Monday, June 23, 2008

Only George Carlin Would Have the Appropriate Words for This

I'm always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I'm listening to it. -- George Carlin, 1937-2008

When Bobby Fischer had yet to completely flip his lid and was taking Boris Spassky to the woodshed in Reykjavik, my friend Tommy D'Agostino and I were playing a 24-game chess championship for Herschell Street in the Bronx. Tommy was two years younger than me, but already savvy beyond his years, because early on he realized that all he had to do to defeat me was to utter the first few words of one of George Carlin's standup routines. "I was fired from the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas..." he would start, innocently, and before I had finished side one of FM and AM, he would have taken my queen, a rook, and two knights without losing so much as a pawn.

I once described Carlin as my philosopher saint, and I believe that's still as apt a description of his influence on my life as can be assessed. For whatever reason, Carlin's defiance of authority, his love of inappropriate juxtaposition, and his joy at the meaning of and reaction to words clicked with me. It wasn't just because he was saying rude things that Carlin's sense of language made sense to me. It was because he so often zeroed in on exactly how people use language to divide and affront others. He once proposed replacing the word "kill" with the deadliest of the seven deadly words that couldn't be said on television. Those who could not stretch their brains only got offended; they missed wholly that Carlin's point is that it's not words that are the problem, but the emotion behind them. Penn Jellette's Showtime series, Bullshit, interviewed a woman who refused to use any of those seven deadly words, but who had no problem using a different deity's name to take in vain, and didn't understand why "fiddlesticks" wasn't much different than the banned-in-mixed-company-and-by-the-FCC four-letter word beginning with the letter f.

Carlin also zoomed in on hypocrisy. In the 1970s, he made fun of the U.S. strategy of exiting Vietnam "through Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand." He chided the conviction of Muhammad Ali. Ali, he said made money by beating people up, but wouldn't kill them; the government, he then observed, said that if Ali wouldn't kill people, it wouldn't let him beat them up.

In later years, I found myself finding some of his bits less appealing than others. Those bits of his (and any comedian's) concentrating on scatology tended to bore me. But he also refined his wordplay, and those later bits about words were simply amazing.

Many of the reports of his death today mentioned that he was the first host of Saturday Night Live (and also mentioned that he was looped on cocaine). Maybe one of the good things about Carlin's death is that it will finally make NBC realize that SNL has been a television zombie for too many years. (I think Carlin would have gotten that; he also would have said it funnier.)

I am the proud possessor of a set of George Carlin-autographed LPs. It disturbs me that many younger people will file Carlin in that time in history where the spoken word was primarily distributed on vinyl. But we have his books and his CDs and his tapes and his DVDs and his website , and, I'd also imagine, hundreds of thousands of folks like me who carry a little bit of Carlin's brain, his attitude, and his pessimism around every day.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mostly, It's An Excuse to Show Halle Berry in a Bra

Since the spouse's latest novel, Introducing Sonika, is about super-heroes, one of her writer pals, Judith Laik, forwarded this link judging super-hero costumes in the movies.

Granted, I'm biased because I like the spouse's novel (screenplay available for option, by the way) and especially the little tattoo she's got under her skintight suit, but it's true that one of the things that movies have often gotten wrong is the super-suit. Part of the problem is that many original super-suits aren't practical. One of our Legion fan friends, Paul Decker, once said of a fan-submitted costume design that the heroine wearing a necklace with a large stone would find herself getting smacked in the face with it a lot. (Actually, Paul said she'd get "knocked up a lot," but then Paul was also wont to break into Ethel Merman versions of Beach Boys tunes at the time.)

I'm a big fan of super-heroes who are the type that would be the hero of an Alfred Hitchcock film -- ordinary person thrust into extraordinary circumstances. This means that, while I grew up in the DC universe, where Superman is basically a god sent by his father sent to live among humans and many of the other characters are destined for their heroism (Hal Jordan's Green Lantern, Wonder Woman; even Batman is a prince of wealth), it's Stan Lee's take on super-heroes that appeals to me: a high school nerd is bitten by a radioactive spider and has to balance super-heroism with passing social studies and earning a few bucks to help support ailing Aunt May.

