Sherlock Holmes

Originally published way back in the olden days.

I was sharing a carton of soy egg nog I'd purloined from a Christmas Party last night with my Grandpa Schlomo (I put a star of david on the carton) when suddenly we were inspired to see a movie. I suggested we see something with action and derring-do because Grandpa has a tendency to doze off in the middle of movies and dream about the days when Cossacks tried to steal his breakfast cereal. So we decided on the new Guy Ritchie thriller, Sherlock Holmes. I love Holmes as much as I love any fictional character in the history of fictional characters, and I was intrigued to see him as a swashbuckler. Grandpa was skeptical, but that's just his nature and I laughed when he tried to tell me that the movie was going to be bad. "How bad can it be, it has Sherlock Holmes in it?"

Within several minutes, Grandpa leaped up, fully asleep, and tried to steal a box of popcorn from a young woman sitting nearby. "That's my Cheerios, comrade!" He yelled. I knew we were in for a long evening. Not only was this movie boring, it was stupid. And nothing is worse than a stupid and boring movie that costs 80 zillion dollars to make. The movie, for fans of bare-chested Hollywood stars, did have a lovely fight scene showing Holmes beating the crap out of a bare-knuckled drunkard, but I don't recall Holmes ever doing this in the books I read when I was 13. Not that I mind a re-imagining of Holmes -- let him beat up people -- but what sets my pipe and slippers on fire is the lack of "imagining" in "re-imagining." The story pits Holmes rationalism against a bad guy using superstition to take over the world. Or something. But the writers settle for action sequences and Holmes jumping to lots of conclusions: what we don't get to see is the great detective actually challenged. We don't see him slowly unraveling the mysterious mystery. We don't see him teetering on any metaphysical edges (though we do, of course, get to watch a literal teetering), so there's no thrill, no real conflict, no story. Why spend all that money and forget to tell a story. I used to think Hollywood didn't care about story since they could crank out an epic piece of garbage and still make bazillions, but now I'm wondering if there just aren't that many people who can actually TELL a story. Eesh. It's gotten so bad that a movie a child could have written -- The Hurt Locker -- is garnering all kinds of attention and winning awards. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would probably say to all of this, as Grandpa Schlomo did when he awoke from his stupor 3/4 of the way through the movie, "Oy, I'm drooling, can we go before I kick someone in the testes?"



