REFLECTIONS

by Zachary Klein

It’s been about twenty-nine years and change since I last cradled a newborn. Much has happened since—both to me personally and to the world in which I live. I’ve struggled to stay somewhat open-minded and positive in the face of personal losses and still willing to grapple with a globe that seems bent on making all the wrong choices.

But while holding each of my new grandchildren and seeing the light gleaming in Matthew and Alyssa’s eyes, my weary energy slipped away. All was right with the world.

Of course we know that last sentence is blatantly untrue. Unadulterated joy is fleeting, an experience to be savored even as it dissipates into what we know as “reality.” Still, it got me thinking about my own evolution since I had my first child (now new dad Matt) at the ripe old age of twenty-one.

Much has changed—not the least of which, me. Back then I was engaged in social service, but my ideas and attitudes were way different than they are now. I really did believe in “any means necessary” to foster change, wrote people off if their beliefs strayed too far from my own, and actually thought violence was a legitimate tool for revolution. I believed that I’d be a failure as a person and father if I weren’t willing to throw my body in front of a bullet, or use one to create a better society and life for my son.

Fast forward fifteen years when my second son Jake was born. I had my own private counseling practice and while I think the work I did helped some individuals, couples, and groups, I continued to see my ongoing hope for a different, a better world, continue to whither away. In some fashion it was worse than when Matt was born. Then, at least, I didn’t feel as alone. There were larger numbers of people who, in their own inchoate ways, shared my longings. Tough to imagine now, but when Jake was conceived I had serious reservations about bringing another child into our world.

But then, as with Matthew, those doubts dissolved in the presence of little arms, hands, legs and an uncontrollable cowlick. Without quite realizing it, the state of the sphere took a backseat to the renewed joy of fatherhood.

And by the time the “real” world returned, I had changed. Still fiercely committed to social justice, violence was no longer part of the equation. Something important had taken over my heart and I no longer imagined bloodshed as an answer to anything. Whatever “good” born out of violence was bound to encourage its lifespan. Whatever positive change might happen because of guns and bullets would eventually disintegrate through the use of those same tools.

Some might say this evolution is the result of age as mortality creeps closer. Actually, I believe that the “something” which had turned me around has been my cumulative years as a parent. Perhaps it was fear for my own and other people that I loved. Whatever it really had been was cemented when one of Jake’s closest friends who regularly spent nights at our house was murdered after I had sent him to work. Murdered trying to save his boss from a thief. A life I loved for tubes of toothpaste. Never again have I been able to see violence as a path to anything other than more violence.

And maybe just as important was a growing willingness to see people as a whole rather than any of their particular beliefs. I find I no longer tease out and judge a person solely by their political or religious ideas. I want more. I want to connect with a person’s humanity which, I’ve learned, has little or nothing to do with left, right, center or particular opinions.

I’ve written somewhat optimistically about life in previous columns but, for the most part, the posts have focused upon the positives within our culture and society. In retrospect, however, Mari and Vivian have already pointed out the big miss. Which for me means relationships. Despite all my talk about how my books are relationship driven and the manner in which those relationships impact each character, I never connected the dots. Those categorizations have to do with me and my life. Something which I had known but in some strange way forgot.

I don’t know whether the world is better or will be better for Mari and Vivian. I don’t know whether humans have the capacity to ever lay down their arms, stop their oppression of each other, lose their racism, or find a way to care for all. I surely hope so. But I do know that my wives past and present, my children and grand-kids, my relatives and friends, old and new, have enriched my soul. And that enrichment has been what’s made my life worth living.

I also have no doubt if two newborn infants can help me realize what’s been in front of my blind eyes, I’ll learn plenty more from them as they grow. So, thank you Mari and Vivian. You’ve already given me a great gift.

And to Alyssa and Matt, a Lou Reed song title says it best. You’re at…

THE BEGINNING OF A GREAT ADVENTURE.

SisterSnuggles1

No Slice In Time

by Kent Ballard

It’s maddening when you get an idea that won’t quite jell in your mind. What’s worse are the ideas that jell very nicely but are so abstract you cannot find words to express them.

I was thinking something that has probably occurred to other people before, but a thing that was new to me. I don’t know where this thought came from. I don’t know where the term “metrosexual” came from either. It doesn’t matter. It seems to fit a certain part of the population and we will just accept it and move on.

