New Adventures of the Compassionate Curmudgeon

In which I tend to rant. A lot. But compassionately...

Please Stop!

On Scriptnotes Episode 412: Writing About Mental Health and Addiction, John August initiated a new feature, which you can hear by following that link and listening to the whole episode (which I encourage you to do because it’s a great episode), or you can just listen to this excerpt:

Here’s the excerpt from the transcript of that episode:

John: Now usually on the podcast we would do a One Cool Thing, but for tonight I wanted to do a new segment called Please Stop. And so I asked everyone to prepare a Please Stop for something that they see in films and television that they wish they would not see ever again, or that people would cut way back on.

So, here’s my Please Stop. Can we please stop with the actual quantity of alcohol we see characters drinking in movies and TV shows? Because it’s physically impossible. You see these characters, I mean, this is really an appeal to writers and directors, but also like the prop people. Because people will drink these massive quantities. And we all know that it’s like tea or something in there, so they’re not actually drinking bourbon. But characters drink so much that they would be dead in some of these things.

So if we could keep an extra eye out for the actual volume of alcohol we’re having our characters drink that would be my appeal and ask to Please Stop overdoing the alcohol.

I’d second that, but I’d take it a big step further. How about severely limiting or even eliminating alcohol altogether in movies and shows that are intended for children or expected to have a big appeal to children and/or teenagers?

As an example, I’ll offer ABC’s fairy tale-based TV series Once Upon a Time. Since it was built around fairy tale characters, I can only assume it was intended to appeal to young people. Now I only saw the first season, but every time one of the characters had a stressful experience, one of the other characters would immediately say, “You need a drink!” and plop a big glass of bourbon in front of them. Or sometimes for variety the stressed out character would say, “I need a drink!”

And this happened in practically every episode. What kind of message about alcohol was that sending to impressionable young minds?

Please Stop using alcohol as the all-purpose remedy for stress in shows that appeal to kids!

And another thing.

On way too many shows and movies that have a teenage or younger following, I see characters lighting up cigarettes and/or cigars. As examples I offer Netflix’s Stranger Things and The CW’s Riverdale.

The problem here is that it’s been demonstrated that seeing characters smoking, even if it’s in a clearly negative context, influences teens to give it a try. And with teenagers, smoking as little as one cigarette can be enough to get them hooked.

So Please Stop showing characters smoking in movies and TV shows with teenage audiences!

I’d actually like to see films and shows stop depicting smoking altogether unless it’s important to the plot, but ya gotta start somewhere.

Another Pet Peeve

The Chernobyl mini-series was nominated for 11 well-deserved Emmy Awards.

One of the things that used to annoy me about my co-workers was when they would complain about someone in another office being promoted.

“He’s not qualified,” they would chorus. “How could they pick him?”

To which I would counter with: “You know who was on the list. Who would you have picked? Or would you have let the position open?”

They usually had no answer, and as soon as I left the room they’d start up again grexing and grousing about what a terrible choice had been made.

I was reminded of this because of the recent announcement of the Emmy nominations and the accompanying articles from lazy TV critics complaining about this or that actor or show being “snubbed”.

There are two problems with that. First of all, it’s stupid to say an actor was “snubbed” as that implies the actor was intentionally not nominated due to some animus on the part of the nominating committee, when all that actually happens is the actor just wasn’t one of the top five (or whatever) vote getters.

Second, in order for this favorite actor, whose ass the lazy TV critic is so obviously trying to kiss, to be nominated, one of the other actors would have to be left off the list, and the critics never mention which one they would want to leave off. Or “snub”, to use their jargon.

Remember, 90% of TV critics are idiots. I’m just following Sturgeon’s Law.

Ship of Fools

I wish I could say that I warned against picking Obama back in 2008 as the Democratic candidate, but I wasn’t that prescient. I simply could not understand why so many folks were creaming in their pants over the guy just because he could give a speech.

Lots of people can give a speech; that doesn’t qualify them for president.

No, I was merely bemused by his popularity. I didn’t expect his presidency to be the unmitigated disaster it turned out to be.

During the financial crisis at the start of his first term, he didn’t stimulate the economy nearly enough, thus prolonging the period of high unemployment (which is probably what drove so many of his voters over to the GOP side). It’s possible he couldn’t have gotten a bigger stimulus through Congress, but the point is he didn’t even ask for one. He was an awful negotiator.

He actually tried to cut Social Security and Medicare, and the only thing that stopped him was that the Republicans wanted to cut them even more. He cruelly deported far more people than even Trump has done, in a effort to what? Show that he could be just as heartless as any Republican? Overall, he ruled like a moderate Republican, not a Democrat.