I then think what I'd do if I suddenly had some sort of amazing ability (other than the stupid human trick powers I have, like turning my eyelids inside out). First of all, would I even turn to fighting crime? Actually, Peter Parker didn't originally, either; his suit was meant for wear in a wrestling ring. I'd probably just travel about in a sweatsuit. Or, if I looked like Sonika , something skintight. (Of course, if I looked like Sonika, I don't think I'd be married to her creator.) Something Lance Armstrong might wear, I guess.

Actually, maybe a baseball uniform. Stretchy, not too garish.

I haven't done the research, but it looks like Will Smith's upcoming super-hero film, Hancock, is about a super-hero with no costume. If that's the case, that just seems most reasonable to me.

But then again, it'll never compare to Halle Berry in a bra.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Lorraine Broertjes Should Have Told Me About This!

Worst album cover of all time?

After all, my honorary older brother Harry's spouse works at the Sun-Sentinel!

So instead, I get it forwarded to me by college pal and former co-WRGW college radio DJ Brian Lehrhoff (saying that he got it from the bass player from It's A Beautiful Day).

Unfortunately, it's too late to add your own covers to this wonderful, wonderful list.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Can Anyone Confirm These?


Dennis Hastert: did not serve.
Tom Delay: did not serve.
House Whiip Roy Blunt: did not serve.
Bill Frist: did not serve.
Rudy Giuliani: did not serve.
George Pataki: did not serve.
Mitch McConnell: did not serve.
Rick Santorum: did not serve.
Trent Lott: did not serve.
Dick Cheney: did not serve. Several deferments, the last by marriage.
John Ashcroft: did not serve. Seven deferments to teach business.
Jeb Bush: did not serve.
Karl Rove: did not serve.
Saxby Chambliss: did not serve. "Bad knee." This is the "patriot" who attacked Max Cleland's patriotism.
Paul Wolfowitz: did not serve.
Vin Weber: did not serve.
Richard Perle: did not serve.
Douglas Feith: did not serve.
Eliot Abrams: did not serve.
Richard Shelby: did not serve.
Jon Kyl: did not serve.
Tim Hutchison: did not serve.
Christopher Cox: did not serve.
Newt Gingrich: did not serve.
Don Rumsfeld: served in Navy (1954-57) as aviator and flight instructor.
George W. Bush: six-year Nat'l Guard commitment (in four).
Ronald Reagan: due to poor eyesight, served in a non-combat role
Gerald Ford: Navy, WWII
Phil Gramm: did not serve.
John McCain: Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross.
Bob Dole: an honorable veteran.
Chuck Hagel: two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, Vietnam.
Duke Cunningham: nominated for Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, Silver Stars, Air Medals, Purple Hearts.
Jeff Sessions: Army Reserves, 1973-1986
JC Watts: did not serve.
Lindsey Graham: National Guard lawyer.
G.H.W. Bush: Pilot in WWII. Shot down by the Japanese.
Tom Ridge: Bronze Star for Valor in Vietnam.
Antonin Scalia: did not serve.
Clarence Thomas: did not serve

Conservative Commenators

Sean Hannity: did not serve.
Rush Limbaugh: did not serve (4-F with a 'pilonidal cyst.')
Bill O'Reilly: did not serve.
Michael Savage: did not serve.
George Will: did not serve.
Chris Matthews: did not serve.
Paul Gigot: did not serve.
Bill Bennett: did not serve.
Pat Buchanan: did not serve.
Bill Kristol: did not serve.
Kenneth Starr: did not serve.
Michael Medved: did not serve.