I’d been thinking about all those JFK assassination conspiracy theories. Not the theories themselves actually, but the sheer amount of information researchers have uncovered over all these years for those three seconds in Dallas. It’s as if that time and place were locked into another reality, a museum somewhere, where the curious could go forevermore and look at it not only from all angles but multiple slices of times and fractions of those seconds. It’s been frozen in perfect three dimensional and temporal space. Things might be a little foggy before Zapruder filmed Kennedy’s reaction to the first shot and they might get alarmingly foggy after the last one, but those three seconds are more real to us today than they were to the people present at the time. From that place and time came thousands of books, television reports, eyewitness interviews, articles, movies, news stories, and memorials and they’re still being written today. I won’t bring up all the arguments. You’ve heard many yourself and you will hear more in the future. Nor will I delve into the two full-blown federal investigations that drew opposing conclusions. They’ve generated their own tonnage of written, visual, and audio commentary.

No, I wasn’t pondering the Kennedy assassination and it really wasn’t about the theories. My idea concerned the freezing in time of an event. My idea was that you could take any event, freeze it in time, go over it repeatedly with a fine-tooth comb, and find many strange and contradictory things about it. You could eventually find anything you wanted to about it. You could make the case that the event never even happened. You could wade into the seemingly endless amount of information gleaned by additional points of view and time lines and the introduction of unlikely characters magnified out of proportion and come to any conclusion you wanted. At some point you would believe this was an event of unprecedented magnitude simply because of all that had been learned about it.

I think if you were to freeze any point in time and look at it from every possible angle, you’d have so much information you could make a strong case for anything. People would come to believe it true. A few more years of research and debate, sprinkled with new findings and new technology to re-comb all the old evidence, and you’d have a public uproar. The people would clamor for Congress to do something! People would have fistfights about the last time you touched your mailbox.

Because I’m going to freeze that moment in time. Freeze the last time you touched your mailbox. We will keep that forever now.

Allow me to dance through time a bit here. It lends itself to my point.

Let’s say the kid at the end of the block briefly caught you in the corner of his cell phone camera while he was filming his friend ride a bike over a little homemade ski jump in his yard. Okay. We have a clear video recording of the event now. You can briefly be seen at the last moment you touched your mailbox. That will become known in the legend I’m about to construct as the “McQueen Film,” which countless writers will explain as a wobbly reference to Steve McQueen’s famous motorcycle jump in “The Great Escape.” It will be considered the gold standard of that frozen moment in time. All other evidence will be measured against those two seconds you appeared on that screen. Relentless investigation will eventually turn up three photographs, two known and one highly disputed, of the same instant too. There will be another much-argued film.

One photo was taken through a second story window across the street by a mother who snapped her sleeping newborn baby. In the lower left quarter of the photo, through that room’s window, down, and across the street you can see part of another house and a person standing at the mailbox. That is you. That’s been verified now, but it took the better part of a decade, much arguing, and fifteen years of technological advances to prove it.

It’ll take two and a quarter million dollars and six years of the best photographic analysis available, but another one of those still pictures shows both you (they proved it was you after the enhancements, color reversals, and shadow comparisons) and a man much farther away in a heavy red plaid winter jacket. But the day was warm. And they’ve proved it through weather records of your city. He’s now known as “the Red Jacket Man” or simply “Red Jacket.” There will a book and two movies about him, none of which agree.

People who were there that day testified a traffic helicopter was going overhead at the time. Some eyewitnesses passed lie detector tests, some didn’t. They made one hell of an effort digging for that film, I’m here to tell you. But they found a fragment on an old DVD. While the copter was banking around to cover a car wreck three quarters of a mile away, someone was taping a rerun of “Laverne and Shirley.” A much-investigated and never-resolved mistake was made at the TV station at that instant. Some argue it was only that. Some argue it was done purposely. But a switch was thrown for six seconds that did not direct the broadcast to a taped commercial, but to a live feed from the chopper on that fateful afternoon. They will look for over a decade for the engineer who threw that switch. They will never find him. But all agree whoever he was, he had his hand on that switch while you had yours on your mailbox. The timing is just too uncanny to be otherwise. Because the Red Jacket Man can be seen from above in it as well, and forensic anthropologists have said he was seen taking the same step as was captured in the now-famous photo including you.

(They also investigated the car wreck being filmed and the chopper pilot flying that day. Most of those theories have been dismissed but die-hard believers in conspiracies were able to draw a great deal of attention to the idea the car had been rocketed by a military attack helicopter flying in the colors of your local TV station. This was linked to conspiracy theories involving PRISM, domestic terrorism, UFOs, and renegade nuclear secrets. Two books were written about the found DVD alone.“Why Did Time Stop?” and “The Fool’s Show-The Morrison DVD” were at total odds with each other.)