A piece written months ago that I'm just now getting around to posting:  
Recently, my imaginary eighteen-year old child, Yardstick, was watching her favorite new television program:  “Girls.”  Being an expert on all things media and a terrific imaginary parent, I decided to take in every episode back to back in order to protect Yardstick from potential bad influences, like the NRA or baldness.  I’d heard through the genius grapevine that “Girls” suffered from all-manner of problems and was much too in love with its own narcissism to entertain the likes of my darling girl, let alone lonely older folks with nothing better to do than make up imaginary children and write about television.  But when I saw the show I discovered something surprising:  it’s good.  And I began to suspect that there must be something else lurking behind the negative-Nancy blogospherists who have been taking pleasure in kicking the show in the ovaries.  Thus, I decided it was my duty to leap to its defense.  Since “Girls” recently won the Golden Globe for best new comedy, it clearly doesn’t need me to defend it, but I’m a man and my Y chromosome insists that things are not properly approved of until I say so.
I began by asking my Grandpa Schlomo what he thought the problem was.  “People are schmucks,” he answered before stapling a “kick me” sign to my back and trampling my asparagus fern to death.  But he had a point.  People are schmucks.  And their critiques of the show smack of envy.  “I’m smart and talented but I don’t have my own show and the world isn’t fair and I hate Lena Dunham!”  This leads me to:
Critique number 1:  the show is written and populated by actors who would be no where without their famous parents.  This notion, however true, is not a critique of the show as far as I can tell.  In fact, if the people who make this complaint bother to pull their heads out of their keyboards, they’ll see that the world works very much this way.  Those waiting for a true meritocracy are much like the characters depicted in Girls:  entitled, narrow-minded and narcissistic.  These people should watch the show, in fact, so they can see their own images reflected back at them.  (There’s a hilarious episode in season 1 when Hannah discovers her hated college rival has written a popular memoir.  She says something like, “she’s got no talent, she’s just lucky her boyfriend died.”)  At least the characters on the show are characters on a show.  And they’re funny.  Hey, guess what, it’s true:  all four women have famous or semi-famous parents, but Hollywood has always been a place that thrives on nepotism.  Ever heard of Michael Douglas?  Melanie Griffith?  No one seems to mind that Scott Caan kicks bad-guy butt every week on the new Hawaii Five-O, so why are bloggers hating on Dunham and the other kiddies?  “Yeah, but it’s not just that.  I watched the show and, like, gross, the characters are all so mean to each other.  Yuck!”
Critique number 2:  the characters on the show are not likeable.  This is a legitimate complaint if you don’t like shows with unlikable characters and if this is the case, you shouldn’t watch “Girls.”  End of story.  Nor should you watch “Seinfeld” or “Arrested Development” or “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” or almost every movie made by Woody Allen.  Full disclosure:  I love Woody and “Arrested Development,” and was raised on milk, cookies and “Seinfeld.”.  These shows/directors/people exaggerate our worst traits to criticize the people who behave this way.  So why are bloggers so angry at Dunham when she is only borrowing from others?  After all, the show does not strike me as advocating the lives of these women, or even critiquing them.  It depicts them, warmly and with humor, and welcomes us to bring our own critical adult eye to the proceedings.  The big difference is that these characters are primarily women, and unlikable ones.  Perhaps that’s the first layer of the onion I’m hoping to peel.
Critique Number 3:  They have too much sex on the show.  And Critique Number 3a:  they’re always naked!  I’m not precisely sure how this is even a critique of something except perhaps “The Jay Leno Show,” but let me at least point out that the sex on “Girls” is only occasionally gratuitous.  Compare it to the sex on a show like, say, “Game of Thrones,” one of my favorites, and it’s downright gritty.  Maybe on occasion the producers take advantage of being on HBO, but they can be forgiven this indulgence, I think, because as Uncle Abe likes to say, “I like sex more than ice hockey!”  And so maybe the show isn’t holding a mirror up to life, but it’s a damned nature documentary compared to, say, the worst thing to happen to television since the invention of the internet.  That’s right, “Sex and The City.”  Now you’re wondering, “sure, but what do you know about lady sex?”  Not much, I’ll admit, although I read a magazine at the dentist’s office once.  But I know this:  “Girls” is a show about sex and relationships.  The operative word there is “show.”  It’s entertainment.
“How many damned layers of the onion are you peeling,” you may be asking yourself by now, in particular if you skipped lunch.  “Get on with it!”  You sound just like Grandpa Schlomo after his morning bran muffin.  But you’re right, this really comes apart very quickly.  It seems to me the main critique of the show is this:  it’s a fairly smart, kinda funny, pretty quirky, sometimes realistic show about WOMEN.  Acted by WOMEN.  Produced by WOMEN.  Written by WOMEN.  And this reality gives a fair number of men and as many women a pain in their vaginas.  (Aside:  is it vaginae?  The plural comes up so infrequently in my life).  Is it the greatest show ever?  No, it’s not “The Wire.”  But neither is “Boardwalk Empire” or “Breaking Bad,” and those terrific shows seem to get on with their business with a lot less internet noise.  Some folks, I surmise, can’t stand to see women succeed.  Or control things.  Or tell stories about sex.  Or relationships.  Or sex.  Or sex.  Those people are wary pedestrians standing on the side of the street as race cars buzz forward into the future.  They should relax, have a little wine before watching television, maybe stop taking “Jeopardy” so seriously. Or they might even turn off the TV and find someone with whom to have sex.  (I always get the good ideas after I’ve wasted an afternoon).  Anyway, I’ll let Yardstick have the last word on this:  “Oh dad, no one cares what bloggers have to say.  And “race cars?!”  You so suck at using metaphors.”


