Orphan Black Is My Personal Trainer

Not only are the Sestras of Team Leda my personal trainers, but also, as a result, I can survive car crashes, get stabbed through the side with rebar, run, fight, shoot with accuracy, and dig a grave through a cement floor. Impressed?

Don’t be. I may be exaggerating. Let me back up a bit.

During the summer of 2013, I lost about eighteen pounds. This happened through a combination of hopping up and down on an elliptical machine at Planet Fitness, and eating mostly blueberries and almonds in order to win the respect of  [popular Philadelphia actor and local vegan] Doug Greene. It was fun, for a while. Then,
a) I learned that Doug Greene’s kindness is so vast that he really doesn’t care if I eat things which can not be easily foraged, and

b) The televisions at my local Planet Fitness succeeded in driving me out of there. That’s right. The terrorists’ televisions won.

Here’s the battle. I had a pretty good system for making regular exercise part of my life. Roll out of bed, pull on the pile of work out clothes I thoughtfully placed [okay, dumped] on the floor next to the bed the day before, put earbuds in ears, and with my gym only a few blocks away, I’d be at the gym and on the elliptical, chugging along to “Doctorin’ The Tardis,” before I really woke up.

OB1-596x335  Unfortunately, the Wall Of Televisions across from the elliptical machines were extremely distracting. The morning parade of anorexics, invented health scares, and celebrity bullshit which passes for news drove me far away from sense and sensibility. One day I saw Olivia Wilde, being interviewed about her role in a movie in which her character allegedly liked to drink a lot of beer. I thought, she doesn’t look like she’s ever touched a beer in her life. She’s as light and luminous as a snowflake. She probably eats nothing but organic arugula and pure mountain spring water. Then, some weird part of me thought, you could look like that if you ate only twelve handfuls of almonds a day. It’s possible. And just look how much better her career is than yours.

Fortunately, some reasonable part of my brain (the part that likes eating, moving around and having cognitive function) said, NOPE, that’s not a healthy mind set. I got my priorities in order. After that, the televisions at the gym made me so angry, that I stopped going to the gym. Music wasn’t enough to keep me going, with TV flashing and flickering away in front of me.

OrphanBlack_S2Ep10_251-596x335 Recently, I was talking with some friends about how I wanted to write a Tv drama spec script for my portfolio. My co-worker Kevin suggested that Orphan Black might fit my sensibilities. I hate sitting and spending copious amounts of time staring at something without doing something else along with it, so I thought, I’ll watch it at the gym. I bought the iTunes season pass for the first two seasons, and away I went on Leda’s Big Adventure.

This show is absolutely ideal as a companion for cardio, especially if you’re stuck indoors at one spot*. Its style, as a one-hour adventure-sci-fi-drama- is ideal for a 45-minute workout.

ob121-596x335  TV writing is formulaic, even for a genre-defying show like Orphan Black. Dan Harmon’s narrative structure method shows this formula best. Essentially, with a 40-45 minute show, you’re going to have moments of tension every five or six minutes. Every other moment of tension will be a major moment of tension, and they will increase in intensity throughout the story.

To try to make things simple, these are your big turning points of story.
1) A person is in a place of comfort
2) But they want something
3) They enter an unfamiliar situation
4) Adapt to it
5) Get what they thought they wanted
6) Pay a heavy price
7) Return to where they started
8) Having Changed.

OrphanBlack-Ep5-1-596x335In the case of a serial thriller like Orphan Black, you’re not going right back to the beginning, necessarily, you’re only back to square one in the sense that you’re still fighting The Bad Guys. Your favorite clone makes progress, but not enough for her to win freedom for herself and her family.