Worst of all, he revived the career of that total asshole Joe Biden.

I wish people would stop referring to him as intelligent. He’s an idiot and ought to be banished from the party, maybe even from the country like the Romans used to do.

So, even though no one listens to me or reads my blog posts, I wanted to jot down a couple thoughts on the current ship of fools who are running for the Democratic nomination.

First of all, being gay is not a qualification for the presidency. And being gay and believing in a god is especially stupid.

Being mayor of a small town, no matter how successfully, is not a qualification. Nor is being mayor of New York City, especially if you’re a not very successful mayor.

And please, Democrats, don’t pick someone who doesn’t have much of a record in politics. That’s how we got Obama. He didn’t have much of a record, so everyone just projected onto him whatever they wanted him to be.

And definitely don’t pick someone who doesn’t have experience in Federal politics. We don’t need a repeat of the first few months of Bill Clinton’s term. Clinton was a gifted politician, but he had no experience on a national level, so the Republicans were able to walk all over him for the first few months. That’s how we got saddled with the execrable “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that caused so much misery for so many years.

I just hope that today’s Democratic voters learn from the blunders of the past.

Bruce Bartlett On the Republican Party

Bruce Bartlett served in both the Reagan and Senior Bush administrations, but he has since renounced the Republican Party, although he does not consider himself a Democrat. Today he let loose with a tweetstorm about the current state of the GOP and the president, and I thought I'd gather the tweets together and post them here.

Bruce Bartlett

Bruce Bartlett

The initial tweet can be found at

Bruce Bartlett's Tweetstorm:  @BruceBartlett: Many on the left view anti-Trump folks on the right with suspicion. Maybe they're right. Any anti-Trump conservative who supports Brett Kavenaugh, who will rubber-stamp EVERY Trump policy, is deserving of suspicion. Makes me think their objections to Trump are purely stylistic.

Personally, I am suspicious of anti-Trump conservatives who insist on remaining members of the Republican Party. In theory, there is a case for remaining inside to guide the party back to sanity. In practice, they are enabling the Trumpsters….

like a parent who give their addict child money for food while knowing that it will almost certainly be used to buy drugs. ANY support for the GOP at this point gives aid and comfort to fascism. The only moral position is to leave the party…

and let it die a decent death. Only then can responsible people work to rebuild a center-right party that does not depend for victory on the votes of racists, radical extremists, bigots, fanatics and the other unsavory characters that Trump caters to and depends upon for power.

As anyone who has dealt with an addicted loved one knows, you cannot help them until they hit rock bottom and sincerely ask for help. Until that happens, any aid you give simply enables their addiction. The GOP must also hit rock bottom before decent people should lend a hand.

There is no danger that the country will be deprived of a center-right party; there will always be one. But it must be one purged of Trumpian insanity, based on classic conservative principle of prudence, intelligence and respect for those on the other side, politically.

The utter stupidity and venality and the Trumpsters has no place anywhere in American politics and more than the Nazi Party does in modern Germany. Unfortunately, I see no way at present the crush the fascist right without a great deal of pain & suffering by innocent people.

The end will come, I fear, with some sort of bang rather than a whimper. Historically, wars and violent revolutions have been the end of immoral, illegitimate regimes. And sometimes those events led to counterrevolutions that were worse (Russia 1917, Napoleonic France etc.).

Not making a prediction. It’s just that presently I see no path back to normalcy that doesn't involve a lot of pain and suffering.



Fresh Air

I appreciate fresh air as much as the next guy, I think, but I fail to understand its current fetishization. By that I mean restaurants that offer outdoor seating on narrow sidewalks on busy streets with buses and trucks adding their own unmufflered obbligatos.

An example of an outdoor seating restaurant where I will not be dining

When I had a house (those were the days!), I used to like sitting out on my deck that faced a wooded valley, and I can certainly enjoy an outdoor meal in a quiet neighborhood with wide sidewalks, but being jostled by pedestrians and inundated by the roar of passing traffic all for the sake of being out in the fresh air—no, I don’t get it.

Anyway I have a neighbor who shares the house across the street with two magnificent black dogs that I see him taking for long walks from time to time.

Yesterday afternoon I glanced out my window and saw he had built a make-shift fence on the sidewalk around his front door, apparently so his dogs could enjoy the fresh air. He had placed mats for his dogs to lie down on, and just to make sure the dogs couldn’t jump over the fence, he had tethered them as well, attaching the tether to something just inside the front door, which he had left wide open.

Why he felt the need to do this, I have no idea, as he has a perfectly serviceable deck on the second floor, where I often see him leave the dogs.