The “ghost cat” remains a mystery to everyone. He can clearly be seen in one photo, but nowhere to be found in the second, and is unverifiable in the third and still-disputed picture. All agree the cat could never have been seen from the helicopter, which is the only thing certain about him.

Thirty years from your time PBS and the BBC will co-underwrite a two hour television special about all this. Every photo and film will be taken apart pixel by pixel. There will be a re-airing of scores of old eyewitness testimonies and many new ones will be included. They will film computer reenactments, perform a carefully executed flyby with the same type of helicopter over the exact same neighborhood, have both professional and amateur photographers debate differing types of visual images over the years, and do everything within man’s technological power to recreate that exact moment in time. But…

Do you see what I mean?

Do you see the potential for such a thing getting out of hand? You can’t save history. You can save an accounting of it but you will never save that instant, because if you try you will destroy that thing you’re trying to save. You cannot save a slice in time. It will spoil and go moldy and when it turns black it will never resemble the thing it once was. You cannot save time, nor can you save any point in it.

We will never truly know the past. All we can hope for is a good accounting, someone’s story of what really happened. We hope they told it correctly. We create slices of history with every breath, with every move, and it doesn’t matter if there are witnesses or not. We are justifiably proud of our greater moments and we skulk around the weaker ones, all of us, but in the end there is only one truth and it will never be told.

I had a terrible time getting my head around this idea and how to go about telling it. When I figure it all out I’ll let you know. But if there are kids playing down the block and a helicopter anywhere within earshot the next time you reach for your mail, you might think about this. And if you do you will change the course of history forever.

It’s then not only a question of what histories we don’t know, but what histories never came to be. No language lends itself to this. There cannot be words for thoughts that never were. No wonder I could not describe what I was thinking, because it never came to be.

Tread lightly for your mail next time.

America Runs On

BY

SHERRI FRANK

I’ve worked in medical publishing of one kind or another for nearly 30 years. I sit in offices, respond to email, talk on the phone, and attend meetings where people say things like, “We need to T up resources,” “What’s the opportunity cost?” and “Are they a stakeholder group?“ Everything I need to do my job is contained in a 14” laptop weighing 4 pounds.

But most of what I know about the business world I learned years ago from pouring coffee and bagging donuts at Dunkin Donuts. I worked at franchises in New Jersey and Boston, throughout high school and college. Here’s what I took away from those years:

  1. Understand where your paycheck comes from. I was 16 and thrilled when I got my first real job at Dunkin Donuts. Surrounded by racks of glistening French crullers and jelly donuts bursting at their sugary seams, I breathed in the scents of fried dough and chocolate frosting the way other kids breathed in pot smoke. For a girl teetering on the edge of chubbiness, it was a dangerous environment to work in.

I never drank coffee, so hadn’t given much thought to selling it. But I quickly learned that “America—does indeed—run on Dunkin.” Though we sold a lot of donuts, it was the coffee that lured customers in. Starting at 6:00 each morning, they’d queue up in lines that ran out the door and along the front of the building, sometimes enduring rain and snow just to get a cup of coffee. As a non-coffee drinker, it amazed me. Why didn’t they just make it at home?

Identify your company’s priorities so you know where to direct your efforts. At Dunkin Donuts, that meant we were grinding beans and brewing a fresh pot or two of coffee at all times. That’s what kept the registers ringing, and that’s what allowed the owners to pay us the grand sum of $2.50 an hour.

  1. Anticipate your customers’ needs. At first, the “regulars” annoyed me simply because they were always there: Taking up seats on the long Formica counter, lingering for hours at a time nursing a mug of coffee and a cigarette (back when Dunkin had counter service and allowed smoking. I’m really dating myself here). But I quickly realized that regulars tipped well and made my job easier. As soon as I saw them getting out of their cars, I’d pour their coffee, grab their donut, and have it waiting on the counter when they walked in. If they did take out, I’d have their coffee bagged and ready to go. In the midst of the morning rush hour, it was a relief to have regulars stream through because I didn’t have to stop to take their order.

Everyone likes to be known. To be understood. Give people what they need before they even ask for it, and you’ll (possibly) have a customer for life.