So, when you’re working out, these points of tension will make you move faster. The first ten minutes or so, even if they start with Sarah or Cosima or Allison or Helena in a major pickle, are at least a pickle with which the viewer is familiar. The episode is establishing itself, and this gives you time to get warmed up. After about ten minutes, our heroine gets presented with a new difficulty, and that makes the tension pick up. Usually, by about fifteen minutes into the episode, there’s a bar fight, a critical code to be cracked, or a chase that makes the viewer more tense. So, the natural response is to do what? Move faster. Each conflict increases the tension, leading to a plateau, and then another increase, until the inevitable cliffhanger ending, which leaves the viewer wanting more.

OrphanBlack_S2Ep9_20-596x335Mirror Neurons being what they are, we can’t not get tense along with our favorite characters. Every time they get into trouble, we do what they know they should do; tense up, and run, or fight. It’s a perfect thing to keep you going when you’re at the gym. There are some exceptions, however. When Paul pressed the stolen (spoiler object) into the palm of Felix’s hand, I hauled on the brakes on the elliptical foot pads so hard that I almost fell off of the machine. So, be careful. This show is not to be taken lightly.

It’s true that many television shows follow this formula, and probably any one-hour drama or police procedural could fit the bill. Why not just go to the gym a couple of hours after dinnertime, and catch one of the many variations on CSI or Law & Order? Because this is Orphan Black, and it’s a whole new modus operandi in story.

251-596x335

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

One actress, Tatiana Maslany, plays the main characters, all of whom share the same DNA, but are as different as chalk and cheese. Each of them has secrets, and has to pretend to be something she’s not. Anyone who wants transformation, or has just had a very bad day (why else would you get on an elliptical machine?) can empathize with Clone Club. The clones battle and support each other in similar but unique voices, much as different facets of one human’s personality. Yet they all work toward a common goal; independence and safety for themselves and their family. Because one actress plays all the roles, the viewer gets pulled into the concept of transformation. The body becomes immaterial; what matters is the clones’ desires, actions, and manners of self-expression. For someone who’s trying to get more exercise, this hits home. Ultimately, the premise of Orphan Black is, “Is biology destiny?” Is our body all we are, or can be? For all women, we want to feel like our bodies are less important than our personalities, thoughts, and desires. In the case of Orphan Black, the human body is a part of oneself, but not the entire existence.

OrphanBlack_HelenaGallery_02-596x335  Having this show accompany me as I work out makes me more excited to go to the gym. It makes me think about the body in terms of strength, health and autonomy. It distracts me from all of the usual chatter in which we engage, concerning fitness and working out. Maybe I’m not doing this because I want to look like the women on The Today Show or Good Morning America. Maybe I’m doing this in case I ever have to dodge a sniper’s bullet or run for my life or fight off a bunch of armed goons. The characters on this show are flexible but tough, capable of change, but focused, and always moving up. It’s the best workout companion I’ve ever had.

I have not yet seen Season 3, other than the occasional trailer or sneak peek. Like I said, I don’t have cable (although Episode 1 of Season 3 is available online. BUT FOR HOW LONG???). As far as I can tell, some of what the new season concerns is how big business (i.e., Dyad), can control the human body, how the government and military can get involved (such as in the case of copyright), and what people can do with their bodies. These ideas scares me, particularly since we see this all the time. We see it when women starve themselves to fit a business’ idea of what a clothing size is, when people make choices about food, self-care, residence or birth control based on what corporations say is safe and healthy. I’m glad this show is exploring these ideas, in an interesting and inventive way.

And no, I never wrote the spec script, because I was too busy being in love with the show. I probably will eventually, anyway. Wide Open Spaces made the semi-finalist level for the National Playwrights’ Conference at The Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, so I can’t possibly be that bad at this whole thing, right?

You’ve almost convinced me I’m real

Paul Williams accepting the Academy Award for the song "Evergreen."

Paul Williams accepting the Academy Award for the song “Evergreen.”

Last night we watched the documentary, Paul Williams Still Alive. It was okay, but problematic. It might be interestingly problematic. Stick with this, because there is a point. I promise.

