud of.  God help our image around the world, it was not.  It was ridiculous.  As an American, I found the whole thing an embarrassing reflection of emptiness and American bad taste in the rush to charge big bucks for a Super Bowl flash in the pan.  You can say whatever extenuating credits about Beyonce you want: talent, beauty, up from a tough life, etc., etc….  It doesn’t whitewash this thing for me.

Even at my age, I am not un-inured to the charms of women.  If they have beauty, all the better.  Personally, however, I find charm, poise, self-confidence and mystery to be far more captivating and far more beguiling certainly than the in-your-face gyrations of Beyonce’s gyratees, a.k.a. Destiny’s Child.  I remember a time when Ginger Rogers or Rita Hayworth teamed up with Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly and created grace and poetry in motion.  A friend of mine is a Hawaiian interpretive dancer whose extraordinary graceful and exotic style is hypnotic and captivating.  She once interpreted the lyrics to a piece of music for us in her home that Sundi chose, ad hoc and a cappella.  It was astonishingly lovely and memorable. 

A lot of high-end Super Bowl television commercials are aimed at as much noise and slam-dunk junk it is possible to cram into the unforgiving minute at the highest cost per-second charges thus far known to man.  Not since that kid noticed the emperor had no clothes have so many people looked up and, no matter what their senses told them, went along with the crowd anyway.  When a thing has the imprimatur of the Super Bowl and all its bells and whistles at whatever cost and unremitting decibels, and all the ooing and awwing of the talking heads, it’s hard for an ordinary guy to have the confidence to look at it and say that it’s simply ridiculous.

If you think back, the native cultural contributions of America were varied and stimulating: Blues and jazz, gospel and spiritual, country and western, brought new species to the cultural scene.  The Negro spiritual is forever embedded in American life.  Composers like Berlin, Gershwin, Porter, Joplin and Kern in the last century gave music a resurgence of vitality in American culture for the common man.  Composers of the great musicals like Hammerstein, Rogers and Hart.  Folk singers like Dylan, Baez and Seeger became a part of our cultural history.

There is far more to this story.  More time will have to pass to judge whether or not these perceptions have merit.  As far as I’m concerned, Beyonce and the ubiquitous pop tarts of venues like American Idol, the rap artists and their many imitators are headed for the dust bin and not a moment too soon.  There is such a plethora of schlock media pelting our young audience today, the really good music is being eclipsed and paved over, and never reaches our young people who are missing out by going along with the media whereas true artistry charts its own course.

Edward R. Murrow, one of the greatest television personalities of all time, once had this to say about the television medium:
“… our history will be what we make it.  If we go on as we are, then history will take its revenge, and retribution will not limp in catching up with us.

“We are to a large extent an imitative society.  If one or two or three corporations would undertake to devote just a small fraction of their advertising appropriation along the lines that I have suggested, the procedure would grow by contagion; the economic burden would be bearable, and there might ensue a most exciting adventure--exposure to ideas and the bringing of reality into the homes of the nation.

“To those who say people wouldn't look; they wouldn't be interested; they're too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: There is, in one reporter's opinion, considerable evidence against that contention.  But even if they are right, what have they got to lose?  Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.

“This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire.  But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends.  Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box.  There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference.”

Ed died in 1965.