Sunday, July 15, 2012

Physicists Gone Wild

AUSTIN, TX -- Thousands of theoretical physicists celebrating the confirmation of the Higgs Boson, spilled into the streets last night. The rejoicing, dancing of jigs, and telling of ironic stories soon turned to violence. Disagreements over credit for the original theory and the implications of the discovery, heated, then erupted into fist fights, scratching, and pulling of hair. Several incidents of biting were reported, but no serious injuries resulted.
One physicist, his pocket protector hanging loose having been torn from his shirt in a skirmish, blamed the violence on “outside agitators”. A group of engineers calling themselves IFMB (Invisible Force, My Butt) staged a counter demonstration. Some witnesses report hearing taunts such as, “Where’s the practical application, math boy?” shortly before the violence escalated.
There is an uneasy quiet in the streets of Austin tonight. Police say they’re planning ahead for the announcement of the Nobel Prize in Physics which has the potential to spawn additional emotionally charged demonstrations. Austin Chief of Police, Art Acevedo, said, “We’ve always had a good sized community of theoretical physicist here in Austin, and they generally blend into the fabric of normal society. They are by nature an emotional bunch and things like this are bound to happen from time to time.”

Hey, That's Not Funny!

Hey, That's Not Funny!

We live in the age of Edgy Comedy. Or, more accurately, we live in the age where comedians want to be perceived as Edgy. To be Edgy, you have to toe that line -- and sometimes you're going to cross that line. To be Funny is to be Edgy, and conversely, to be Edgy is to be Funny. Right?
Ummm... really?
Now, who am I to question the wisdom behind pop culture -- I mean, audiences choose what they like, right? It's not like, for example, disco was crammed down our collective throats (to use a particularly tasteless analogy.) The poor record executives were simply responding to popular demand -- the popular demand to supply cocaine, hookers, money, and other goodies to radio program directors who, without these perks, wouldn't stand within a mile of K.C. and the Sunshine Band if it meant hearing "Shake Your Booty".
Edgy comedy is nothing new. Just go back and read Voltaire... what a hoot! Man -- that guy really skewered the prevailing power structure. And Jonathan Swift? He was so edgy and crafty in his satire that you can barely discern where the boring prose stops and the hilarious satire starts!
Closer to current times, edge walkers cite role models such as Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Bill Hicks, leading to modern practitioners such as Patton Oswalt, Louis CK, Chris Rock, and Daniel Tosh -- S-C-R-E-E-C-H (sound of tires squealing, if you didn't get it) -- wait a minute... Daniel Tosh????
Yes... poor Daniel recently was trying to walk the edge and fell on the wrong side of the line. Now... to be fair, Daniel generally confuses the concept of being edgy with that of being a complete idiot. I almost always switch away from Daniel's show in search of something more appealing to my intellectual bent such as "Ow, My Balls" - er, I mean "Top 20 Most Shocking".
Daniel, in a recent stand-up performance, attempting to respond off the top of his head -- a dangerously small area -- to an audience member's remark made a joke which some would consider seriously offensive. By "some" here, I mean 99.999999999% of humans with functioning brains.Now, in the aftermath of Tosh's plunge from this precipitous edge, there are the obligatory demands that he be removed from his Comedy Central Show, "Tosh.O". Now, my television has an advanced control which lets me switch from one show to another, but apparently some TVs don't have this capability, nor can they be disabled. Consequently, these sets blare forth at full volume "Tosh.O" day and night, subjecting the hapless owners to constant brain-atrophying stupidity. Alas -- he must be removed. On the other hand, hatefilled, fear-mongering, fact-bending Rush Limbaugh is protected by freedom of speech.
...and, SURPRISE. This is right: he is and he should be.
This doesn't mean Tosh can't be criticized for his idiocy. But Daniel, is just like Lenny, George, Richard, and others who have raised controversy in their times. Well, other than the fact that George Carlin, for example, was a brilliant satirist who lampooned hypocrisy in his creative comedy routines; Daniel Tosh's concept would impart to The Three Stooges the gravitas of Edward R. Murrow, Chet Huntley, and Walter Cronkite covering the outbreak of World War III.
Personally, I don't believe "edginess" in comedy requires having one's anus figuratively moved to a position below one's nose. Though it's hard to judge in modern context, Charlie Chaplin, The Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Monty Python, Steve Martin, and most recently, Brian Regan, have all walked a comedic edge, not by simply spouting mindlessly about ANY topic, but by expanding the actual sphere of what makes us laugh. Mike Judge did this in his animation and motion pictures; Gary Larson accomplished this with a single panel daily cartoon. We feel SMARTER after laughing a these things. I would hazard to say, no one feels better for having watched yet another skate-boarder fall on the metal railing he/she -- no wait, the idiots are almost always "he" -- is attempting to navigate.
By the way... I know the best way to keep Daniel Tosh from repeating such a tasteless outburst: don't laugh. You'll be surprised how quickly this silences the class clown!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