Basically, this guy, Stephen Kessler, was amazed to find out that award-winning, chart-topping soft-rock songwriter and television personality Paul Williams was not dead. In his joy and amazement, he set out to make a documentary about his childhood hero, hoping that maybe it would culminate in the two of them having a sleepover and staying up all night watching old tv clips from his many appearances and swapping tales of 70’s celebrity wacky times. Probably sitting in a pillow fort, wearing their pajamas and drinking Kool-Aid.

Result: the documentarian becomes the documented, and the experiment in narcicissm becomes really freaking tragic. It’s worth watching, if you want to see how what could be a very good documentary can go totally tits up.

This movie’s most annoying attribute is not Kessler’s strained relationship with Williams’ wife, the shaky filming, or the fact that Williams knows how run an interview and  how to direct a documentary better than this guy. It’s that not once does he touch on Paul Williams’ songwriting process.

Kermit The Frog and Paul Williams

Kessler does not spend any time discussing Williams’ collaborations with The Muppets. Unforgivable.

Kessler concentrates on the fame, tv appearances, booze, drugs, and sobriety, all the things about which Williams doesn’t want to talk, what should be the painful third act of your documentary, a part of it, not the end goal or sum and substance. We see Williams touch a keyboard once in the entire film (other than archival footage), and then only for a second. Paul Williams is now the president of ASCAP, and I can’t imagine a better advocate for the rights of songwriters. Although I have to admit I’d love to hear a discussion between him and Jonathan Coulton about songwriters’ rights in a mixed media world. I think Coulton’s experience with audience relationships and the Internet would be interestingly balanced by Williams’ decades in TV, film, and recording.

Kessler totally missed the fact that when you hear a Paul Williams song, you know it’s his, even if you don’t know the title, and haven’t been told anything about it. He has a particular style, once stamped on a song, which pulls the listener in, and then turns just as soon as a comfort level is established. He has an aural relationship with exposition, conflict, escalation and resolution which makes the listener always want a little bit more.

Kessler’s documentary is watchable, and shows us an intimate and painful side of a guy who has made a lot of people happy for many years (particularly in the Phillipines).  But it doesn’t show Williams’ productivity, never asked once how he worked on music while getting clean, or how he works on music now. THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF. This is the kind of thing that helps artists and listeners and ARGH ARGH ARGH Come on, pal. Grow up.

The documentary was made in 2011, so it was made years before Williams became the president of ASCAP, and long before Daft Punk would have tapped him for involvement in their work.

Paul Williams wins a Grammy in 2014

Paul Williams wins a Grammy in 2014 for his collaboration on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. Photo by Allen J Schaben, Los Angeles

If you listen to this, even without Williams’ unmistakeably unique voice, you can hear his style, despite the layers of electronica and Daft Punkiness of it all. Particularly at about the three minute mark, where the music fills your head with curly-haired women in glittery gowns twirling under colored lights, and Muppets playing sax and juggling silk handkerchiefs. But then the song widens and deepens, and this is the work of a really grown-up master of the art form. This might not be The Only King Of Pop, but he’s certainly a King Of Pop.  This is The Phantom of the Paradise and Evergreen.

So, yeah, nice try Kessler, but before you spend a lot of time on the tree’s tinsel, why not water its roots?

Who would win in a fight?

Bill Hader hosted Saturday Night live this past week, and, surprisingly, ranked historically low ratings. Despite Hader’s status as an SNL favorite and his new movie, The Skeleton Twins (with fellow SNL favorite Kristen Wiig) out in theaters, even I didn’t watch it. I like Bill Hader, particularly for his bizarre portrayal of Julian Assange.

The one character that seems to resonate most with the zeitgeist is his adorably esoteric nightlife pundit, Stefon. His mannerisms- the face-covered giggle, the sleeve plucking- remind me of my nephew, and his love of surreal entertainment usually cracks me up.