  1. Show up. According to Woody Allen, “80% of success is showing up.” In the world of fast food, where staff are often young and always underpaid, and the work is physically draining, it’s a constant problem: Somebody assigned to a shift doesn’t come in. Doesn’t call. Up and quits without telling anyone. The rest of the staff are left scrambling to wait on long lines of angry customers. I still remember the names of co-workers who called in on Saturday nights claiming to be sick. I’d stay on after my own shift to work midnight to 6:00 am (we were open 24 hours), serving customers, filling/frosting donuts, and trying to keep my donut-tree smock clean. So please: Show up, punch the clock, do your job. Your colleagues are counting on you.
  1. Plan your vacations far in advance. While we’re talking about time off, let’s talk about the planned kind. One night while working in the kitchen, I noticed that the baker’s hand was bandaged. He’d asked for a few days off, but the manager wouldn’t let him take it. So he stuck his hand in the fryer. They had to give him a week off to recover.

There are less painful ways to get a vacation, of course. Submit your request far in advance. Get somebody to cover your work while you’re away (if needed and possible). And work your butt off before and after your vacation.

  1. Accept that some trade secrets are better left unknown. I was in love with Boston crème donuts long before I worked at Dunkin Donuts: The plump shell of custard. The thick layer of chocolate frosting. Sometimes I wonder if I chose to go to college in Boston because it was my beloved donut’s namesake.

When I wasn’t waiting on customers, I was in the kitchen finishing donuts for the “showcase,” as we called it. Giving me the job was akin to appointing an alcoholic as bartender: A Munchkin here, a cruller there….I’d eat my way through my shift.

Finishing donuts was a messy, time-consuming, and potentially unclean process, depending on who was doing the finishing. Custard and jelly were stored in big plastic buckets and scooped—with a spoon, a spatula, or even bare hands—into tubs with spigots on the end. The tubs attached to a machine that made the custard or jelly shoot out of the spigots into the warm, yeasty interior of the donuts, two at a time. The donuts were held by bare hands.

Sometimes the plastic buckets of jelly and custard were left uncovered and you’d find flies or cockroaches in them. Similarly, the glaze we dipped donuts in sat exposed for hours, subject to the same insect invasions. I had other issues with the cleanliness of the kitchen, and I’m sure those issues are shared by all commercial bakeries.

Over time, it became more and more difficult to enjoy the gush of custard in a Boston crème donut without imagining the bucket from which that custard came. Or the hands that might have held the donut as it was being filled—I worked with a lot of strange people (see below). I stuck with donuts like chocolate honey dipped that weren’t handled very much after frying. It seemed safer.

There are similar trade secrets at all companies that may dampen your enthusiasm for the product or service you sell. Try to accept those things if you can’t change them. I did. Despite all I knew, I never got tired of eating donuts while working at Dunkin, and to this day, I still enjoy a Boston crème from time to time. Go figure.

  1. Learn to get along with different types of people. People are weird, and I’m not just talking about customers like Moon Man, who brought me stories he’d written for a fictional publication called “Moon Magazine.” My co-workers could be challenging as well: The lazy ones who never mopped up counters or washed coffee pots; the competitive ones, who tried to pour coffee and box donuts more quickly than anyone else (yes: seriously); and the ambitious ones who aspired to be key holders and flirted with the manager (again: seriously). Go with the flow and don’t try to make people act less weird than they are (it won’t work). Ultimately, you’ll be happier and more successful.
  1. Don’t shit where you eat. My friends and I called him “Kinky Kevin” because there was something a little seedy about him. He’d come in every day or so dragging his club foot and settle onto a stool at the counter. Staring up at me through glasses so thick they made his eyes look fuzzy, he’d order coffee and a plain donut. Even when he wasn’t sitting, the top of his balding head only came up to my shoulders. He wasn’t an attractive man by the usual standards, of course. But I had a crush on him. I was young and naïve.

The night we were supposed to go to the drive-in, he got lost trying to find my house. Suddenly overwhelmed with just how seedy he might be, I sat in my bedroom listening to the phone ring on and on, frightened at the prospect of being alone with him in a car.  There was no such thing as a GPS back then, so he never found the house. Much to my relief.

Needless to say, it was awkward every time he came into Dunkin after that.

Don’t get involved with somebody you work with—or around. We all know this, of course, but it’s difficult to follow. Sometimes such relationships work out—I dated a baker for 5 years. But usually, you’ll end up like Kinky Kevin and me: Embarrassed, resentful, and unable to look each other in the (fuzzy) eye. But hey, the way I figure it: He could have gotten his coffee elsewhere.