Anyway, it didn’t work out very well, as every time he went inside, the dogs sniffed the air for a moment or two, decided there was nothing requiring their immediate attention outside, and followed him indoors. After a few minutes of this, he got the message, and he took down the fence, took the dogs inside, and closed the door.

Now I’m no expert on dogs, but I think the reason dogs like to go outside is to a) do their business (assuming they’ve been house-broken) and b) run around; I don’t think they fetishize fresh air the way some humans do.

But what do I know?


Travelin' Backwards

This post contains some minor spoilers for the first episode of the Netflix series Travelers.

Eric McCormack

Eric McCormack

I tried watching the Netflix series Travelers. It's about a group of people from a bleak far future who travel to our present to take over people's bodies at the time of death, magically cure them of whatever killed them (stroke, drug overdose, whatever), and then set out to change events to prevent that bleak far future from occurring.

The series offers no explanation for how these people could come to exist if they are successful in changing the future, so it's a very confused muddle to begin with. And in the initial episode (the only one I managed to sit through) one of the travelers refuses to aid a man having a heart attack because it was "his time to die". I thought the point of the travelers coming back was to change things?

How can anyone turn out this drivel? How can anyone watch it?

I give it four stars out of ten. The production values are good and the acting is fine; it's just the premise that is idiotic and the writing that is lame.

It stars and is produced by Eric McCormack, who probably ought to stick to what he does best. Say, what is that? Oh, actually I saw him on Broadway a few years ago in The Best Man; he was pretty good in that (he didn't play the best man). And I understand he's starring in a revived sitcom that's doing pretty well.



Messin' With the Deaf

If you ever want to mess with a deaf person who reads lips (and who among us hasn’t wanted to mess with a deaf person at one time or another?), go up to him or her and say “Vacuum!”

A lip reader can’t tell the difference between that and “Fuck you!”

Actually, you probably only want to do this with someone you know really well, so as to avoid unexpected consequences.

Actually, you probably shouldn't ever do this. Ever.

The Horror That Is Windows

I've been happily Windows-free ever since I retired a little over ten years ago.

But a few months back I started working at a part time job providing technical support for a software company, and as it turns out many, actually most, of our users are on one flavor or another of Windows.

So I decided that I ought to get a copy of Windows to run in a Virtual Box on my Mac.

The oldest version that Microsoft still supports is Windows 7, so I found a copy for about a hundred bucks on Amazon and ordered it. It arrived on a DVD on Monday, and I installed it without a hitch into a Virtual Box.

But then it came time to enter the Product Key.

I looked all over the packaging but couldn't find it until I realized it was covered with a gray seal, the kind one scratches off lottery tickets. The problem was that in trying to scratch it off, I also scratched off part of the Product Key itself.

I contacted Amazon and they gave me a number to call and said they would let me return it if I couldn't get satisfaction from the manufacturer. Alas, the number they gave was not valid.

So I found a web site for Microsoft technical support. After creating an account, and boy does one have to jump through some hoops to create a Microsoft account, I found myself in a chat with a support person who said he was happy to help me. He asked a lot of questions and when I explained that I couldn't read the Product Key after scratching off the gray, he said he could help me.

But when I said I had installed it in a Virtual Box on my Mac, our connection was broken. Coincidence?

I tried a couple more times on the support site and eventually I found myself on the phone with someone. He seemed pleasant enough, but when I told him that I was unable to read my Product Key because it was damaged when I scratched off the gray, he said he'd have to put me on hold.

When he came back, he said he couldn't help me, that I'd have to go back to the place where I bought it to get a replacement. Although he didn't use the word, he strongly implied that I had a pirated copy.

So I did a Google search on "Windows 7 Product Key", found a site called Product Key Downloader, and bought a $26 license from them. My Product Key arrived within a couple minutes, and I installed it in my copy of Windows without a hitch.

Now my only question is should I return the $100 DVD that I purchased from Amazon?


Frontier Looks Amateurish

I started to watch the Netflix series Frontier, but I was immediately disappointed at the amateurishness of the production.

The first couple titles that serve to provide the viewer with some of the context for the history are in ALL CAPS, making them difficult to read to begin with, and they flash by so quickly, there's barely enough time to read them.

Then there are the place setting titles that appear periodically to let the viewer know where the scene is taking place. Once again they are in ALL CAPS, the font size is way too big, and there are no drop shadows, so they are usually difficult to read. (The screen grab alters the colors a bit, so it doesn't give a true sense of the viewing experience.)

Was the budget so low that they couldn't hire any professional editors to do the job right?