A few observations from a columnist who, despite summer having officially begun just this past week, might have been out in the sun too long:
• We live in an overly fearful society in which many would gladly give up some freedom for some security, ignoring Benjamin Franklin’s famous warning that taking that to extremes means we would all be deserving of neither liberty nor security.
And so we read stories like one last month about the 8-year-old boy from Maryland who bit a breakfast pastry into an “L” shape and pointed it like a gun, and was suspended from school under another zero-tolerance policy gone awry.
But we also read about incidents with the potential to cause legitimate fear for our safety: The case of a filmmaker who made a video last summer that features his young relative dressed in a sheet and with a scarf around his head, pointing a fake grenade launcher at traffic near a northwest Phoenix intersection. Michael David Turley, 40, was found guilty of endangerment and knowingly giving a false impression.
According to the Associated Press report in last week’s Tribune, Turley’s defense included his assertion that he was testing the response time of police. There are other ways to do that, of course — public records can show police response times to most calls for service — that might not endanger a person so attired.
Evidence at trial, the AP reported, included that some motorists found the portrayal amusing while others expressed more than slight discomfiture and called 911. It’s a good thing that some driver didn’t try to run over an otherwise harmless person in a sheet whom he could have suspected was some sort of weapon-wielding nut. This was a theory the prosecution argued, according to the AP story.
Several years ago the Tribune reported about a group of high school film students from Scottsdale who were shooting video footage of a realistic-enough-looking scene in a local parking garage. The fake carjacking of a Jaguar convertible by actors with paint-pellet guns got the attention of a passing motorist who didn’t notice the cameras rolling, I suppose — or maybe who thought that modern-day crooks like to make home video of themselves — and called police, who showed up in force.
Luckily, in this 2006 incident the cops were able to figure out fast that it was indeed a movie, not a carjacking, going on. But the danger involved when police officers — or heroic civilians — respond to what they think is a desperate situation with deadly force is what makes these kinds of things unadvisable.
• Funds are being raised for a sculpture of the late “Family Circus” cartoonist Bil Keane, who lived in Paradise Valley, where donors would like the sculpture to be displayed… maybe, according to The Arizona Republic.
Town officials told the newspaper they were suggesting sites outside its cluster of municipal buildings, but the story said donors would like to see the statue placed where children could enjoy it, such as a public park.
Trouble is, Paradise Valley has no parks. Other than the Barry Goldwater memorial on about an acre at Tatum Boulevard and Lincoln Drive, there’s no public spot to sit under a tree and feed the, um, lizards other than at Town Hall. You can imagine your own reasons why the generally quite wealthy folks who live in PV didn’t want to zone land for parks.
Anyway, the Republic reported, donors are looking at a Scottsdale park just east of Paradise Valley where the town has made donations in the past, McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park (the town paid for the tunnel the park’s small-gauge trains travel through).
Paradise Valley doesn’t have a convenience store, either. Apparently nobody there ever runs out of milk or pines for a bag of nacho-flavored corn chips at 2 a.m.
• Recently one chain of automobile dealerships with locations in the Valley absorbed another. And to cement the name of the new chain into local consumers’ heads, the new combined chain has been given to running the same commercials made popular by the absorbed chain featuring a parody of the lyrics to the theme from the 1984 classic sci-fi comedy, “Ghostbusters.”
You know the one. The answer to “Who ya gonna call?”, which in the film was, “Ghostbusters!”, a three-syllable word, is now the name of the new chain, which unfortunately has a four-syllable name, forcing the ad’s singers to sing two syllables on one musical note.
Picky? Yes. But this is one of my favorite songs, and yes, this is driving me nuts. And now, so is that commercial. It feels as though it’s on every channel, and although I never thought I’d ever say it, I’m tired of hearing the theme from “Ghostbusters.”
Read Tribune contributing columnist Mark J. Scarp’s opinions here each weekend. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.