Honestly, I think I’ve been to some of those parties, particularly when Vince was playing with The Absinthe Drinkers. Preponderance of guests with mechanical arms? Check. Improvised jazz theramin? Check. Woman using a live python as a hair ornament? Check. Three witches making out under a giant paper-mache tree? Check.

Two things bother me, though. Hader’s inability to keep from laughing on camera rubs me the wrong way. I don’t find it as endearing as  the character. It’s wonderful to be reminded that this is live, and chaos can happen, but it just seems like whoever’s operating the teleprompter is playing a joke on the audience.

The other bothersome thing is when Stefon’s love of the freak-show element becomes the disturbing recurring gag about human machines, which inevitably turn into some kind of riff on dwarf-tossing.  If it were a woman being shaken until she says “ask again later,” it’d be rapey; if it were a person of color, it’d be censored. True, Stefon’s descriptions are lavished with variance in ethnicity, gender and age, but a person being used as a machine seems less consensual and more cruel.

Peter Dinklage has appeared on SNL’s Weekend Update, as a Drunk Uncle, and he was no stranger to cruel humor. It’s surprising that SNL’s writers would continue to make the human machine joke, if the popular, award-winning and really fucking smart Dinklage is a friend of the show.  What I’d really, really, really love to see, is for Stefon to get started on one of his explanations of human traffic cones/fire hydrants/boom boxes/suitcases/kites/piñatas/Magic 8 balls/whatever, and have Dinklage slowly, deliberately, roll up right next to him, just out of his line of sight.

stefon-tyrion

I mean, come on, writers. If you’re going to do rough comedy, do it in an interesting way.

 

Recommended listening for lonely Saturdays

This morning, my friend Clarence Wethern posted on the Internet that listening to the Doctor Who Season 5 soundtrack made everything seem much more urgent and important.

Temple U Bell Tower Early Morning Fog

Temple University’s Bell Tower in the early morning fog.

When I read this, I was sitting in a 7-11, waiting to be let into the library so I could start my lonely early morning work shift. Because, when you ask yourself, “what does a dangerous, destructive thug look like?” automatically, you think of me. And, that’s why the security guards want nothing to do with me before 9 on a Saturday.  I thought, heck yeah, I could use a sense of importance and urgency. Also, not only is Clarence one of my favorite actors, he’s one of the kindest, funniest, smartest people I know, so how can any advice from him possibly be a bad idea?

I mean, where could it possibly leave me?  In a library basement in North Philadelphia, trapped while the rest of the city enjoys its one breath of Spring before another blast of Winter?

Media Bear sits alone in the dark. He's not scary at all. No sir.

Media Bear sits alone in the dark. He’s not scary at all. No sir.

So, as I went into the library (apropos) I cued up Clarence’s link to Spotify, and “Honey, I’m Home” by Murray Gold and The BBC National Orchestra of Wales started playing.   It starts out light and airy, pleasant, but gradually increases its minor key to become more threatening. As I turned keys in locks, logged into the computers with pass codes, turned tumblers for secret combinations and unlocked the door to the room where the DVDs are shelved, the suspense was palpable enough that I sincerely questioned the silent, staring eyes of Media Services Bear, sitting on the trolley in the darkness.

And the piece of music is exactly the same length of time that it takes to open the library’s Media Services desk. So, that was fun. I kind of wished that Christopher Eccleston would suddenly grab my hand, look deeply into my eyes and say, “Run,” as an alien creature hatched from an egg laid deep inside Media Services Bear’s stuffed tummy.

Doctor Who Original Television Soundtrack Series 5

Doctor Who Original Television Soundtrack Series 5

Of course, once the alien invaders have been vanquished (probably via my secret skill of getting lost or being late*), that means inevitably that I’d have to explain to him that I can’t possibly go travel through all of space and time with him, because of course he’d want me to, duh.