The Newsroom

As a member of the media elite and a genius, I felt it was my duty to watch Aaron Sorkin’s new show, The Newsroom, and then to shout into a yawning abyss in order to hear my own desperate voice echoing forlornly through the vast, indifferent caverns of the internet.  In other words, blog about it.  Aaron[1] has written a sophisticated, compelling drama with an adolescent’s voice.  That is to say, it’s preachy, the characters don’t talk the way real human beings speak to each other (not that characters on television ever do that unless we’re talking about The Six Million Dollar Man), and the relationships are about as deep and believable as sitcom relationships, only with more rumpled shirts.  And still, the show is totally riveting.  I’m not sure, exactly, how Mr. Sorkin and company manages this, but since I’m clearly an expert on all matters related to the media, I will attempt to figure it out. 
After re-watching an episode I took a quick jog and then a shower and drank a cup of tea and then ate a bowl of cherries and had a massage and then took a quick trip to Tibet to meditate, and then sat down to examine my own inner state.  Call me Un-American, but I had to know how and why this show was affecting me.  Don’t get me wrong:  I prefer, typically, to avoid rifling the contents of my interior on any regular, or even semi-regular, basis since I know lurking there are demons, but looking just this once, I figured, couldn’t hurt.  So where was I?  Yes, looking inward.  And there I discovered that my synapses, which are usually dormant unless reading (ha ha) or composing some meandering blog entry like this one, had fired to life as if stimulated by snappy dialogue and populist, anti-corporate rhetoric spoken by attractive, charming actors wearing too much cologne (I’m guessing).  Seeking more evidence, I cut to the particulars of the show.  It’s smart.  Quite smart.  No, not about people or emotion, but about ideas.  It gets right to the core of a problem – dumb people running things and smarter, rich people running dumb people – and pokes a boner sized stick at it (the problem) and them (the smart, rich people).  And then I realized:  Aaron Sorkin has actually been paying attention to what’s been going on in this country the last ten years or so.  Was I supposed to be doing that too?  Damnit!  After a nap, I stopped reflecting and ate a peanut butter sundae. 
I don’t expect anything much of consequence to come from this show, but that’s because as a member of the media, I’m required to be cynical.  Thus, I suspect that the effect of The Newsroom isn’t going to be anything like boner-poking a sleeping bear, since no one running a major corporation with its own news/propaganda division is afraid of a drama playing on HBO and watched by as many people as attended my Bar Mitzvah back in 1979 (er, I mean 1989).  So I can’t even say the show is gutsy since it panders to the same liberally-biased, head-nodding, latte-drinking crowd that watches all of HBO (though I wonder what fans of Entourage make of The Newsroom.  Sample thought:  “That felt good” (thought after turning the channel to SportsCenter)).  In fact, I very much doubt the producers of The Newsroom face the same upstairs pressure to cave to special interests that the characters on the show do.  HBO itself must be run by liberal, media elitists who hate America.
Side note:  I just woke from a dream in which I couldn’t remember the lines to Oklahoma, my pants were down and I was ice fishing for minnow in Alaska.  This self-reflection is a tough business. 
Oh yes:  The Newsroom.  You may find that it causes you to think about things.  I know, I know:  that’s bad.  But if it happens, do what I did:  get it all out on the internet, drink a vodka martini and watch back to back episodes of Two and a Half Men.  Your brain, if you can find it, will thank you. 

[1] Ever since our kids attended the same camp in Israel we’ve been on a first name basis, and even though I don’t have kids and have never been to the middle east, I am sure he wouldn’t mind.


April Fools: the Boston Red Sox

Never one to drink Kool-Aid, CrankyPants has decided to weigh in on the prospects of his favorite baseball team for the 2011 season. No, not the Mudville 9. The Boston Red Sox. There has been much fanfare, a fair share of ballyhoo and a smidgen of jumping up and down about this team. Every Boston Globe beat writer picked them to win the division this season. Even all of the New York Post writers picked them over the Sox hated and overpaid rivals, the Yankees, and those guys wouldn't vote for their own wives in a beauty contest. CrankyPants just doesn't understand the hype.

