Monday, December 11, 2017


The "Hawaii 5-0" core team

Though I generally nightly watch an episode of “Hawaii 5-0”, I’m never tempted to marathon it.  The attractions are the long sweeps of scenery, esp. the night time-lapses of city lights up high (an established trope for crime shows), and the energy of what goes on. Two things are wearing: one is the bickering in the car between the two main “bruhs” which isn’t always that clever, and the constant justification of force, outside the law strategies, and the arrest trope: “down on the ground, hands on head, etc.”  My fav characters are Kono and Chin and also the Irish actor Terry O’Quinn’s bald, tough and well-aged archetypal secret agent.

But then reality intruded.  I watched the cop’s body camera tape just put on YouTube of yet another shooting.  The victim’s name was Daniel Shaver and this is a link to the tape.

Some commentators note that the still photo of the cop, named Philip Brailsford, is often cropped to leave out his sleeve tattoos.  This website notes that Brailsford has been fired and that he wanted to be an actor but had no credits.  There was no comment about mixing reality with movies.  (Harrison Ford had to inform Trump that “Star Wars” was just a movie.  Of course, Ford himself did a little mixing of movies and reality when he romanced Carrie Fisher.)  But not even sitting astride a motorcycle in a black leather jacket could make Brailsford look like anything but a high school kid.  In the end I suspect the jury thought he was too stupid to convict.

The stories do not include that Brailsford was part of a SWAT team sent to arrest a man who had been aiming a rifle with a scope out of a high motel window.  He was playing a tape of Las Vegas in his head.  There were other officers present in the hallway, one looking more mature and less gripped by a head-script, but they underestimated Brailsford’s lack of reality.  They didn’t realized he was hypnotized.  Presumably, otherwise they would have intervened.

None of them knew that the victim’s rifle was a pellet gun that Shaver, an exterminator by trade, used to shoot birds that had invaded stores, warehouses, and shopping centers.  You’ve seen and heard them.  I don’t know why traps don’t work.  Playing sniper is more fun.  

Plainly, Shaver had the same Vegas head-script running in his head — until he was on the hall carpet with the bird-end of a rifle aimed at him.  It’s a trope played over and over:  “Down on your knees, hands behind your head, if you disobey I will shoot you.”  Brailsford knows his lines, but he can’t get past them.  So he repeats, the way “takes” for a script are repeatedly “shot” to get it right.  At least they removed the woman.

To keep the scene from sticking in my own head — it will be on “Hawaii 5-0” again tonight anyway because it's stuck in the screen-writer's heads — I went to the other extreme of the assortment of contexts I carry in my own head:  a Unitarian Sunday Morning church service where a writer named Doug Muher (“The Weekly Sift" is his blog.  He’s always reasonable, clear, and irreproachable.  I will not reproach him for that.

His sermon at First Parish Bedford, MA on 11-26-I7 is on video.   The congregation has always reflected its times, but the congregations I served were at the “founding” end of the archetype.  What I want to point out is the context, familiar to me, once intended to be my lifelong commitment.  

“In her new book “A Meeting House & its People; the Story of the First Parish in Bedford”, author and historian, Sharon Lawrence McDonald, tells about a group of people living in the area now known as Bedford, Massachusetts who grew tired of these Sunday trips [to distant Concord] and decided to do something about this burden."  [It was 1729.]

“They petitioned the Great and General Court of Massachusetts asking to become a separate town from Concord . . . Writing,“Behold what a weariness is it”, they expressed their need to build their own house of worship.  . . “The Court required that the new town establish a school, build a house of worship, and hire “a learned and orthodox minister of good conversation”.”  (Meaning a good preacher in good standing.)

The congregation is not big, nor flashy.  The people sit in box pews which once required subscriptions.  The people are white, many with white heads.  Piano rather than organ accompanies the usual hymns.  There is no choir and the UUA chalice flame is a little glitchy.  Muher speaks from a text on an electronic tablet.  He is a balanced, multi-syllabic speaker who refers to Descartes to stand for rational belief and James to stand for emotional belief (love).  It would be fair to classify this as Christian apologetics.

It’s interesting that he speaks of “three marbles”  I’m not sure he’s familiar with the concept of “subtilizing.”  It’s a third way of understanding how we “know” things to the point of elevating them to Truth.  The idea is that if you show an infant a few of something like marbles, then add another or take away one, it will register with the baby as a brain signal proving it was grasped, even though no infant can count.  The limitation is that once a certain number of objects is reached, they’re just “many.”  That’s true of adults as well.

What I’m saying is that the human brain comes pre-wired with some “truths” and unless there’s something wrong with their perceptions (seeing double?), almost all people will agree on them.  (Are you “subtilizing” God?  What about Truth?”  Not.)

This is not the same as the reasoned-out basis of one kind of truth (the Rule of Law), nor is it the truth of emotional response to some human situation.  We would so like that latter to be “love” but it is just as likely to be hate, so as a guide to truth, it’s useless.

To me, the most interesting thing Muher said was a reference to “Percy,” whom I do not know — am not even sure how to spell.  But that person reported that a Buddhist would not say, “I think: therefore I am,” but rather would say “thinking is happening.

In spite of Asian characters on “Hawaii 5-0” and occasional mention of traditional island concepts, the nature of Asian culture in Hawaii is mostly represented by a shrimp fast food truck.  Until I began to research this post, I didn’t know that the Asian actors (Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park) were paid less than the “white” actors and have quit because of it.  The opportunities for new scripts challenging justice would be enormous.  I would have loved to have seen a show in which a Buddhist asks the SWAT team in the hallway,  “Is thinking happening here?”  Meaning the kind of thinking that leads to justice.  (Like equal pay for lesser ethnics?)  I think I’ll skip out on “Hawaii 5-0.2”.  Might Kim and Park find "Hawaii 5-0.3", with a Hawaiian script crew?

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