Tag Archives: ron olsen

Benedict Cumberbatch, Ted Cruz And Richard III


They ran the DNA, and it appears actor Benedict Cumberbatch is related to England’s King Richard III.   He’s his second cousin sixteen times removed.    Not exactly a close relation, but a relation nonetheless, in a nation where a lot of people are distant relatives of the King, who, it seems, really got around.  This news about the latest and one of the best (I think) actors ever to portray Sherlock Holmes, isn’t earth shattering, but it’s more interesting than most of what’s out there this morning, what with the debatable personage of Ted Cruz taking up so much space and airtime.

“Out, out, brief candle!”  Please!

I know King Richard pre-dated Shakespeare by more than one-hundred years, but the Bard did write a play about the King,  and the Macbeth quote worked, so I dropped it in.  There is also the possibility, considering Richard’s sexual proclivity, with as many as three illegitimate kids and maybe more,  that Bill Shakespeare and Benedict Cumberbatch might just be related.    Fifteen or sixteen times removed, but related.   Come to think of it,  any of us with British heritage might be related to the late, great, Richard.

The other missive I found to be of interest in the morning papers has to do with Robert Durst, who once lived in Middlebury Vermont, where he owned a health food store not far from my sister’s farm.    Middlebury,  was also the location for the real Inn on the “Newhart” show.    Durst, who is a suspect in the murder of a woman here in Los Angeles in 2000 and is being investigated in connection with the disappearance of his wife ,  is also now under investigation in connection with another missing person,  a Vermont college student in 1971 .   None of which has anything to do with Benedict Cumberbatch, except that the great Sherlock Holmes, might be of some assistance in the ongoing case of Robert Durst, which only seems to expand with time.

I began this rambling, rickety train of thought with Cumberbatch, and his distant relationship to Richard III, because it triggered an idea.   That being, the thought of how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.   The thought of the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages and then finally,  thank God, being dragged screaming from our slimy ignorance into the Reformation, by a relative few thinking people who dared challenge the established power structures, not the least of which were the church and the various governments, like the one led by Cumberbatch’s distant kin, King Richard.

The crux of the idea,  has to do with our view of how backward and unnecessarily cruel humanity was four or five hundred years ago, and how backward and unnecessarily cruel our contemporary society will appear to those who succeed us, four or five hundred years in the future.

If we can look back, tracking history and all the same mistakes we continue to repeat ad nauseam, and if we can look forward, imagining the future, why then do we have to wait for it to develop through analogue time?  Why can’t we get beyond our current mindset of letting things develop as they will, and speed up the process?  Can’t we do that?   Can’t we put concept cars on the production line now?

No we can’t.   Too many really stupid people are in the way.   Fear and ignorance continues to throw up roadblocks to progress now,  just as the blindness of the church and the lust for power of the established order blocked Leonardo, and other great thinkers of the past.

Cutting public education is not the least of the many boneheaded moves currently being undertaken by fear possessed and power mad politicians on the far right.

Since education has clearly benefited our species to such a large degree, why is it being made more difficult to obtain here in the U.S.?   When did being progressive, become a bad thing?   Why are some afraid of progress?  Would they have us moving backwards, all the way to the ignorant, disease-ridden days of Richard III?

Imagine life without antibiotics, safe drinking water and exit polls.

There are those who are attempting to get beyond our silly 7/24 cycle of immediate gratification.    Our inability to take a longer view of things.   There is, for example,  “The Long Now Foundation,” up in San Francisco.   According to their website,  the foundation was established in 1996,  “to creatively foster long-term thinking and responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.” 

Pretty heavy, huh?   It’s also a sane alternative for contemporary humanoids who grow weary of our species current childish desires in comparison to the glorious possibilities of the future.

It’s limitless, probably, until eventually we meet ourselves trying to find us,  moving back in the opposite direction, after conquering time and space, causing a kind of H.G. Wells time machine regression to the 14-hundreds forcing us to start all over again with Richard III.

Which might explain Ted Cruz.

On The Netanyahu Win In Israel


My old friend Michael Muskal at the LA Times posted some interesting thoughts on Facebook today,  writing,  “A tough day for the Obama administration as it looks at U.S. Mideast policy after Netanyahu’s strong showing. U.S. policy has three legs: An agreement with Iran to halt nuclear development for a time; leading international efforts to stop, then roll back, ISIS; and solving Israel-Palestinian conflict with two states. It is unclear if any of those goals can be achieved, and if they can, certainly not in the way the Obama administration had hoped.”

He may be right.   I wrote the following response.   After seeing it, I felt it to be blog-worthy.    Here it is-

“What concerns me the most is that fear and not courage has become the great motivator in both Israel and the U.S., with the hard-right driving the charge for fear-based warfare promulgated by both countries and the concurrent death of any reasonable belief in diplomacy as a solution by much of the general populace.”

It feels like  the United States and Israel hold the keys to peace or continued warfare in the Middle East, but where are the peacemakers?    Will fear control and possibly destroy us?

Thoughts On The Israeli Election


Watching the “neck and neck” returns come in from Israel, and a couple of things occurred to me.   One, is how terribly fractured the Israelis are between their right and left, not unlike the United States, what with Bibi Cheney and all.