 

(Sue, Jake, and I have been sitting near telephones since last week when we thought our daughter-in-law was ready to give birth to the twins. Sherri kindly offered to pinch hit since it sure looked like a road trip to New York was about to occur. Well, Alyssa hasn’t had the babies and we’re still by the phones. Thank you Sherri for covering. Zach)

Death of a Cold Warrior

BY

               Kent Ballard                

 For years, Stewart Alsop wrote the full back-page socio-political column for Newsweek magazine. In those days there wasn’t a bulier pulpit to be had. I started reading him while still a teenager and got hooked for some unknown reason. He was a great writer, one of the very first guys I ever saw who could shoot thunder and lightning from a page. He didn’t do it every week but he did it when he wanted to. Sometimes you would come to the end of his column and simply sit and stare at the page because you did not know what to think. I thought he was a Commie one week and a Nazi the next, but most of that might have been the mirror he held up to America in the last years of the 1960’s and the first few years of the 1970’s.

The guy had everything going for him. Vast audience, great writing, dinners with the President, luncheon meetings with Congressional leaders. Smart politicians courted him and smarter ones never crossed him. He was often a guest on Sunday afternoon TV political talk shows. He wasn’t handsome, kind of a plain-looking man. He knew this. He was bald and was the first one to point it out on panel shows and then laugh about it. No one laughed until he laughed. Then everyone laughed at once and stopped at once and watching their actions gave you the understanding this was a powerful man.

By then I had the habit–like many others–of reading Newsweek backwards. You opened the back cover of the magazine first to see what Alsop had to say about the previous week’s glory/horror/tragedy/amazement/bewilderment. Imagine a guy like that coming to his full power in the 1960’s. There were endless new things a columnist could write about but one week he wrote of surgeons and doctors and bad luck and closed his column by telling his readers that he had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer and was given six months to live. He said he would stay at his typewriter as long as he possibly could.

And then the world gathered around to watch him die in inches, a little each week.

Sometimes he’d fool them. He’d go for three or four weeks, hammering and railing about this or that and we all wondered if he had forgotten he was supposed to be a dying man. Then he would write a column that haunted your soul and told you precisely what it felt like to be in his shoes and it was not a pleasant feeling. If memory serves, he said one surprising thing that bothered him were ticking clocks. He could wrap himself in his work and usually stay busy enough to distract himself. But…ticking clocks. They were another thing that came out of nowhere to trouble him. He wrote about how silly that was. He joked that he’d watched Alfred Hitchcock too often and followed that with what Hitchcock said to him just the other day about the matter. And why he suddenly felt sorry for Hitchcock. And then how everything hit him at once like a locomotive. He’d made a sad and terrible mistake. Hitchcock was not dying. He was. He said moments like that we becoming more frequent and harder to shake.

We all stepped inside his hospital room. He said he’d made his peace with God and was as prepared as he could make himself. But now the cancer had advanced to the point he had to schedule his writing around medication times. And he described how badly it hurt and we all felt the pain in his words as if we were there.

And that’s when he wrote the column, one of his last, that said something unexpected from an old Cold Warrior.

He was dying in a time of ignorance, he said. Only morphine–or better yet–heroin could ease this level of pain. No amount of synthetic painkillers could touch it. He’d already had the conversations with his doctor and attending pharmacologist. He knew this time would come. But knowing that and bracing himself against it had done no good. He had hoped and prayed they were wrong, like all terminal patients do, but they were not.

President Nixon had been wrong too, Alsop wrote. He’d been wrong on one count with his new declaration of war on drugs. The new-found DEA had been set loose with the wrong sense of direction. They should have been tasked to beat away the terrible man-made street drugs, to wipe America clean from them indeed. But not opiates. Not heroin. You could almost hear the man struggling to breathe at this point.

No, he said, not them. They should be reclassified. They should never have been classed with other street drugs that were dangerous and highly addictive because they were more than that. They held the final glimmer of peace in this world for the dying, the freedom from pain. They alone were all that man had at the very end. Alsop said Nixon had done well when he rightfully championed billions of dollars into research and challenged America to find the illusive cure for his other highly publicized war, the one on cancer. But it would never come in time for Alsop or millions of other Americans every year and it has not arrived yet. Alsop pretty much called Nixon and Congress out of the saloon for one last showdown to rectify their mistake, but he would not live to reach for his pistol. I think this was his next-to-last or third from last column. They said he was lucid to the end but in unimaginable agony.

There remains to this day a controversy whether Alsop was provided heroin at the final stage of his life. Even under a doctor’s care that would have been illegal, both then and now. But he seemed to rally at the end, writing with his same power and grace. We may never know and, in my book, it’s best not to question such things. What is left for us all to question is how we will exit this world, and if the federal government will hound us to our very graves claiming that it is correct.

