Saturday, September 3, 2011

you could ...

You could spend most of an hour watching the Hitchcock TV adaptation of Harlan Ellison's Memos from Purgatory. The first half of that book was Ellison's account of the ten weeks he spent running with a teenage gang in Brooklyn in 1954, gathering material for a novel, though in the end the novel was less memorable than this non-fiction (or so we're told it is) account. The opening scenes of the TV adaptation, which Ellison scripted himself, run pretty close to the book, except that in the TV version the gang remains more hostile to him, though the leader, here called Tiger, takes an inexplicable shine to him and protects him. The young actor playing the Ellison figure is stiff and unconvincing, and I wouldn't have predicted much of a career for him, except that his name is James Caan, so I'd have been wrong. On the other hand, Tiger is played with interesting shading by a slightly older young actor you might also have heard of, name of Walter Koenig, in a sinister, understated mode, more Bester than Chekov.

After our hero, redubbed Shaw for the show, honorably declines to deflower the gang moll sent to him (in the book, Ellison is asked to choose from among the available girls himself, and he draws a curtain over the rest of the scene), the show completely departs from the book. Shaw's enemies in the gang break into his room and discover that he's writing about them. Tiger still tries to protect him, until he reads Shaw's note that his (Tiger's) lack of a regular moll companion (true of the character in the book) suggests he's afraid of the opposite sex (the book makes no such suggestion). Tiger loses his cool at this (Koenig is good at doing so without histrionics, and at conveying the homosexual subtext, absent from the book, earlier on), and the gang spend the rest of the episode trying to get our hero bumped off. Even his girl betrays him, and gets accidentally shot for her pains. All of this is completely unlike the book, in which Ellison rises higher in the gang's councils until the night of the big rumble, in the middle of which he freaks out and runs away.

Or you could waste one of your 20 free New York Times articles this month reading an idiotic op-ed titled "What The Left Doesn't Understand About Obama." Like most such pieces, it patiently explains, as if to an infant, that "Congress is a separate, coequal branch of government consisting of members whose goals may differ from the president's." You really don't get the complaint, do you? A president with political savvy - an essential for the job, as every president, not just Obama, lacks legislative power - can massage and manipulate Congress into doing some of his will. See plenty of examples throughout US history. And if cozening doesn't work, there's pressure. Members of Congress want things from the president, too, for instance cooperation on senatorial courtesy appointments. You can say, "If you want me to scratch your back, you should scratch mine." And if it's true, as the article says, that "Congressional Republicans pursued a strategy of denying Obama support for any major element of his agenda" and he wasn't going to get anything anyway, then at the very least he could have fought for it and energized his supporters, the supporters whose absence lost the 2010 House election for him and whom he'll need next year, rather than dismaying them by pre-emptively surrendering on every issue in an attempt to appease the unappeasable.

Or you could put them both down and go cook plain but hearty dishes of barley and broccoli for dinner, which I did.

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