Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Humorgence

Today I started to think about the link between humor and intelligence. Humor is the mind's response to what is out of place and absurd. A monkey in it's native habitat is not funny, but a monkey with a cigar on a unicycle, which is absurd, can possibly fall under funny. Yet, for the monkey on the unicycle to be funny, the viewer has to know something basic about monkeys: they do not ride unicycle. Or smoke cigars. No great leap of intelligence is required, but it is there. If the viewer had no knowledge of monkeys, where they came from, where they live, what they do naturally, a monkey on a unicycle is just an animal on a unicycle. Which can funny to someone simply if they know animals should not be on unicycles. Humor works on so many levels, and sometimes not at all (for some, monkey on unicycle (MOU) is just down right cruel).

Another component of humor though pops up when I speak about cruelty: many people have often found themselves sniggering at the misfortunes of others (deserved or undeserved). Where does that come from? The cruelty aspect of humor stretches the absurd argument a bit, but does fall perfectly under the 'out place' theory. When a tiny man stands up to the giant bully, or the person who was just rude to someone trips and falls flat on their face, people will laugh. I think people laugh because something is out place in those scenarios. The tiny are supposed to be intimidated by the large, and rude people are supposed to have an upper hand on you in the moment. Instead, the weak stand up to the strong and someone who thinks they gotten the better of you is laid low.

The natural response?

Ha! Ha! Ha!

Yet, does any of the above require a great deal of intelligence, or just common sense? In fact, larger amounts of intelligence could render a good deal of what I have mentioned unfunny. Perhaps being intelligent allows instead for different shades of humor. I could never laugh at a math joke because a lot math eludes me: I simply could not tell when something is absurd, or out of place, in math, to laugh at a mathematics joke. I have also met plenty of people who I can definitely say are intelligent, but are absolutely unfunny, and worse, can not take or understand a great deal of humor ("That's stupid." is there response to a lot things) to make me believe that intelligence is directly linked to humor.

People have more humor than other people. They laugh at more things, easier than others. I have met these people in all walks of life, high and low, smart and dumb, educated and ignorant. While intelligence allows a person to perceive more shades of absurdity, there is no guarantee that the viewer will laugh at these absurdities. What then does? I would like to think it is wisdom.

Only wisdom can make people aware of life's absurdities, its inconsistencies and hypocrisies, the unjust nature of the universe, and give them the right tool to handle it all. A good laugh. Without humor, all the pains and sufferings in life would be really intolerable. Yet, without wisdom, how could we tell the difference between those problems we can do something about, and what we can only laugh or cry about? Also, only the wise are actually capable of facing life's realities with some levity, because only the wise really get the point (ie. there is no point, your born, you live, you die. *poof* all your life's problems solved). Once you accept 'the point', life's devastation's can be born with a great deal of levity (because, really, what does your life amount to in the grand scheme of things?) Fundamentally, wisdom keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously. And that virtue, more than any intelligence quotient, is what really makes someone actually funny.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Foolish Folly

Some moron was allowed out into the light, and apparently, like a vampire threatened by the sun, began screaming babble:

' "On the October 14 broadcast of his daily radio show, right-wing radio host [moron] stated that if the country is faced with an impending national disaster, it should make it a higher priority to save rich Americans rather than poor Americans.

An October 13 New York Daily News article spurred [moron]'s comments. The front-page story, headlined "Rich Got Terror Tip," reported that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has launched an investigation into whether its officials alerted certain New Yorkers of a terror threat to the city's subway days before the rest of the city learned of the possible plot...

After summarizing the story, [moron] responded, "This is as it should be." He went on to imagine a scenario in which the country is forced to "set some priorities" regarding who will be notified of an impending disaster. "We should save the rich people first," [moron] declared. "You know, they're the ones that are responsible for this prosperity." [moron] described the poorest Americans as "a drag on society" and stated that they "don't achieve squat. They sit around all the time waiting for somebody else to take care of them. They have children they can't afford. They're uneducated. They can barely read." '


I apologize partly for the ad hominem attacks, but there is no reason to offer this individual any recognition, nor argue his logic, since there really is none, worth thinking about. If you do not believe me, ask yourself this of the following two individuals who would you want to have your back when the proverbial shite hits the fan: a well paid CEO or a former police officer? Did you think about how much they had the bank before you made your decision?

In a disaster, money just becomes paper: wits, knowledge, clear thinking become more valuable than gold. I have discovered, working in various high level offices, where more money than you could imagine, changes hands daily, those virtues are often scarcer than water in a desert. People's skills in one area (such as moving money from place to another) may have no bearing on how useful they would be in another (such as rebuilding after a collapse). Anyone who believes that is an idiot, and of little value in the way of national discussion.

