Friday, April 29, 2016

"Why It Annoys Me"




“Not again!”

No, I promise.  I have already written two posts on the inexplicable naming of prescription medicines and, although the third time can be the charm, it can also be “I’m not reading this anymore.”

Despite residual misgivings, I have come to terms with the fact that these laughable prescription medicine names have a memorable, syllabically meaningless objective.   



It is undeniable that the gibberish names the pharmaceutical companies give their products are at least more memorable to the than their generic or their actual chemical names.  That’s why they create them.  Fine.  Except I still don’t understand why the prescription medicine called JUBLIA could not just as easily be called HARVONI and the prescription medicine called HARVONI could not just as easily be called AFLURIA.

I mean what the heck difference would it make?

But forget about that, it’s done and it’s over.  I am, however, left with an equally troubling concern:

How do they come up with the meaningless names they give to the medicines?
Why do I care about that?  What is my generic interest?

At first I thought simply, “It’s a funny thing, silly names for prescription medicines.”

“Silly but helpful.”

Right.  Because you don’t want,

“I really need this medicine.”

“What’s it called?”

“‘Psyllosibo’… I don’t remember.”
The goofy names seemed hilarious to me.  Absurdity is always funny – write that down.  So that’s why I wrote about it.

Or so I believed.

The intensity of my feelings, however, suggested there was a deeper consideration.  I felt viscerally angry about these ridiculous medicine names.  Not primarily because they were ridiculous – “ridiculous” is good for business. 

I was angry because they were arbitrary.   

Imagined Pharmaceutical Company “Pitch Session”:


“No.  But “ZYLINGA”.  Now you’ve got something!”


To provide the link between the dopey medicine names and my irrational hostility to them, I need to explain that, in my “Imagined Pharmaceutical Pitch Session”, “LYZINGA” was pitched by a pharmaceutical company employee and “ZYLINGA” was suggested by the boss. 

That’s what annoyed me.  Not “What it is.”  But “Who gets to decide?”

What did that remind me of?  (This is like psychoanalysis… I imagine, having never experienced psychoanalysis – “free association” till I get to the answer.)

What it reminded me of was every time I sat in a rewrite room and I pitched something that the show runner shot down, only to pitch an alternative that was no better and possibly worse but it got into the script because the person who pitched it was indisputably in charge.

Boy, that made me angry!

That gnawing inequity not only was potentially damaging to the final product – meaning it made the show worse – it was essentially rewarding a bully, which infuriated me, while dismissing the efforts of a now dispirited underling, which infuriated me even more.  (Which led to my saying, “I would rather be a boss than have a boss.  Later, when I became a boss, I had a somewhat different perspective.)

That explains my irateness about the pharmaceutical naming – not the absurdity but the method of deciding.  When the thing you are deciding upon is meaningless, the final decision is entirely arbitrary.

And when it comes to “arbitrary”, “Power” inevitably prevails.

Now you might be thinking,

“You know what, Earlo?  This sounds an awful lot like ‘sour grapes’.  A person in charge, who is generally more experienced and more talented than you are shoots down your suggestion and replaces it with his (or her) own.  It’s been twenty or more years now.  It might be time to get over it.”

Okay… maybe… I respond, in partial concession.  But you have never been in a room where we are pitching “character names” and you pitch the name “Susan” and the show runner shrieks “Susan!” as if they cannot now fathom the reason they hired you and are seriously considering letting you go.  They then pitch “Susanne”, which goes immediately into the script. 

And don’t get me started on “locations.”

‘Buffalo!  Are you kidding me?  You might as well say ‘Cleveland! 

They pitch “Chicago”, and on we go.


It is exactly the same thing.

I was angry about that then, and I am angry about it now– not for myself this time, but for the pharmaceutical company peons caught in a similar dispiriting position.

Believe me, LYZINGA is just as good as ZYLINGA.

