As this is my last column of 2014, I hope you’ll indulge my venting about my pet peeves that have only gotten worse in 2013. (A peeve for a pet? That’s a few notches below a hamster.)

Recently I was watching on YouTube a powerful scene of Meryl Streep’s from “Sophie’s Choice,” a 1982 film starring Streep as Sophie Zawistowski. It was based on the novel by William Styron. (And no, this isn’t one of my peeves but I’m getting to them. “Peeve” is such a funny word when you think about it.)

In the story, upon her arrival at Auschwitz, Sophie is forced to choose which of her two children will be gassed and which will proceed to the labor camp. Styron’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book was based on his brief rendezvous in 1947 with Sophie, a survivor of Auschwitz.

In my modern-day “Selfie’s Choice,” Amber is forced to choose which of her two bikini selfies she should post on Instagram. (Do you think an “Amber” will ever be nominated to the Supreme Court?)

Okay, maybe Amber’s choice doesn’t yield the heart-wrenching impact of Sophie’s but perhaps the stunning shallowness comes from the times in which we live. Then again, maybe as a culture we just love shallow. Can you say TMZ?

It’s said that the worst of times often produce the greatest humanity. (Actually I just made that up.) Adolph Hitler was one of the biggest monsters in history. As comedian Ricky Gervais points out, he also ruined the name Adolph. In schools all around the world there’s Justin’s and Jason’s, Fritz’s and Frederic’s but no Adolph’s. (Who do you know named Adolph?)

Hitler and the fascists caused untold destruction and loss of life. And yet great art, film and literature came from it. (Go to YouTube and type “Sophie’s Choice,” to see Meryl Streep’s flashback scene, in a movie which earned her a Best Actress Oscar.)

I would think that what we’re going through now are pretty horrible times: Iraq and Afghanistan, Isis’ beheadings, the Taliban slaughtering 145 students and teachers in Pakistan, and endless bloodletting in Gaza. As Mark Twain commented, “Man is the only animal that goes forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his own kind.” (If he lived now, Twain would have a field day!)

If the sorry state of humanity is pet peeve #1, #2 is considerably less significant but annoying nonetheless. It’s these inane selfies people send to one another with extraordinary urgency. Even the word “selfie,” could it be any more narcissistic? Narcissism is fast becoming a national epidemic that we’ve helped send viral around the world.

Even President Obama has a penchant for selfies. A little more than a year ago, he posed for one with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Britain’s PM David Cameron at Nelson Mandela’s funeral no less! (Michelle had the good sense to glare menacingly at them all.)

Next on my pet peeve list are people who drive and text. I’m against capital punishment, but for texting-drivers I might be open to change. I’ve often been in the crosswalk, or should I say in the cross-hairs, while some fool is texting as he/she drives a 4000 pound car right at me.

The text/driving habit is so pervasive gruesome public service announcements on TV, with carnage seemingly from a Tarantino movie, beg people not to text and drive. And yet there’s more than ever. I swear, every time I set foot in a crosswalk texting drivers appear out of nowhere like in a B-horror movie.

Not to sound like the late grammarian Edwin Newman, but another pet peeve is the deterioration of the English language, including spelling and even penmanship. Who ever writes longhand anymore? Check your handwriting, you may have forgotten how.

Because of the two T’s, texting and Twitter, everything is abbreviated to 140 characters. When I was in grade school my late father used to joke at the dinner table, “F-u-n-e-x?” (For “Have you any eggs?”) He thought it was hysterical. I thought it was corny. Now it’s cyber speak.

My last pet peeve is the inexplicable and growing lack of civility in our culture. For example, in our recent City Council campaign our sitting Mayor, Pam O’Connor, was booed at candidate forums. It was unseemly. As for me, from time to time I get angry reader emails that begin, “Hey, Jerk.” Not even “Dear Jerk.”

Okay, I’m done venting. (For 2014, that is.) I’ll end with a hopefully uplifting holiday wish… “F-a-gr8- nu-yrs!” (At least my dad might have thought it was funny.)

 

If he isn’t too busy kvetching about his pet peeves, Jack is atfacebook.com/jackneworth,twitter.com/jackneworthorjnsmdp@aol.com.

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