LINDSAY: I’m married.
THE DOCTOR: I’m not the marrying type.
LINDSAY: I have cats and dogs to take care of.
THE DOCTOR: They’ll never know you were gone.
LINDSAY: I have a thesis to write.
THE DOCTOR: What’s it about?
LINDSAY: Georgia O’Keeffe’s break from painting between 1932 and 1934.

CAMERA TRACKS IN CLOSE TO THE DOCTOR’S WIDENING BLUE EYES AS THE CLOSING THEME BEGINS

THE DOCTOR: Oh yeah?… You want some help with that?
MUSIC: DOONKETA DOO, DOONKETA DOO,  DOONKETA DOONKETA DOONKETA ooo-WEE-ooo!

Because, obviously, I have had a hole in the space-time continuum tethered to me since birth. Every now and then I fall into it and have to find my way back out again. Or other things fall into it. That’s why I’m always late, lost, or losing things. Or early. Sometimes.

SEE HOW WELL I AVOID WORKING ON THE SHORT PLAY, AT WHICH I AM TEMPORARILY ANGRY, TODAY? I’ve just set up an entire season of Doctor Who. BAM. Hire me, Moffat.

And then we go to 1960s London because Harold Pinter also has a hole in the space time continuum tethered to him, except he sucks whole lives into it and spits them out again as plays (because The Homecoming is scary). But Pinter doesn’t know it (because after it becomes a play, all memory of the life having ever existed disappears. QED).  At the end of the episode, he’s inspired to write Betrayal. For some reason. To be determined.

And  Clarence has to be cast as the brilliant mathematician and astronomer Phillipe Van Lansberg, or Martin Van der Hove, or something, which I will invent. and it will be fantastic.

All right, I have to go work some more on this short play at which I am angry right now. It happens.

Who is The 12th Doctor?

I know nobody’s looking at the Internet on a Friday in the summer, but allegedly the announcement of what actor will play the 12th Doctor comes out this Sunday, and all the Whovians are all a-flutter. Not the least of which are us; here at Stately Friel Manor we watch episodes on DVD going back to William Hartnell, and we get excited about new Doctor Who episodes coming out like civilians get excited about baby showers. Of course, we know there’s all kinds of specific criteria for who the next Doctor simply has to be, and all kinds of a wish list.

So, without further ado, here’s our dream wish list for The 12th Doctor.

Bob Newhart is The 12th Doctor.

“I… I… uh, did what I had to do, for uh… sanity, and, uh, peace, yeah. Something like that.”

Bob Newhart as The 12th Doctor. As Dr. Bob Hartley, he dealt with the greatest enemy of all: indifference and narcissism. He did it coolly and calmly, for the most part, but when things did get out of hand, it was always legendary (see Season 4, Episode 11, Over The River and Through The Woods). While Bob Newhart is Vince’s choice for The 12th Doctor, he’s not mine, because every episode would be 14 hours long and the Daleks would just get bored and go away on their own.

Tardis-DrRoss

“Before you go, I just want to tell you, you were fantastic… And so was I.”

George Clooney as The 12th Doctor. As Dr. Ross, he handled a chaotic Chicago emergency room and made painful and difficult decisions, including assisted suicide for a child, with panache and grace. Also, that’s a hell of a lot of eye candy, which should give Tennant a rest from the heavy mantle of The Hot Doctor Who. Besides: he’s Batman.

“This is who I am, right here, right now, all right? All that counts is here and now, and this is me!”

“This is who I am, right here, right now, all right? All that counts is here and now, and this is me!”

Hugh Laurie as The 12th Doctor. He’s already posh, he’s already mad, but as Doctor House he’s been the guy who’s scarred and scarring. He’d cut the Ood’s shiny balls off to spite their inborn need to serve and say, “You’re welcome.” I actually can’t take this idea too seriously, because if the BBC had ever really wanted Laurie to play the Doctor, they would have gotten him to do it when they got Eccleston (my favorite) to play the Ninth Doctor. But he definitely fits the mold of irreverent and cute, yet damaged by the weight of history. Which brings us to the perfect fit:

Tardis-MASH

“Do what I do. Hold tight, and pretend it’s a plan!”