Here are the facts:

The Red Sox lost their best two hitters from last year's team. When that happens in most cases you would expect sportswriters to smell the coffee, see the writing on the wall and to taste whatever metaphor relates to taste. But this hasn't happened. Why? I don't know. The Sox replaced one of those hitters, their incomparable catcher, Victor Martinez, with a guy named Jared Saltalamacchia. As Grandpa Schlomo likes to say, "who?" He's a guy who got sent to the minors or Transylvania by the Rangers last year and occasionally has trouble throwing the ball back to the pitcher. Not good. They replaced their third baseman all-star, Adrian Beltre, with a shiny new, hot hitting first baseman named Adrian Gonzalez. All sorts of great things are predicted for Adrian the 2nd. He might, for example, hit .321 and drive in 102 runs and lead the league in doubles. You know: exactly replicate the numbers put up by Adrian the 1st from last year's third place team. Hmm. Still not sure how that means this team will win 100 games. Oh yes: they also signed a guy named Carl Crawford for more money than Bill Gates makes every 19 seconds to play left field. Crawford's on-base percentage in his new home park is .301. That means he'll probably put up worse numbers than the minor leaguers who played left last year did. He's also penciled in to bat third. I have no idea why, since he's probably better suited to bat 7th or 8th (or pinch run?). Adrian Gonzalez is the real deal, but it will take Terry Francona -- the coddler -- until the team is hopelessly out of contention to move Crawford out of the three slot. David Ortiz, the DH, is getting old and the team is too heavy on lefties. Oh -- did I mention all four infielders are coming off surgeries? What are the chances all four will be right as rain in 2011?

I must be missing something, right? Well, certainly the Red Sox must have the best pitching in baseball, then. That's why everyone and his sister is predicting a one hundred billion win season, glory, parades and underwear strewn lawns. Well, let's examine that. The hitters last season filled in rather well for their injured mates and the team finished 2nd in runs and 3rd in on-base percentage. But the pitching was 22nd in the majors and the team was among the leaders in blown saves. In fact, for all the crying about injuries, the primary reason the 2010 team didn't make the playoffs was their pitching. This happened because Josh Beckett has lost the ability to pitch in the major leagues and Jonathan Papelbon can no longer get sixth graders out. But both are back on this team. As backup, they have 97 year old knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in case Beckett has to go on the DL (I give that two weeks). And to replace Papelbon they have a castoff from a bad Chicago White Sox team named Jar Jar Binks (or something), who weighs more than Bessie the cow and has a reputation for not getting along with his teammates. In other words, the pitching looks worse than it looked last year. Even the team's ace, Jon Lester, is anything but. He's an okay pitcher, but he's never seen an important match-up he couldn't lose. Game 7 of the ALCS in 2008: loss. Last outing of 2010 for a chance to win the Cy Young: hammered. He's good but he's not Roy Halliday or one of the true aces in the game. (Jumped in after the game started today to update: Lester got smacked around in the opener).

The Yankees, meanwhile, got A-Rod, the team's most important player, back and healthy, added the Rays closer from last year (the Rays came in 1st, mind you) and have the best lineup money can buy. They've shown year after year, in fact, that the key to winning in the AL east is to stock up on hitters that grind pitchers into tiny pellets, put together a reasonable if not-great rotation and stack the bullpen. The Yankees will probably win 104 games this season. Or more. The Sox: 88?

Enjoy the Sox season, but don't expect the playoffs. If you do, you'll give yourself an ulcer watching Beckett and Papelbon give up homeruns to A-Rod and his band of merry moneymakers.