These Things Bother Me

I'm not a "conspiricist" -- but I'm certainly a skeptic. When money and power are involved, I know that those who seek, above all, money and power, are conspiratorial, conniving, cynical, corrupt and capable of criminal capers! When considering the actions of the power-class, the skeptic in me arises like Lt. Colombo from his Peugeot -- I just want to ask "one more question".

In this case, I've been reading some JFK assassination discussions. This event, that bleak day in November, 1963, shattered my sheltered suburban teenage world. At age 15, I was not sufficiently politically astute to judge policy, but like many, if not most Americans, we were fascinated by the colorful couple that occupied the White House. They represented what we wanted our country to be -- smart, good looking, well spoken, daring, idealistic. Seeing the President gunned down like a rabid dog on the streets of some wild west border town was devastating to our national psyche.

But if the assassination, itself, was devastating, the dangling conversation which followed began the great era of American Distrust of Government. No one is, was, or ever will be satisfied that the many disturbing questions were answered -- worse, they were purposely distorted and subjected to the "official plausible denial" that has become the babel or our public political discourse. In this case, the Truth will NOT out.

Specifically irritating my Colombo senses tonight are two suspicious deaths connected with the Kennedys that won't let me climb into my Peugeot and drive off, satisfied to work at the precinct desk until my pension kicks in. No... like Colombo, I have to ask at least one more question.

First, the death of Marilyn Monroe. I recall the news stories... she had committed suicide. Every teenage boy in 1962 had a mad crush on Marilyn -- she represented in our adolescent minds all that we believed we wanted. For her to commit suicide -- didn't she know that we loved her, we cared... we could have saved her... at least that's how it felt.

Now, however, to my jaded 64 year old mind, no longed afflicted by the pubescent passions that twisted my tender mind, I have to ask -- was this not a suspicious death? She was having an affair with both the President of the United States!!! Fer cryin' out loud, folks. I watch those Investigation ID crime reality shows obsessively -- this is a GIANT RED FLAG. No conclusion here -- I'm just raising the question. Don't you think the possibility of foul play is there? While on the topic, Marilyn died of ingesting barbiturates. There is much written on this topic and there's no need to repeat it here.

The other confounding issue, also a "suicide by ingestion of barbiturates", is the death of Dorothy Kilgallen. Here, Colombo would look at his notebook and he would see these items scrawled:

  • Ms. Kilgallen, an avid investigative reporter, particularly interested in the Kennedy Assassination, had recently concluded the only interview granted by Jack Ruby;
  • Ms. Kilgallen was a panelist on a show hosted by John Daly -- the son-in-law of Chief Justice Earl Warren who, famously, chaired the Warren Commission that confirmed the "single shooter" theory which was supposed to quell public demands for answers;
  • Ms. Kilgallen has publicly announced that she had discovered evidence that would "crack the case wide open", in the parlance of detective shows -- she was planning to make this public the week following her death;
  • Ms. Kilgallen's files containing her research disappeared following her death;

Here again -- there is plenty written about Ms. Kilgallen's death and the many suspicious aspects of the "suicide" verdict. You don't have to go far -- here's a good discussion right here on blogger:

Almost certainly, Kilgallen and Daly were social contacts. Kilgallen, given her interest in the Kennedy Assassination, most certainly raised questions with Daly, given his close relationship to Justice Warren. And the file disappeared! Lt. Colombo is definitely not going to let this one rest.

The internet is festooned with blogs, pros, cons, "ifs", "ands", and "buts". Where one man sees a gun, another sees a reflection... where blogger A sees another shooter with a rifle on the grassy knoll, blogger B sees a photographer with a long lens. We'll never argue, or reason our way out of this one.

This is a story where billions of dollars and decades of power were involved. The people involved also control the sources of information. The story is not complete... it never will be. Our skepticism of all that has followed is well justified.

Happy Fourth of July, America!!!

--July 4, 2012