The Golden Era of Law & Order

law & orderFor a couple of holiday seasons now, the one Christmas gift I’ve been wishing someone in my extended household would get me (but hasn’t yet) is the complete DVD compilation of Law & Order, the original franchise series.

Besides tying Gunsmoke for the record, longest-running TV series of all time, I think it is noteworthy because it was the perfectly-crafted, INTJ-targeted television show.

But, if I couldn’t have the whole series on DVD, then I’d have to pick the sequence of years when Jerry Orbach (detective Lennie Briscoe) was paired, first with Benjamin Bratt (det. Ray Curtis) and then with Jesse L. Martin (det. Ed Green).

I consider those the “Golden Years” of Law & Order.

Orbach, who was an accomplished theater performer and movie actor before he had a second career with Law & Order on TV, is the image of a committed-but-caring, wise-cracking-but-serious-about-getting-the-bad-guys, New York City detective – even if his portrayal bordered on farcical at times.

But, it is just that farce that helps make the show so weirdly enjoyable, for me.

Let me give you three brief scenes.

Nearly every show started with the initial crime, breaking for commercial just after the detectives briefly arrive on scene.  Invariably, Lennie would crack a wise one.

First scene, case in point:

Lennie’s partner, referring to a dead woman found in a hospital clinic: “She comes in for a biopsy and manages to get killed.”

Lennie: “I guess that’s why they call it managed care.”

ME lnoSecond scene:

A frequent foil for Lennie and his partners was the medical examiner Elizabeth Rodgers (wickedly, expertly played by Leslie Hendrix).  Here’s one of their exchanges.

They are talking in the medical examiner’s lab, nearby a victim on which the ME has been performing an autopsy.  The wall phone rings and the ME answers it and listens.  Then:

Med examiner: “Phone for you, detective.”

Detective, as he reaches for the phone and then suddenly pulls his hand back: “Is that brains?”

ME, pausing as she looks at her hand and then the phone that she’s still holding: “Egg salad, I think…”

Detective: “I’ll use the other phone.”

Finally, third scene – one of my all-time classics, with the dialog speed of a 30 Rock scene, again in the ME’s lab:

Lennie: “When can we get the final report, doc?”

ME: “Look, I’m busy. I got a body in the next room waiting to have a javelin removed from the chest.”

Lennie, dryly: “So… what made a nice girl like you get into this line of work?”

ME: “Free javelins.”

I know, I know – you probably saw that one coming.

In fact, I have no doubt that the appeal of the show was that most viewers thrived on that “I see it coming” element of the Law & Order plots.  A formula show, yes – the ultimate one, given its longevity and the fact that it still lives on, with differently titles variants, like Criminal Intent and Special Victims Unit.

There’s always next Christmas.

The Singularity Is Near

I read a lot of books. In fact, it’s hard for me to believe sometimes that the average American reads fewer than 3 books per year, according to at least one recent fuzzy math tally

Because if that number is true, then there must be at least two dozen of my fellow citizens who aren’t reading a single book to get to the average when I’m added in.

I read so much, in fact, that about 7-8 years ago, I found I was spending way too much on Amazon to possess books that 9 times out of 10 might have been modestly entertaining or informative, but not really worthy of keeping. So I shifted my habit and began to patronize the local library, which only further fed my reading diversity.

Thus, now when I turn to Amazon, it’s only to purchase a book that I can’t seem to find in a local library or it’s to purchase a book that I’ve read that has made a large enough impression to be one that I know I’ll want to return to many times.

One such book I read this summer that I recommend is The Singularity is Near, by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil. (That’s Ray, on the left, with Peter Diamandis, another pretty interesting gent.)

It made such an impression, that – looking back to my posts this year – I’m surprised I haven’t mentioned it yet.  Because the book speaks to many topics that are very aligned with my personal instincts and interests regarding the future impact of technology on humanity.

What is the singularity? In Kurzweil’s words in the opening chapter, the singularity is a “future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed.”

Then, for the next 100 pages of the book, as if he were a defendant’s worst nightmare, Kurzweil walks you through the case for the singularity, with a systematic, step-by-step analysis of important societal and technological trends that is compelling and persuasive.

When do we reach the singularity? Kurzweil’s conclusion:

“I set the date for the singularity – representing a profound and disruptive transformation in human capability – as 2045. The non-biological intelligence created in that year will be one billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today.”

Wow.

Of course, on the other hand, balancing out Kurzweil’s analysis, you’ve got a great deal of de facto evidence to validate the claim – and I include myself, when I say this – that people are stupid and that we will never allow such a future to be manifested, no matter how positive the benefits may be.

Let’s call that version of the future “the Dilbertarity,” with its chief propagandist being Scott Adams, whether he would accept the claim or not.

In any event, I urge you to check out The Singularity is Near from your local library.  Or, if you want to get a taste of some of the topics, browse the Singularity Hub.

And, if you count yourself as a skeptic, then do yourself a favor and start with Chapter Nine of the book, “A Response to Critics,” which you can think of as Kurzweil’s closing argument. Every bit as a convincing as the final comments from McCoy in an episode of Law & Order, where you know the bad guy is going to jail.