Subway Announcements Part Deux

My Uncle Abe was visiting last week and asked me to give him a tour of the city. After spending nine hours waiting for subway cars and 28 seconds exploring all the city has to offer, Uncle Abe got back on his motorcycle, gave me the finger and raced away like an old man who has eaten one too many bran muffins and finds he must get somewhere very fast. Which brings me to the topic of today's blog: New York City subway announcements. My uncle found them baffling and with good reason: they're baffling. And they're not baffling in the same sense that, say, the universe or Regis Philbin's hair is baffling. Subway announcements are baffling in the sense that they don't make any sense. And sometimes they're flat out mean. And CrankyPants hates meanness almost as much as he hates that funny taste you get in your mouth after drinking milk three months past its expiration date. So, to protect his innocent readers, and in case my uncle ever decides to visit our not-so-fair city again and for anyone else foolish enough to come here without access to his/her own private helicopter, I offer the following NYC "Subway to English" dictionary. Print this out and take it with you any time you're trying to get from location X to my lovely apartment where we'll sit in the living room and swap sentimental stories about our childhoods. (For those with long memories: yes, I wrote a blog with this exact topic four years ago. It's a clear sign that my brain is devolving).
--Stand Clear of the Closing Doors. Step away from the doors so we can think (if you believe sub-simians have the capacity for thought, that is) about closing the doors when we wake from our nap. You'll hear this announcement more than any other when you take the subway in NYC. To avoid, consider moving to France or Germany.
--We thank you for your patience. 1) We know you lost your patience with us a long time ago, because we're incompetent. Okay, we're more than incompetent: we know how bad we are at what we do and yet we continue to raise the cost of riding our rickety system, take in billions which we use to send our children on luxurious vacations, and pretend we care when we don't. We're incompetent and proud of it! 2) Fuck you. You will usually hear this jab to the groin after learning that your subway will be delayed and you'll be sharing the car and its contents (including the air) for a large portion of the rest of your life.
--Due to construction, there will be delays along this line. Our union and its many workers (and we use this word with tongue in cheek) want their fair share of the money we're making by bilking you. Therefore, we're sending them out to sit and eat lunch on the tracks and occasionally scare away. You'll often hear this announcement used on tracks in the city -- the G line, for example -- which need the fewest repairs since only about 6 trains run a day. To avoid, never travel in Brooklyn.

--Due to train traffic ahead, we are experiencing delays. 1) See above, our union, etc... 2) See above, Fuck you.
--Due to a sick passenger, there will be a delay. Due to a sick passenger, we are going to sit in this station while real city employees bust their butts to protect the life of one our precious citizens. Imagine if we valued you even a millionth as much... Ha, made you imagine!
--Assaulting an MTA employee is a felony. 1) We know exactly what you're thinking and if we were in your shoes we wouldn't stand for this treatment for a second, but since we're not -- in fact, we have the law on our side -- you'd better not touch us while we smoke pot, chat with other drivers and occasionally (rarely) do our job. 2) Na na na na naaaa!

--Look over there, a rooster! This is an announcement you'll never hear on the New York City subway system, but it's here to make clear the distinction between useful announcements and ours.

Uncle Abe, if you're reading this (and you are) please come back. I promise the helicopter is back from the shop!


Yankee Doodles

I was sitting at my computer today reading about all manner of important issues like health care reform, the nature of existence, art and atheism when I came across a comment from a New York Yankees "fan" that lit my hair on fire. Luckily, my imaginary butler, Karlsson, was here to put out the flames and feed me milk and peanut butter cookies, but after he returned to his normal duties (inventing a cure for aging), I returned and read the post again. The so-called Yankee fan was using a word he couldn't spell -- hypocrite -- to describe the fans of other teams who spend money on players. And that's when my hair caught fire again. Yes, I thought, other baseball teams spend money on players. That's how it works. The money players are paid is called a "salary." But comparing any other team to the evil empire is like comparing dairy milk to soy milk: one is playing by a set of rules that involves cows and it's played by those rules for a long time. The other is masquerading as cow milk by mashing up some beans and mixing in some other stuff. Well, I'm not buying it. Wait, I am buying it: I love soy milk -- it's really delicious, actually, and whatever they're putting in there (probably sugar), I'm for it. I had a dream about soy milk the other night and... Wait, again, I seem to have gotten off on a tangent, which sometimes happens when my hair is on fire. The point is: there's the Yankees and there's everyone else. Imagine a world, if you have an imagination (I'd apologize for leaving Yankee fans behind just now, but I don't believe such creatures exist, only drooling bullies who'll do anything to anyone to bolster their sagging sad sack egos -- using the word "fan" to describe these creatures does disservice to real fans of real teams). Now, where was I? Yes, imagination. Imagine a world where the NBA limits the height of its players to 6' 5", but permits one team to recruit players over seven feet tall. That's the situation in baseball. From the team with the 2nd highest payroll (the Mets) down to the team with the lowest, there's a continuous slide: the biggest leap from one team to the next is a few million dollars. From the Mets up to the Yankees there's about a 70 million dollar leap. That difference is higher than the payroll of half the teams in baseball. So when Yankee fans try to pretend that it's an equal playing field, my hair catches fire. Poor Karlsson. Lucky for baseball fans that the Yankees have often been run by incompetent boobs (my apologies to cows whose boobs produce real dairy milk); and lucky it wasn't until the 90's when George Steinbrenner, the Yankees owner, figured out that it didn't make sense to buy one or two players when you could buy ALL the good players on the market every year. It's really a tribute to Yankees' incompetence that they haven't won every championship the past 20 years.