Mike Farrell and Alan Alda as The 12th Doctor. The Korean War was hell, and it’s still ongoing. Doctors McIntyre and Pierce faced bombs, snipers, rage-propelled adversaries, young kids bleeding slowly to death, inhospitable landscape, adverse climate, bureaucratic knots, limited resources, inner demons, and Frank Burns, with charisma, swagger, and faith. If Soufflé Girl can split into a million different somebodies, why couldn’t the Doctor split into two? He often disagrees with himself, and maybe the writers will have an easier time keeping the Doctor from sounding like an idiot.

Okay. Before you rip me to shreds over canon and BBC Guidelines and your intense need to prove what an expert you are on Everything In The Whoniverse…

IT’S A JOKE. GET OVER IT.

Personally I think the next Doctor will be either Ben Whishaw or Richard Ayoade. They’re both youngish and good-looking, inherently British, early enough in their careers to not have something else overshadow them to people who have never seen Doctor Who before, and both of them can have the Tom Baker hair (with the right stylist). Vince thinks it will be someone that no one has ever heard of, who has just enough film and stage experience to give them some credibility.

However, there is absolutely no question as to who the next Master will be.

Colbert

“If I told you the truth, your hearts would break.”

A tale of two Georges

GeorgeHarrison-LivingInTheMaterialWorld-poster  Last night we watched Living In The Material World, the George Harrison documentary that Martin Scorsese made a few years ago. It’s very good.  It’s about half George’s solo career and life after 1970, and the other half is his childhood and the Beatles years, without going into too much detail. Overall, the film makes the point that George Harrison was very good at balancing his spiritual and earthly selves: he could perform, have relationships, produce movies, play jokes, and make money, but he also was the guy who could just float away on a cloud of spiritual sound.

The documentary has no narration, so the individual clips and interviews speak for themselves. Which is nice. You don’t feel like you’re being spoon-fed or distanced. So, for example, it opens with film of the World War II bombings in England, coupled with the song “All Things Must Pass.” The documentary also includes letters George wrote to his family, while the Beatles were in their first years of touring, read by Dhani Harrison, which is heartwarming and also kind of eerie.

Dhani Harrison is totes adorbs, by the way.

So, for three hours, I put away my phone, knitted, and watched this documentary about someone who spent their life trying to make the world a better place for everyone he met.  It seems as though he did. George Harrison was no pushover, there is a part that shows him telling a reporter to step off shortly after the announcement of his cancer diagnosis. But in general, people talk about his literal and spiritual generosity, his peacefulness, how he could walk into a room and make everyone there calm and happy.  It’s infectious, and leaves you wanting to sign up for a meditation course.

Trayvon-BTMP-SHEP-COMP  Then I picked up my phone, checked Facebook and Twitter, and found out about the Zimmerman verdict.

When I was young, and learning to drive, my mom and grandmother, on the other hand, gave me the talk about Driving While Female and Dealing With Police.  They said, “if you are driving alone at night, and a cop tries to pull you over, drop your speed, get over towards the side, and drive your car to the nearest well-lit and populated area, where people can clearly see you.”  and then, don’t sass off, make eye contact, make sure they can see your hands.

One night, I was at home on a Saturday night because my boyfriend was working at the local movie theater. This was back in the days when movies were on magnetic tape in small plastic boxes and you had to go to a store and borrow them in exchange for money. I had a hankering to watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, so I went down to the local video store, rented the movie, stopped at the convenience store next door, got some tasty snacks, and thought, I bet my boyfriend would like a tasty snack (not a euphemism). so I took the long way home, stopped by the box office, said hi, gave him a snack, got back in the car and headed home. I knew my parents would be pissed at me for being gone for more than the fifteen minutes it really takes to rent a movie, so I was a little anxious.

It was probably about 8:30pm, after dark, and I turned onto a long downhill stretch that’s clearly marked at a speed limit that is less than your car would take if you were coasting. It’s the kind of road that suburban teenagers and idiots love to burn through, so you almost have to fight your car’s weight a bit to stay under the speed limit. I always liked this strip of road, and I always liked the challenge of trying to coast and stay as close to the speed limit as possible. So I coasted the mile or so to the next stop light. Was I speeding? I don’t know. Was I pressing the pedal to the metal? No.

At the next stop light, I noticed that the car behind me had its high-beams on, as if the driver were trying to intimidate me, or see what radio station I had on, who knows. It was bright enough to make me think, Jeez, somebody’s a bit too interested in me.

Having been followed late at night by guys trying to intimidate women before, I thought, that doesn’t look good. Delaware County has a lot of bored people, and a lot of cars. It wasn’t uncommon for bored male drivers to try to intimidate female drivers around there, and I had been followed by unsavory creepy drivers before (once I had to drive back to the movie theater after a late-night shift because a drunk guy followed me, and as he told my friends after they got between his car and mine, “I was just tryin’ to get some pussy”).  I told myself that this was all in my head, and to get home so my mom wouldn’t be mad.

So, I turned onto a winding, forested back road to get home, and the car followed. I thought, okay, please leave me alone, pal. The high-beams filled my rear window, and I got scared. I sped up. Next thing I know, the rearview mirror was full of spinning red and blue lights.

Within sixty seconds, a young State Police officer was shining a flashlight in my face and asking why I was driving so fast on a back road. In a panic, I spit out that I had been followed by Bad People before, that I thought this was happening again, that I was scared and trying to get away from him.

A few seconds of silence passed.

The officer apologized, gave me back my documents, and said I was free to go.

When I got home, I told my mom what had happened. She told me that in my dad’s years in criminal litigation, he’d heard many stories from police officers in suburban areas who used to intimidate young women with threats of speeding tickets and having their license taken away in exchange for blow jobs.

Is this the same as The Talk and Driving While Black? No.
Have I encountered police officers whose ego was bigger than their intelligence? Yep.

Similarly:

-An ex of mine had a story about how, at about age 17, he was walking from a girlfriend’s house to his car, parked several blocks away, after dark, and was picked up by the police because someone had seen trespassers in the area. He was handcuffed to a radiator and hollered at by cops until they got bored and let him go.

-Once upon a time in New Jersey, I carefully made a legal left turn onto a road and was pulled over by a bored State Police cop who didn’t like my rainbow bumper sticker, and offered to take apart my car to search for marijuana. I was dumb enough to say, “Go right ahead, knock yourself out, you won’t find anything.” He decided not to search my car. I guess he didn’t want to do the paperwork. My car was impounded, and when he asked if I understood why he was taking my car and issuing a ticket, I said, “No, I don’t. Why did you pull me over?” he said, “I always pull over cars that have…” then he gestured at the back bumper of my car, waving left-to right, following the pattern of the rainbow sticker, and said, “License plates like that.”

The Zimmerman case isn’t about police intimidation. He wasn’t a police officer. He’s a small man with an ego bigger than his intelligence. It’s “hey you kids get off my lawn” taken to the worst possible conclusion. I’m angry that the prosecution didn’t make a stronger case, and wondering exactly what kind of rocks the jurors live under.

I’m wondering why we’re a nation of intolerance and ignorance. We all have the capacity for compassion and empathy, we all have the opportunity to sit down and quiet our minds or de-escalate a drama.  I don’t understand the attachment to violence George Zimmerman must have to not just leave Trayvon Martin alone.

It’s a dangerous precedent.

On that note, here’s a classic piece of American literature which I think should be recommended reading in all schools.  Be kind today.