The other thought was how simple this all should be.   In politics, as with the weather, extremes can be deadly.  Moderate weather is far more favorable to the human condition.

Chauncey Gardner was right.  It should be so simple.

What Happened To The Measles?


What happened to the measles threat that was going to sweep across the nation destroying every innocent child in its path? How could something so terrifying be replaced by Hillary Clinton’s email?    Or more recently, Jeb Bush’s email while he was governor of Florida?

This email thing is big.   Must be, considering all the time the media is giving it.

Isn’t the NSA snooping on everything everybody sends out into cyberspace anyway?   Do Hillary and Jeb know they are being monitored by government bureaucrats with bloodshot eyes sitting in corporate cubicles somewhere in Hawaii?    Didn’t they hear about Edward Snowden and Wikileaks?

Personal freedom be damned, they are watching you and keeping copies of everything you send via electronic communication.

It was never supposed to come to this, not in the United States.   We were supposed to be immune to Big Brother.  What the hell happened?

Fear.   That’s what.  The measles.

It’s not that there are no real issues out there.  What about the Ukraine, for God’s sake?   Are we marching towards war with another nuclear armed power?   Is Israel dictating terms to our Congress?   Is representative democracy really dead in America?   Have they really set aside due process on American soil?  Do the Koch  Brothers own us?  Where will California get its water in 2016, and what impact will that have on the country, since the United States gets so much of its produce (81% of its broccoli)  from sunny Cal?    Is Wall Street headed for another crash with the potential for bankrupting world markets?   Will we all end up out on the street begging for a handout to buy a burger and fries from the last thriving business in America,  your local burger restaurant,  here in the junk food capitol of the world?   And while we’re stuffing our faces with fries and washing them down with a giant cup of carbonated sugar water, why do you think so many American kids are suffering from obesity and diabetes?   Do you suppose it has anything to do with the American diet and a lack of exercise?

Oh, but wait.   Forget  about all of that.   We have the measles to worry about.   Or we did, until suddenly it became a non-issue.

I would have said it was “just the measles,” but the news media and some doctors were acting like it was another polio epidemic about to tear across the country, ravaging classrooms and threatening adults who had never been exposed.

Anybody who didn’t buy into the fear factor the media was pushing would probably have received a dressing-down designed to make you feel like an idiot.   Something along the lines of, “Just the measles?   Are you out of your mind!!   Aren’t you listening to what they’re saying on tv?!!  You could go blind!” 

And yet, it is now suddenly gone, and nobody is saying a word.  Like the Bird Flu, terrorist induced smallpox and Y2K.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, between January 1 and March the 13th of this year, 176 Americans contracted the measles.   176 cases in a country with a population of about 320-million.

This lack of perspective about what really matters, will continue so long as fear sells.   Beyond that, when everything is treated like a crisis  we lose the ability to separate out something that may not be all that important from issues that deserve our attention.    And that dear friends, is something to be concerned about because it will not go away with the next 7/24 news cycle on cable tv –  providing a wonderful diversion for Big Brother who will be watching  your every move and listening to your every word.

Netanyahu: The New Elephant In The Middle Of The Room


And so, in their latest stunt to give a huge middle finger to the President of the United States,  John Boehner and his extremist Republicans have invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of the Congress – with no prior consultation with the White House – thereby ignoring protocol and possibly undermining America’s image abroad, including the Administration’s ongoing efforts to cut a deal on nuclear power development with Iran.

This current bunch of Republicans have repeatedly appeared racist and self-centered, consistently putting their party above the nation’s best interest.   They will say anything and apparently do almost anything to advance their party’s interest and the interests of their wealthy benefactors.

As political satirist Bill Maher has pointed out, there are those who just can’t handle the fact that there’s a black man in the White House.

The unspoken impact of race remains the elephant in the middle of the room with regard to the Republican Party’s refusal to establish anything resembling a reasonable relationship with this current president.   Their ongoing intransigence and hateful reactionism represent a slander against both Mr. Obama, and the Office of the President of the United States.

I was recently reminded by a former colleague that in foreign affairs the nation must, out of necessity, speak with one voice.   And that one voice is the President of the United States.   Not the Speaker of the House of Representatives, unless the Speaker wishes to undermine the proper functioning of the Republic, possibly touching upon sedition.

The Speaker was elected to represent his district.   The President, as America’s  only nationally elected official, represents all the American people.  Mr. Netanyahu, may not know this.    When America speaks with one voice, that one voice comes from the President.

It is sad that an elected leader of the Israeli people has seen fit to join the out of control John Boehner and his Obama-hating colleagues in this most recent staged event, particularly with elections approaching in Israel.    Netanyahu’s ongoing desire for the United States to become militarily entangled with Iran is transparent, as is his apparent belief that upstaging a sitting President of the United States will help to maintain his power base at home, which is where he should have stayed.

One can only hope sensibility will prevail and that most in the House and Senate will boycott Netanyahu’s inappropriate appearance, although you can be sure most Republicans will be there cheering him on, using him as a political stooge in their continuing effort to defame the Obama White House and undercut President Obama’s ability to avoid a potential war by reaching a deal on nuclear power with Iran.