I bet dollars to donuts that [moron]'s favorite book is the Bell Curve, the only book that was ever discounted before it was written. There is something uniquely stupid about an individual that most rich people would disdain for his position in life (if this guy makes millions, what does that mean to guy who makes 100 of millions?) arguing how the poor should be abandoned in favor of the rich during a disaster. Besides, who is doing the rescuing? Are they rich? The median fireman's pay is $19.00/hr, a police man is about the same. Coast Guard members receive much less than that, as do National Guardsmen, EMS, nurses, and the various groups of other people who sacrifice, protect, and serve during national disasters. I dare [moron] to look them in the eyes and tell them they will be abandoning huge swaths of the people in their city based on tax bracket. I think the only person they will be abandoning would be him.

We live in a nation and for most of us, rich or poor, we share the fortune of this place together. To argue that large amounts of people should be abandoned in times of trouble because of their yearly wage is not only immoral, is treason. We share in this venture called 'country' together, and those who think that they somehow want to disavow a certain segment of the population based on something as shallow as paycheck size, is welcome to leave and live somewhere his elitist fantasies can be indulged.

Original Article at Media Matters

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Monday, January 15, 2007

Film Review Haiku #2

Film Review Haiku #2
Rental, sequel
"The Bourne Supremacy"

Spies and car chases
Don't be Matt Damon's girlfriend
Russian cabs are tough

Friday, January 12, 2007

Hottest, Hottest, Hottest

"Wacky Weather" Is Deadly Global Heating
by Glenn Barry

"Global warming is not a slow, gentle, pleasant rise in temperatures to be savored. It is an abrupt fundamental breakdown in the Earth System's climate sub-system that threatens the Earth's, humanity's and your family's ability to live. It is not enough to blame the weather on El Ninño, which itself can be and is exacerbated by climate change. As climate change continues, unabated by systematic policy responses, and "wacky weather" becomes more prevalent, we can expect immediately budding trees to die from later frosts, agriculture to struggle to define growing seasons, pest insects to multiply, and ecosystems to deteriorate and die. "

A great deal of us in the Northeast are going to be told that the current warm weather is an El Nino effect, which, partially true, does not account for the extremely temperature anomally we have been experiencing for the past few months. We have been through El Nino effects before, and while those winters had been generally mild, they next had multiple weeks of 55F in a row. Even if El Nino is partially to blame for the higher than normal temperatures, no one cannot deny that last year was the warmest one on record, which beats the previous record of 2005, which beats the previous records. 2004 was the fourth hottest year on record. Seeing the trend? No? Here's an idea, jump off a cliff towards a row of jagged rocks, and when one pierces your head, we'll then know what it takes to get through to you and solve a problem in long run.

"Don't believe me? Walk outside right now - see or feel anything different? Are the trees blooming in the middle of winter as they are in Washington, DC, and New York? Is there a lack of snow as in Minnesota and Europe, while other areas like Colorado get dumped upon? Are the rains failing as with Australia's "Big Dry?" So much of the global ecological system's processes and patterns that provide the life-giving context for human civilization have been lost and changed, and it continues to intensify. Essentially, no natural processes are assured as a very different Planet emerges: climate patterns, water supplies, ocean fisheries, soil fertility, terrestrial ecosystem energy and nutrient cycling are all in doubt."

If we assume that you have not jumped off that cliff I was talking about earlier, what's do? I can not think of anything. Period. I really can not. Oh, I know there are things that can be done. We can reduce our dependency on fossil fuels in many different ways, spearhead changes in our consumer economy and our everday lives. These are things that can be done, but I assure you, noone will do it.

George Orwell once pointed out in his insightful work 1984, only the proles (the underclass of his dystopian future) had the numbers and therefore the power, to effect a truly revolutionary change. But this was never a fear, since for the proles to effect revolution, they would have to undergo a revolution themselves. For the proles to do this, there would have a to be a revolution in their thinking. That tautology is in effect right now. We, the people, in our glorious diversity, are the only one's who could effect a change.

Because I have no idea how to effect a paradigm shift in mass thought, I know people way smarter than me, who can not either, I am not sure why I keep writing this stuff and thinking about this mess. Part of me just does not want to fool myself into believing the hype like I did so many years before. Every time it snows, or the temperature dips below 40 for a day, people seem to believe "oh, this is just a temporary thing, no reason to get alarmed, I will just go about doing what I am doing."

