Blog Like a Sit-Com

As a fan of the old Dick Van Dyke Show, I have the whole DVD set — all 100 and some odd black-and-white episodes from all five seasons. I still watch them occasionally, usually in bed when there is nothing else on TV that I want to watch and I don’t have a book to read. I’ve seen every episode, know every line, but I watch them anyway and even still laugh sporadically, although mostly they are comfort food for my brain, helping ease the stresses of the day as I nod off.

When you watch the early episodes, it is evident the characters haven’t meshed yet, nor have they connected with the audience. Knowing how the show will play out in subsequent seasons makes this more obvious, almost uncomfortable. This is the case with virtually every successful sit-com. It takes awhile to develop the chemistry, hit that stride and achieve that comfort level. The Andy Griffith Show and Seinfeld are two others that come to mind.

I am not an expert on sit-com’s, although I did take comedy writing at Second City and knew Jason Alexander’s parents in real life. But I am an expert on comfort, as it is something I strive for all the time, almost religiously. It’s why I’ve been so haphazard with this blog. I didn’t understand it. It was new. It was uncomfortable. But I wrote a book, which has a website, which has a blog capability, so I felt compelled to use it. And I didn’t want to just run weekly book excerpts, which the publisher scheduled and I took down.

But what should it be? I ruminated for a couple of months about this. And what about Facebook? The website links to my Facebook page. My blog automatically gets posted to my Facebook page. So what else, if anything, would I ever want to post on my Facebook page? I don’t want to get this shit wrong! Heaven forbid!!

Watching Dick Van Dyke — the episode where Sheldon Leonard plays fictitious crime boos Big Max Calvada — it occurred to me: What difference does it make? I mean, do you care? Me either. I was suddenly so comfortable with the realization that it doesn’t matter that I decided to make this my next blog.

It’s not totally arbitrary. My book talks about Dick Van Dyke and other old sit-com’s and Jason’s parents. So there’s a tie-in there. But the political stuff that’s been dominating these pages — what a downer. As I watched an old sit-com that I knew by heart, in black and white, melting away thoughts that might otherwise have kept me awake — this was comfort, my friends. You all have a great week.


New Generation of Haters

The good news: Now that most if not all Millennials are of voting age, they are passionately expressing their political voice. The bad news: Our outdated and divisive two-party system seems to have created a new generation of haters. Which of the two parties you vote for defines you as a person and divides you from your fellow citizens. And the bitterness is palpable.

I find it amazing how many of the criticisms of Bernie Sanders by Bernie haters (I’m talking about young people here) are exactly the same as the criticisms Bernie supporters hurl at Donald Trump, whom I would imagine many of the Bernie haters support — that he thinks he’s a savior, his ideas are unrealistic, he thinks he can just fix things by snapping his fingers. Do you hear yourselves?

You guys, you’re all anti-establishment. Bravo and I mean that sincerely. But this polarizing two-party system of ours divides us. It foments this division. It’s not your fault. It has taught you that politics is about winning at all costs. To inspire the passion for one side, you are made to despise the other side. It has conditioned you to demonize the other side, assigning evil motives to honest philosophical differences.

Worst of all is that nowhere in the dialogue is there acknowledgement that we’re more alike than different in what we all want in life. It’s a shame that people who have no other reason to dislike each other literally seen to hate each other because one votes Republican and one votes Democrat. It would be laughable if it weren’t so sad.


Political Upheaval, Yesterday and Today

The political upheaval in the 1960s and ’70s had similarities to what we are seeing today. There also were major differences. NOW They Make it Legal: Reflections of an Aging Baby Boomer devotes attention to the political unrest, mostly among young people, over the Vietnam War. The frustration back then had to do with young people protesting a war on the other side of the globe that we didn’t want to be involuntarily drafted to fight and die in. I don’t know what young people are most frustrated about today, but it’s good to see them taking an interest in politics again.

Seeing liberal students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison rallying around Bernie Sanders and spearheading his upset in the Wisconsin primary recently made this Baby Boomer wax nostalgic. In NOW They Make it Legal, I describe cutting my political teeth at Madison in the 1970s. My first week on campus I participated in a protest when Ford pardoned Nixon that ended with an American flag being burned on the Capital steps, the remnants of which ended up on my dorm room wall. As a journalism student, I covered the 1976 election between Ford and Carter, which also was the first election I voted in.

I make a number of observations in NOW They Make it Legal, which was written before the current presidential race, that have found new relevance in today’s campaign. I’ll report more on these in the coming months.