John McCain’s refrain of “Bomb, bomb.bomb….bomb, bomb Iran,” continues to resonate.   He and Bibi Netanyahu are undoubtedly of one mind on the subject.

This entire misguided affair is simply sad, for both the United States and for Israel, and is one more indicator of how unreasonable and broken our politics have become.

One wonders if Mr. Obama will now be invited to address the Knesset.

Goodbye, Mr. Spock


I’m not sure exactly why I feel so bad about Leonard Nimoy’s death, but I do.   Writing is one way to get rid of these feelings, some of them anyway, so here I am on my laptop.   Hope it works.

I met Nimoy only twice, once during a benefit at the Rape Crisis Center in Santa Monica, for an interview way back in the early 80’s.  The second time was on the lot at my former employer, KTLA-TV in Hollywood.

It was my custom when arriving at work to begin a daily process of excessively high caffeination, so my first stop would be the coffee urn on Stage 8.    On this particular day, I went through the doors and into the foyer between stages 7 and 8, and there, all alone, stood Mr. Spock.   That is to say, Leonard Nimoy.  I stared at him.  He looked back at me.  I thought he was taller than he actually was which had no bearing on anything as I introduced myself and asked if he wanted a cup of coffee.   He assured me he did not and said he was waiting for someone, so I went into the studio for my caffeine fix.

When I came back out, he was still there.   It felt so strange, seeing him standing there all alone that I felt compelled to again ask if there was anything I could get him.   Did he want me to show him where the vending machines were?   Was he sure he didn’t want a cup of coffee?   “No, I’m fine” he assured me once again.

I left feeling it was one of the strangest encounters of my professional life, if only because I so rarely bumped into a Vulcan on the lot at KTLA.   At least, that’s how it felt, as I had been following Spock, since the very first airing of the original “Star Trek” in the fall of 1966.

I had just started my Freshman year in college when “Star Trek” went on the air in September of 1966.   There were two tv viewing rooms in the dorm, one for men and another for women.   That’s the way it was in 66.  They were full to overflowing for two tv shows each week.    One was “The Monkees.”   The other was “Star Trek.”   So I guess I was an original “Trekkie,” although I lost interest in the series in my next year of college and didn’t really get back on board the Enterprise until getting hooked on the movie series and then the reruns of”Star Trek The Next Generation.”

I think that I, and so many others, were drawn to the original series because it had so much going for it.   Good stories, mini-morality plays really, great characters well acted and futurism, something that probably has always been a draw for young people.   Boy did the network that cancelled that original Star Trek series (NBC) blow it big time, walking away from a key demographic like that.  But walk away they did and now Spock, Bones  and Scotty are all dead and gone and so far,  writing about it hasn’t made me feel one bit better.

It has though,  forced me to remember another chance encounter, this one with DeForest Kelley while waiting in line to by movie tickets here in the San Fernando Valley.   For no particular reason I turned around and there was “Bones” looking back at me.   This is Los Angeles, these things sometimes happen,  and it’s my policy not to pester celebrities.   However, bumping into Kelley like that left me feeling almost as strange as my encounter with Spock.

For those of us who came of age in the 60’s, the passing of Scotty, Bones and now the powerful character of Spock, is undoubtedly a reminder of our mortality.  But they did at least leave us with their stories, our memories linked both to the series and its place in time and space and a vision for something better than we currently have.   A more elevated version of humanity.   Not something to be overlooked.

Thank you, Mr. Spock.   And goodbye Mr. Nimoy.    Thanks for reminding us that logic plays a necessary role in the human condition.

Okay, now I feel better.

Poem – “One True Belief”


One True Belief
by Ron Olsen

Our struggle is meaningless
For those who truly believe
In their one version of the truth

The New Testament’s revenge
A pipeline’s purpose
Fuels a climate change denier’s anger
Crying out for more and not less
Of that which hastens our demise
As they wait for evil to blanket the world

They know it’s sure to happen
It’s a certain thing
For those who truly believe
In their one version of the truth

For centuries running
They have seen the end coming
It’s just over there
Almost in sight now
With absolute certainty
That they are right
Once again

Even though they’ve been wrong before
Every time
Time and again
And then time again

They’ve even set dates
Only to be wrong
And still they believe
In myth over metaphor
Interpretation over fact
Having more impact
On government and culture
Than any of us knows

Creating the certainty
That only self-fulfilling prophecy
Can deliver to the collective mindset
As the approach of Armageddon
Makes caring meaningless
To those who truly believe

Making us
Our struggle childish futility
In their eyes
Even while we hold the keys to salvation
For those who dare admit
That we might succeed
At pulling ourselves from the fire

For those with the courage to believe
That we might not be irrelevant after all
That we might be our only best hope

Even as God whispers in the ear
Of some enlightened fool
Who, after a pint of his favorite brew
Sets yet another date
For the rest of us to burn in hell
And demands that his local congressman
Must do the same

© 2015 Ron Olsen/all rights reserved