We will come to a point where the possibility of naive ignorance is no longer possible. What will people think then? Probably something like "wow, this is what it is like to die from starvation!"

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Hotter, hotter, hotter

Island Submerged

This is an older article, but I wanted to post it, to support my belief that climate change's effects are not going to be slow and ponderous, but quick and sudden.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Hot, hot, hot.

Here is a new report on how 2007 is predicted to be one of the hottest years on record. I think the article is important because it mentions the El Nino effect as the main cause of the incredibly mild winter we are experiencing here in the Northeast. The article does not fail to mention, though, that the El Nino piles on top of the increase of global temperatures, a progressive reversal from a lot of the denial journalism which has taken place in the past few years since climatologists have partially solidified the theories on global warming.

It is important to mention the facts behind global warming so no confusion can be sown from the anti-reality coalition. One statistically warm week in January is not itself proof of Global Warming (in capitals), and may represents many other factors. Tabloid reactions will only dilute the important and imperative message of global climate change, and 'lies in the service of the greater good,' only harm the overall message. An article which mentions all relevant facts is far more valuable then one which cherry picks data.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

A Better Best Show

I have been listening to "The Best Show" on WFMU for close to a year or more now. When I came back from Kazakhstan and moved to Jersey City, I decided to start listening to WFMU as a way to get more culture, of which I had sadly been lacking. I came across Tom Sharpling's show one night, quite accidentally, and I was hoodwinked and hooked ever since. I will be first to admit that the show's humor is hard to pin down. I still can not quite tell when the joke has started, if ever, and when I am supposed to cringe in horror, or laugh out loud to certain callers (one's I can't identify as Wurster). Yet, despite being a three hour show, I listen every week, and enjoy it all. Some nights, Tom fails miserably, and still manages to entertain, other nights, he is a rousing success. While there is a perceptible pattern to his shows, there is no such pattern to the success or failure. It really all depends on how he is feeling that night and whose calling in.

"The Best Show on WFMU," as well as the many of shows that I listen to on WFMU, are examples of an artist doing what an artist does and only a free form, listener supported station like WFMU can pull shows like "The Best Show" off. Most radio today is pre-packaged garbage that has about as much creativity as a street sign, and I almost as appealing. Talk radio has been more appealing simply because there is a sense of breaking out of the absolutely boring music radio mold, but most talk radio ends up sounding like a weird parody of itself: the same loud punctuating, get your attention sounds, uninformed chatter about the topic of the day, usually related to whatever celebrity the media wants to promote at that time, and generally lowest common denominator jokes that will ensure that the show appeals to the vast majority of listeners. When I listen to those shows, I get the feeling of listening to a well hidden, multi-layered advertisement made up of people pretending to be loose and spontaneous in a totally controlled way. These shows are entertaining, and their appeal is obvious, but the need for constant shock tends to make them less and less impacting over time. Scream at someone constantly, and eventually they will stop perceiving you as actually screaming. Plus, creators of these shows may find themselves restricted over time, I am sure, as the search for greater profit tends to push them down the same paths, as many business minded people never quite understand the value of pure experimentation.

Only on WFMU could a show like "The Best Show" or "The Speakeasy" or Dave Emory's anti-fascist research screed, take place. Those shows, including an exhaustive list of others, would simply not be allowed on a for profit station, while many 'non-profit' stations which garner their money from different sources (like corporate underwriting, or the government) would also put restrictions on them. When "The Best Show" goes off the rails, a bit fails, or some disaster strikes the host and co., while there is no safety net, there is no real fall. Sure, I bet Mr. Sharpling gets a bit of humble pie handed to him, but he does not worry that his ratings are going to bite the dust, advertisers will be upset, and the show will be cancelled. From my perspective, that makes for a rawer, realer radio show. Statistical ratings are not what effect WFMU's future, instead, its the collective interest of the listeners who make the donations, are the people who decide if WFMU will continue on or not. The station can support whatever artists it chooses. The listeners will tell them otherwise. Goddamnit, that is free-freakin'-market capitalism in its purest form.

Art is essentially about creative failure. A famous painter once described them as "Happy mistakes." A real artists goes up on stage, starts a drawing, or plucks a few chords with only a rough idea of what will come out on the other end, which is the root of all great art: playful experimentation. This Tuesday, "The Best Show" ended with a resounding 'W' (as agreed by all parties who decided to comment). What was different? Nothing really straying from the formula that I have been listening to for the past year. Yet, at the same time, all the chords hit right, all the shading was what it was supposed to be, and the line were said just right. No formula could have made sure that would work, and only a place that lacks any real formula could let that happen.