Richard Gephardt: Air National Guard, 1965-71.
David Bonior: Staff Sgt., Air Force 1968-72.
Tom Daschle: 1st Lt., Air Force SAC 1969-72.
Al Gore: enlisted Aug. 1969; sent to Vietnam Jan. 1971 as an army journalist in 20th Engineer Brigade.
Bob Kerrey: Lt. j.g. Navy 1966-69; Medal of Honor, Vietnam.
Daniel Inouye: Army 1943-'47; Medal of Honor, WWII.
John Kerry: Lt., Navy 1966-70; Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V Purple Hearts.
John Edwards: did not serve.
Charles Rangel: Staff Sgt., Army 1948-52; Bronze Star, Korea.
Max Cleland: Captain, Army 1965-68; Silver Star & Bronze Star, Vietnam.
Ted Kennedy: Army, 1951-1953.
Tom Harkin: Lt., Navy, 1962-67; Naval Reserve, 1968-74.
Jack Reed: Army Ranger, 1971-1979; Captain, Army Reserve 1979-91.
Fritz Hollings: Army officer in WWII, receiving the Bronze Star and seven campaign ribbons.
Leonard Boswell: Lt. Col., Army 1956-76; Vietnam, DFCs, Bronze Stars, and Soldier's Medal.
Pete Peterson: Air Force Captain, POW. Purple Heart, Silver Star and Legion of Merit.
Mike Thompson: Staff sergeant, 173rd Airborne, Purple Heart.
Bill McBride: Candidate for Fla. Governor. Marine in Vietnam; Bronze Star with Combat V.
Gray Davis: Army Captain in Vietnam, Bronze Star.
Pete Stark: Air Force 1955-57
Chuck Robb: Vietnam
Howell Heflin: Silver Star
George McGovern: Silver Star & DFC during WWII.
Bill Clinton: Did not serve. Student deferments. Entered draft but received 311.
Jimmy Carter: Seven years in the Navy.
Walter Mondale: Army 1951-1953
John Glenn: WWII and Korea; six DFCs and Air Medal with 18 Clusters.
Tom Lantos: Served in Hungarian underground in WWII. Saved by Raoul Wallenberg.
Wesley Clark: U.S. Army, 1966-2000, West Point, Vietnam, Purple Heart, Silver Star. Retired 4-star general.
John Dingell: WWII vet
John Conyers: Army 1950-57, Korea

The Solution to the World's Food Problems?

Saw this post from the New York Times about a fruit called synsepalum dulcificum (or "miracle berry" more simply) that makes sour foods taste sweet, and makes other foods taste wholly differently as well.

I guess the main problem right now is that the fruit costs $2 each, but if it can take unpleasant flavors and make them tolerable, perhaps it's a way to stretch the world's food supply. For instance, I will not, will not, eat liver (or most organ meats), though it's possible that liver that tastes like -- oh, maple syrup -- would be less of a problem for me. One wonders what other foods not enjoyed by westerners, but eaten in other cultures -- insects, bird fetuses, and the like -- might not be made more tolerable by the addition of this fruit (or its artificially reproduced chemical component).

It might also wind up being a good thing for picky children to be given, at least surreptitiously. If peas tasted like Pez, would they no longer be fed to the dog?

Already I can see the drug user's mind wandering. What would this stuff be like with a hallucinogen? I'm sure some sexual experimentation is going on with it, too.

Of course, right now it's all conjecture for me, since I haven't tried it. But I do believe I'd like to find it, and, when I do, there will be a test at the Flynn household.

Wonder if PCC will stock it? (I did find this site offering places to buy, but unlike Alton Brown, I do not just rush out and buy things on the Internet if I don't know the companies involved.)

Not Funny

A joke forwarded to me by my cousin Joe Lo Pue (subject line, "Sad, But True"):

When I got home from work last night, my wife insisted that I take her out to some place expensive...

So I took her to a gas station!

It arrived the day I first bought $4 gas -- for our 1987 Nissan, which we bought when we could still pay less than 80 cents a gallon.