So: the Yankees are to baseball what bullies are to playgrounds. They're to baseball what people who kick cats are to cats. They're to baseball what Wall Street is to America. The Yankees are to baseball what Al Capone was to fair play.

Okay, I accept that. It sucks for baseball and for any real fans who might remain, but until baseball applies a true salary cap, this imbalance will remain. The Yankees have been buying championships since they bought Babe Ruth from the Red Sox and it looks like that's going to continue.

But let's not allow Yankee fans to pretend there's an equal playing field like they pretend when they play soccer against the special needs children in their neighborhoods. Let's not allow them to pretend that what the Yankees have accomplished they accomplished because they draft well or because they're smart or because their own players are better than other teams players. They win because they have money. The rest of the league is essentially developing their future players. If you doubt this Yankees fans, then ask yourself if they could have won without A-Rod (sorry, he's the team's best player, not the defensively challenged, overrated Jeter), Teixeira, Damon, Sabathia, Burnett, and even Swisher. And that's just this year: they would not have won any of the championships of the past 15 years without Clemens, Key, Cone and all the other players they bought. (Hold on: I asked a fictional character (Yankee fan) to ask itself a hypothetical question (something this imaginary character is incapable of doing)). That's my bad...

If you really want a fair assessment of what teams do well developing players, look at the league as a whole and see which teams have the most major league players. Which developed the most stars? It isn't the Yankees, whose "prospects" continue to flop.

No team can compete with the Yankees and no team will be able to unless New York disappears into the ocean (and maybe that will happen, since fans of the Yankees are, by definition, fans of the many Washington lobbyists protecting their clients right to pretend global warming doesn't exist -- anything for a buck). If that happens, at least I'll be happy: sinking into the ocean is about the only thing that will keep my hair from igniting again. Now where did Karlsson, go. It's time for my nap.


Jonathan Kravetz interviews Jonathan Kravetz and it all ends with a scene from The Deer Hunter