And, having gotten to the source of my irritation, I shall not mention this matter again.

Most likely.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

"Hidden Homerism"

“homerism” – an unswerving enthusiasm for the hometown sports team(s).

I thought I was over it. 

Sure, Toronto was my official hometown and always would be, but I had not lived there for more than forty-two years.

When I did live there, I rooted passionately for the local sports teams – the Toronto Maple Leafs (hockey), the Toronto Argonauts (Canadian football) and the Toronto Maple Leaf  “Triple A” baseball team.  (Which “left the building” in 1967.)

I remember when I first noticed I was a maniac.

I was ten or eleven years old, and the “parent” Milwaukee Braves were in town for a promotional “exhibition game” against their minor league affiliate, my beloved Toronto Maples Leafs.

I had splurged on a front-row box seat (cost:  a dollar-fifty), from which I would hurl scurrilous invective at our lofty adversary, a big league squad boasting the “pathetic” likes of future Hall of Famers Henry Aaron and Eddie Matthews.

At that moment, I heard a hoarse-voiced, taunting tirade exiting my mouth, identified more commonly with irate dockworkers than with a Fifth Grader from the Associated Hebrew Schools of Toronto.

“You don’t belong on the same field with us,” I bellowed in a feral growl that sounded nothing like my usual “Good Boy” patois.  “You think you can come in here and beat the pants off of us because you’re big-shot major leaguers and we’re not?    Well, think again, you big bullies!  We’re gonna wipe the floor with you guys, and send you home like the wimpy little crybabies you are.  The Milwaukee Braves stiiiink!

Yes I was simply root-root-rooting for the home team.  But Holy Catfish!  Who was that kid!

And don’t get me started on the hockey Leafs.  It was like my physical and mental wellbeing were inextricably linked to the Mapleos’ current won-lost record.  Not quite as bad as “I lived and died with the Leafs” but a losing streak correlated inversely with my temperature.  The worse they did, the more it shot up.

When I moved here, my behavior was recognizably identical.  Except that instead of the Leafs, the other Leafs and Argos, it was now the Dodgers, the Lakers and the Rams (who subsequently departed for St. Louis, and are about to return.)

During the seventies, I grieved like a wolf whose baby cub had been eaten by coyotes – I have no idea if that’s anything – when a clearly superior Dodgers team was twice swaggered into submission by the despised New York Yankees.  A Rams wide receiver dropping an easy Super Bowl-winning catch in the end-zone broke my heart into tiny little pieces.

On the other hand, I exulted triumphantly when the Magic Johnson-spearheaded Lakers captured five NBA championships in the eighties, high-fiving strangers, attending series-determining “Game Six” back in 1982.

The record shows:  I had officially changed allegiances.

Goodbye, Toronto.   Hello, L.A.

Or so it appeared.

Last night, flipping around the channels, I came upon a playoff basketball game between the Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors.

I had never followed the Raptors; they were created after I was gone.  I knew the names of none of the players on this team.  (Or on any Raptors team.  Wait, Vince Carter.)  I had no idea if the team was good or they were terrible; it was the first round of the playoffs and sometimes, “not terrific” gets in.

Seeing the Raptors were down by 13 points in the Fourth Quarter, I indifferently channeled away.  Later, however, flipping around again – as is my habit, having watched virtually no commercials since the invention of the remote – I came back to the basketball game, and the Raptors were marginally ahead.

A close game is a close game; they are interesting to watch.  So that’s exactly what I did. 

In the final two minutes, it remained exceedingly tight.  Then, with time rapidly running out and the Raptors leading by three, a Pacers player threw up a desperation, game-tying “three-pointer”, and it went in.

What then followed was a mandatory review.  After watching the “replay”, the officials declared that the tying shot had been released mille-seconds after the final buzzer.  The Pacers tying basket was consequently waved off, making the Toronto Raptors the winners of the game.

Hearing that news, I leaped exultantly into the air.  