Today many doctors refuse to prescribe pain killers powerful enough to be worthy of the name. Others will not prescribe any. The curse of addiction and all its attendant evils needs to be fought, no question of it. It’s easy for an innocent person to become addicted to painkillers and narcotics prescribed for a variety of reasons. It would be easy for you, too, unless you are a superior life form which will never break a bone or succumb to a painful illness. But you might take a few moments to ponder, as Stewart Alsop did when faced with his eventual death, the risks and benefits of powerful drugs for those who will not live long enough to become a problem to society yet have nowhere else to turn.

A SELF DIVIDED

BY

ZACHARY KLEIN

I’ve written about the Showtime program Homeland a number of times with my last comment (I think) a couple of years ago. A new season has begun and, as most of the show’s other seasons, it’s high quality and anxiety producing. Although I’ve only seen the first three episodes, the series is once again a plot driven spy versus spy versus double agents drama. And once again it has raised questions for me. In our present era when every Muslim is often seen as a potential enemy and threat, it’s complicated to look forward every week to a terrific TV series that is built around a world view I detest.

Well, I just doubled down on that conundrum. Prisoners of War (original Hebrew title being Hatufim, (which translates to “Abductees”) is the threadbare low budget Israeli show upon which Homeland is based. In fact, after Hatufim won Israel’s Academy Award For A Television Series was sold to 20th Century Fox, some of the program’s creators and cast have been directly involved with the US show. We brought the dvds home from the library and have barreled through most of Season One. Gotta say, so far it’s a much better series, focusing intently upon the two ex-prisoners of war and the effects their release after seventeen years has upon themselves, their families, and everyone in close contact. Especially the Israeli intelligence community.

No surprise I’d find Prisoners the better show. People who have read any of my Matt Jacob novels or even my Just sayin’ series Interviews With The Dead (King Richard lll, Truman Capote, Martin Luther King, Norman Mailer and more to come) know my writing is character driven. Although I’m sure there will be more spy versus spy as Prisoners progresses, fact is, the characters are already more fleshed out and complicated than those in Homeland. The truthfulness of the relationships between each of the characters and the situations in which they find themselves feels true to the bone. And more. This is a particularly smart show where the unexpected occurs at exactly the right moment with writing and acting I just love.

But here’s the rub. Prisoners of War has raised even more misgivings inside than Homeland. Anyone who knows me knows my feelings about the overwhelming abuse and injustice the Israeli government exacts upon the Palestinian people. And while Prisoners has yet to identify the kidnappers, it doesn’t take a weatherman to imagine who they were.

So here I am, once again, praising a show whose politics sicken me.

Pablo Picasso was a misogynist his entire life—using women then kicking them to the side once he was done with them. Yet it’s impossible to ignore that he was arguably the greatest artist of the twentieth century who created Guernica, the most important anti-war painting many of us have ever seen. Even Diego Rivera, whose murals closely reflect my own political point of view, was often questionable when it came to his personal life. And, of course, there’s always the Ezra Pound dilemma.

Music, theater, and literature are also overloaded with artists who created great work but I wouldn’t invite to dinner. (Actually, there are some on my list who disgust me as people, but I’d love to engage in conversation.)

Firesign Theater’s album title, How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All, only half describes my plight. I am somewhere. Stuck between my values about humanity and art I enjoy or even love, at the same time made by people who make my skin crawl. Hell, it’s hard enough to bridge the contradiction about individual artists, but when two television shows I consider art (ok TV haters, take your shots) present attitudes and behavior I abhor, that interior contradiction becomes even more difficult to transcend.

But in for a dime bag, in for a pound. Throughout my own artistic life I’ve maintained that it’s essential to separate people’s creations from the individuals themselves. I’ve always believed to not do so would lose too many important, thought-provoking, often beautiful experiences.

For all the agita these two series raise, that’s my belief and I’m sticking to it. If a creation merits consideration as art, then I’m going to view it as such—despite its content or creator. To be otherwise would undercut my convictions about freedom of speech. And just as I won’t judge a person simply by their politics or beliefs, neither will I judge creative expression only by the person who created it or the content it presents.

So how to recommend a television series that triggers serious internal conflicts? For those who don’t share my ideas about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it’s easy. Rent or borrow Prisoners of War and enjoy great television.

For those that do share my Middle East politics, I’d say grit your teeth and, for this series, allow art to trump.

“What is life without incompatible realities?” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin