04 July 2018

Three Different Writings, One is About Killing Seven Minutes, Another is About Bicyclists and the Third is About the Outrage Over Scarlett Johansson


(There were seven minutes left in the class I was teaching and students were busy on their computers so I took quill to paper and wrote for the remaining time. Okay I'm lying, no quill, no paper, I was tapping away at my MacBook).

I have seven minutes to write something so I better make it good. I could write about my job which is teaching English to people from different countries or I could write about my teeth which I brush regularly using both a toothbrush and toothpaste, also water comes in handy. I could also write about giraffes although I know little about them aside from their long necks and that they are vegetarians and rarely stampede through major metropolitan areas — okay I’m now being told that they never, in fact, stampede through major metropolitan areas. Lessee, I could also write about the World Cup which has reached the quarter final stage but there are people far more expert than I am who have more interesting things to say. I could mention that I went a very average four wins and four losses in the knockout stage. Nothing much in that. I could also write about how our democracy is falling apart at the seams but that seems too depressing for this particular exercise. I could write about my commute which I’ve done ad nauseam but I’ve little else to add to this topic. I could write about ghosts which I do not believe exist although I’m willing to listen if someone has some empirically verifiable proof. I’m more open to the notion that UFOs have visited this planet and when I say this planet I refer, of course, to Earth which, by the way, is the only planet I’ve ever been to. Although I hear nice things about Neptune. Space travel is an interesting topic and I’m only frustrated that after the great flurry of activity in that regard when I was a child and teen the world has slacked off. That’s seven minutes….

So this happened….

I was walking ON THE SIDEWALK, toward the corner to cross the street when a bicyclist heading right towards me was kind enough to come to a stop. A “gentleman” who was evidently riding with him and who was at that very moment riding ON THE SIDEWALK, said to me, “that’s your fault, you have to be looking out for bikes.” I responded to this utterly absurd statement by directing a four letter word at the speaker. This epithet was followed by the word, “you.” It is not in my nature to speak in such a manner to strangers but I found his remark so devoid of reason that a calm, measured retort seemed useless. Plus I was — and am — depressed. Usually depression makes me sullen and quiet loath to say anything to anybody about anything but my anger was piqued. So there you have it. I cussed at a stranger, albeit an idiot, but still. Of course the sense of entitlement displayed by people on bicycles in this part of the world is maddening. They ride on sidewalks irrespective of whether there are pedestrians about or not and even heedless of crowds of walkers. (You do realize that they are supposed to walk their bikes on sidewalks.) They also are reluctant if not downright resistant to obeying traffic rules. Stop signs, red lights and their cousins the crosswalk mean nothing to Bay Area bicyclists. They also do not hesitate to ride at a leisurely pace in front of a cars buses and one would imagine, ambulances. Even if they aren’t in their designated bike lanes. Bicyclists have been given carte blanche on local public transportation in these parts.A decision no doubt rendered by a committee comprised completely of morons, half-wits and catatonics. There’s nothing quite so stimulating as being on a crowded subway car when some jerk gets on swinging his bike to and fro as he edges people out of the way so he find someplace to stand his vehicle. There is also great sport in going up stairs or escalators at subway stations here when bikers are about, as one is always at risk of being thwacked by a two wheeler. Never mind the fact that bike riders are supposed to use the elevators and are forbidden from carrying their beloveds up stairs or escalators. Bicyclists don’t do rules. One can also joy in bike riders boarding commuter busses. Oh one is no problem. He (90% of the time these jerks are men) puts his bike in a stand on the front of the bus. But should a second or third board, the bus driver has to get out and open a compartment on the side of the bus. Hey, who’s in a hurry on their way to work? How long will it be before bicyclists ride to airports and expect their beloved machines to ride along with them. Maybe they’ll park their bikes in the aisles! I’m happy indeed that so many people are riding bikes these days. It’s good exercise and good for the environment. However there is an abundance of bad apples and stupid rules that ruin it for everyone else.

Yesterday on Twitter there was something new for people to go bat shit crazy over: Scarlett Johansson has accepted a role in a film in which she would play a transgender man. I understand that this controversial because perhaps the part should have gone to an actual leaving, breathing trans man. It’s arguable. But people didn’t take it that way. They were breathing fire. One person just said “fuck you Scarlett” over and over. Another said they would unfollow anyone who disagreed with her opinion that this was wrong. Another said anyone who thought it was okay for Scarlett to take the role were themselves transphobic. Several vowed never to watch a movie with Ms. Johansson ever never again no matter what. The actress was called ever name in the book — or in twitterverse — and expressions of lamentations and fire-breathing venom were numerous. This is all part of a couple of phenomena I’ve noticed on social media. When a celebrity errs in one way or another, or is accused of having done so — as opined by a few — the pitchforks come on and everyone takes said implants and piles on the offender with self-righteous and boiling anger. (Also it is suddenly and retroactively realized that the offending person has no talent. No one every really liked their movies, music, TV show, juggling act.) Further, when people disagree on twitter they really disagree. There is no middle ground, no discussion, no give and take there is only rage, there is only you’re either for us or against us and if you’re against us you’re going to bloody hell. It’s like when I pointed out to someone that Woody Allen was cleared of molestation charges, not once but twice. One person said that I was a defender and supporter of child rape (supposedly this means any attorney who defends a client is themselves a supporter of whatever crime that person stands accused of. Defending someone charged with murder? Clearly you’re okay with killing people). Twitter is, in an overwhelming percentage of cases, terrible for discussions. It is good to for having whatever views you hold re-enforced, buttressed and expanded upon. I sometimes question why I spend time there but in my defense there are an awful lot of adorable videos of puppies there. One last point about what roles an actor can take, was it okay for Meryl Streep to play a Polish woman (Sophie’s Choice) or should that role gone to someone from Poland? Is there outrage at Kate Winslet having played an American on numerous occasions (see Wonder Wheel, Revolutionary Road, Eternal Sunshine…) and how about Sean Penn playing Harvey Milk? Wouldn’t a gay actor have done better? Russell Crowe played John Nash, a paranoid. Shouldn’t someone with that same mental illness gotten the role? Daniel Day-Lewis played someone with cerebral palsy in My Left Foot. Is that fair? What about Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, he keeps playing humans in movies. How about giving the roles to actual people? I’m just asking.

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