I was startlingly surprised.  I had no inkling whatsoever that I cared.


You can take the boy out of the hometown. 

But you can’t take hometown out of the boy. 

“Go Raptors Go!  Go Raptors Go!.... “

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"Left Or Right"

(* Not in any way political.) 

As a change of pace from my rest-of-the-week exercise regimen, Saturday mornings, weather permitting – and I mean who are we kidding it’s Los Angeles – I take a relaxed but aerobically steady walk at the beach.

I head down the four blocks from my house to the Walking Path paralleling the ocean (traversing the Bike and Skateboarding Path at my peril.)

Once there, I am immediately confronted with “The Question”:

Which way do I walk?

“That’s what this is about?  I direction?”

It makes a world the difference, impulsive Blue Words Italics Person.  That’s what this is about.

“Straight ahead” is not an option.  That’s “Norman Maine Country”, he said, referencing the suicidal actions of a lead character in A Star Is Born made in 1954 and later in 1976.  You’d walk straight into the ocean.  (George Costanza executed a similar maneuver, rescuing a whale from an implanted golf ball.)

I am thus left with two viable alternatives:

I can turn left. 

Or I can turn right.

Seemingly unpremeditated, Ocean Park Boulevard, the street I descend to arrive at the ocean is the unofficial “Dividing Line”.   Depending on which way you proceed – left or right – you enjoy two entirely different experiences. 

To say that one is “Light” and the other is “Darkness” is to engage in preferential judgment (as well as literary hyperbole.)  I am not here to make judgments.  (Although judgmental “seepage” is inevitable.)  I will simply describe the difference.

I turn left, and I walk down to Venice – well, not to Venice, that’s too far for me to walk – let’s say I walk down towards Venice.  And depending of my energy level that morning, it is either a long or abbreviated “towards.”   

What do I notice walking left?

I notice – my walk begins around seven-thirty in the morning – clusters of people already gathered on the beach path, who are already gathered on the beach path because, the night before – and numerous other nights as well – they have been sleeping at the beach. 

I pass oversized “Boom Boxes” – if they still call them that – tales of graphic sexual activities “hip-hopping” into my ears.

I notice beachfront emporia, like “The House Of Ink – Tattooing and Piercings.”  The name catches my attention because in Chicago, my late mother-in-law rented a building to a tattoo parlor with exactly the same name.  I am tempted to inquire if they have relocated to Los Angeles.  But they are not yet open, sparing me the need of an exiting explanation, the best I can currently think of being,

“I was just asking for directions.”

There are people talking to themselves,which we are used to these days, except that these guys don't have a phone.

It would be going too far to say there is a sense of danger going left.  (Although local authorities might disagree.  “He went left”, they might say with an explanatory shrug, indicating questionable judgment by a felonized pedestrian.) 

You might, however, equally accurately say turning left offers a sense of excitement and unexpected possibility.  Let me simply say, without fear of contradiction, that the experience of turning left is not at all the same as the experience of turning right.

Where I see:

Dads on roller skates, wearing headphones, pushing babies in strollers bondingly down the Walking Path.

Cohorts of “L.A. Marathon” preparers, running and blabbering, retirees trotting beside young females, certain they have a legitimate shot with them.  

The Santa Monica Pier Amusement Playland, its celebrated carousel (See: The Sting and Hannah Montana ­– The Movie, among other movies), just opening for business.

Wooden tables with painted chessboards adorning their surfaces, available free of charge to anyone interested in a casual game.  (See:  Harry and Tonto.)

A path-adjacent food stand, its overhead loudspeaker emiting soothing standards by Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney.

Are you noticing a difference?
Besides the disproportional police presence?

It’s remarkable.  North of Ocean Park Boulevard, south of Ocean Park Boulevard –two demonstrably different experiences.

Which one do I prefer?

Temperamentally – the right.  But I frequently tire of “mellow and predictable”, opting instead for “unscheduled excitement”.  Not too much excitement… but a little.  It’s human nature, I think.  Despite one’s temperamental preference or natural proclivity towards self-preservation…

You get bored following the same direction, feeling a subliminal craving for the other.

I’m just happy there’s two of them.  I would hate to face a Tapioca Terrain no matter which way I turned.  On the other hand, if both directions mirrored the left one…

I would probably walk someplace else.

(Note:  I was going to include the new song the invisible Mariachi band at the ocean surprised me with on my last visit but I shall save it for next time.  How’s that for a reason to return?)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


I understand this phenomenon also happens out of the spotlight.  And under inarguably more serious circumstances:

– A surgeon returns a life from the brink of extinction.

– A teacher reaches a diffident student with immeasurable potential.

– A psychologist helps a patient see the destructive pattern of behavior that is making them miserable.

The difference is, I was not present when those happened.

O.R. NURSE:  “Who let you in here?”

EARLY P:   “Sorry.  I was just watching.”

But I did witness the following:

Sporting events featuring unbelievable human accomplishments.

All of them occurring in the past few weeks.  (The “lifetime” list is considerably longer.)

Explaining the primary reason I enjoy watching sports:

Human beings, just like me, only with muscles, elite training and reflexes, rising to the occasion and accomplishing the impossible.

And the fans get to see it at the very moment it’s happening.

Taken from the past three weeks, or so.  And when you’re reading this, remember:

This was people who did that.

THE 2016 NCAA Basketball Men’s Championship

With 4.7 seconds remaining, after seeing the North Carolina Tar Heels tie the game on a desperation three-point basket, the Villanova Wildcats answer with a three-pointer of their own, winning the championship with no time remaining on the clock.


Now, demonstrating that these things work in either direction…


Leading by four strokes going into the fourth and final round, and extending that lead to five shots after the first ten holes, 22 year-old Jordan Spieth, who had captured the 2015 Masters and had led in every round throughout that year and this one, fell completely to pieces over the last eight holes, handing tournament victory to Danny Willett.


(Willett’s brother “tweeted” that if Danny won, he could brag that he once shared a bath with a Masters champion.  Another “wow”, but with a lower case “w.”)



There was Hall of Famer Ted Williams, slamming a home run on his final at-bat before retiring.

There was Hall of Famer Cal Ripkin, cracking a home run during his final appearance in the All-Star game before retiring.

There was future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, driving in the game’s winning run on his final at-bat as a player.

But nothing – and I mean nothing – compared to the Lakers Kobe Bryant, finishing his career with an inconceivable sixty-point performance during the last game he will ever play. 

I don’t even like Kobe Bryant – he was a Michael Jordan-level “ball hog” – Earlo Pomerantz slamming two basketball immortals in a single sentence.  And yet, as the game concluded, there I was.  On my feet.  My arms flung triumphantly in the air.  An emotional tug catching genuinely in my throat.

A person had done that. 

A person, recently stricken by two easily career-ending injuries, had captured the moment, overcome his infirmities and had willed himself to “go out” on his own terms, in a glorious blaze of unparalleled spectacularness.  (Not via a single, albeit magnificent, hit or home run, but through forty-two minutes of grueling indomitability.) 

And we all saw it happen.  (Not the most significant detail, but for nothing.)   

This is going to get weird in a second.  But it will be over before you know it.

When I imagine my “End of Days” – and doesn’t everybody? – I think about, even under tenuous circumstances, what I might possibly want to stick around for. 

My family?  Sure.  That’s a “no brainer.”  Toss in a couple of good friends as well.  But also in the mix is a wish to be present for one more improbable finish, one more unforgettable performance. 

The Leafs winning the Stanley Cup comes to mind.

I’d like to be there when that happens.

I know that – “Big Picture” – watching sports is comparatively meaningless.

But tell me,

What else “meaningless” can give us a “Wow!”