JK: Jonathan, I'm very grateful you're taking the time to talk to our readers.
JK: It's no problem, Jonathan. I'm happy to do it.
JK: Good, then let's get right to it.
JK: Shoot.
JK: Some say you're a genius. How do you respond to that accusation?
JK: Well, first of all, Jonathan, I don't really take it as an accusation.
JK: Oh?
JK: No, I think it's intended as a compliment.
JK: But those calling you that -- they must mean it ironically.
JK: Yes, I agree, they mean it ironically. Still, I choose to take it as a compliment.
JK: That's cheating yourself out of an opportunity to get to know yourself better, isn't it?
JK: Yes.
JK: Fair enough. Then how do you respond to the compliment?
JK: With false modesty. Thus: If you talk to any of my friends, I'm sure they'd be happy to tell you that I'm no genius.
JK: Just the opposite of a genius.
JK: Exactly! So, although it's flattering, I suppose I have to say that I'm just lucky to be doing what I do -- writing plays -- and I'm just lucky that people respond to them.
JK: Are you avoiding the question, then?
JK: Yes.
JK: I thought you would. Let me ask you this: do you really think people are responding to your plays?
JK: I'd say yes, they are. After a performance, frequently people come up to me and pat me on the back and say things like, "I really enjoyed that," or "You're very funny, you should write for cable television."
JK: And you believe these people?
JK: Not really, actually, but I continue writing plays, anyway.
JK: You're a bit of a self-deluding sort, aren't you?
JK: Yes. But I believe a bit of self-delusion is necessary to get through life. If we honestly assessed ourselves every moment of every day, we'd probably jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.
JK: Ha ha!
JK: He he!
JK: What sorts of subjects inspire you?
JK: Hmm, that's a very interesting question.
JK: Thank you.
JK: Well, to begin with, I'm inspired by stories where the author creates his or her own world -- a place that lives in the author's head and only there -- in response to experiences in the real world. Sort of speculative/realistic? But maybe that describes all stories.
JK: Can you give examples?
JK: Sure. I really like the film Brazil.
JK: Oh, yes, of course.
JK: And Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Or a comedy like Groundhog Day. I think the late great Billy Wilder was also something of a master of this sort of thing, though he was much subtler. Films like Double Indemnity, Some Like It Hot, The Apartment -- they take place in a universe that's eerily familiar, but where people talk and behave in a heightened manner. All of these stories explore existential issues in gripping, intriguing ways. At least, to me.
JK: So you're concerned with existence, then?
JK: Yes, I think that's fair to say. Even my comedies. Take Better Lucky Than Smart, for example -- on some simple levels it's about greed.
JK: I love that title, by the way.
JK: Oh, thank you.
JK: No problem.
JK: It's about greed, but it's also about who we are when we simply become striving, dreaming creatures. All the characters in the play strive for -- they desperately desire -- something that they think will make them happy. It's the American dream, if you will -- and they're trapped, ultimately, by their dreams. They can't enjoy what's right in front of them. They can't simply live.
JK: Yes, yes, and it's only the childlike Duke who can see what's going on.
JK: Very perceptive, Jonathan. Yes, Duke, expresses the play's theme in the scene where he talks with young Tyler about the difference between luck and reality.
JK: It's quite captivating.
JK: That was a joke, right, because Tyler is tied up?
JK: Am I trying too hard?
JK: Not at all. I appreciate a good pun as much as the next man.
JK: Anyway, it is a thrilling scene.
JK: Thank you. And I hope it's funny, too.
JK: It's not Seinfeld, but what is?
JK: Is that a rhetorical question?
JK: You can answer it if you'd like.
JK: Well, I love Seinfeld. Many people do. However, I'm deliberately trying to avoid writing sitcoms. I think sitcom-ish writing has become a plague in the playwriting community.
JK: What do you mean?
JK: Simply put, too many writers think they can substitute situational writing for character development. The writing ends up flat and uninteresting.
JK: That does sound bad.
JK: It is.
JK: What else are you working on?
JK: I have a reading of my play, The Beast in My Pants, coming up shortly with Emerging Artists Theater. When I have the details, I'll post them on Facebook, but I do know the reading will be Sunday, October 25th at noon.
JK: Is that really the title?
JK: Yes.
JK: Wow, that might the greatest title in the history of theater...
JK: Well, I don't know about that, but...
JK: I just peed my leg.
JK: You did pee your leg, I feel it trickling into my sock. Jesus, Jonathan.
JK: Well, that's a funny title.
JK: Control yourself!
JK: It's funny!
JK: Oy.
JK: What inspired that play and what's it about?
JK: Well, it's similar to Better Lucky Than Smart, in that it's about people full of unfulfilled desires. In this case, there are six characters and each is trying desperately to learn to love. And failing miserably.
JK: Sounds depressing.
JK: Not at all. It's just human nature. The way we fly at each other in various ways and miss connecting. It's actually quite funny. There's an inane therapist, Doctor Adam Applebaum, who is trying to seduce his patient, Steve, who is in love with his wife and wants to earn her respect, only she loves men who don't respect her. The protagonist, Marlon, is confused by it all and is trying to learn to love Pam, a pretty college student, but she can only love a genius, like Adam Applebaum. Meanwhile, Marlon's mother, Mrs. Rivington, is threatening to kill the therapist -- she's killed five husbands already -- because she's afraid Marlon will blame all his problems on her. Doctor Freud, a puppet that Applebaum talks to, tries to sort it all out, but of course fails.
JK: That sounds horribly sad.
JK: No, really, you'd like it. It's funny.
JK: I'm going to kill myself.
JK: Wait, what?
JK: I'm pointing a gun right now at my head.
JK: Put that down.
JK: I'll do it, don't come any closer.
JK: I said... On no! Jesus! No! Jonathan? Jonathan, speak to me! Jonathan! Jonathan! Jesus! Someone call an ambulance! Hurry! Jonathan!!!