Friday, August 18, 2017

"Making Your Point (But Missing The Moment)"

Because I’m a pessimist. 

(Note:  In lieu of diminishing the print size of those words – which I do not how to do – please read them as if they were substantially smaller.  An unreadable confession:  The closest thing to no confession at all.)

Pessimists are what optimists call realists. 

… is what I truly believe.

If pessimists were to label themselves, they would say,

“It is a complicated concept, unlikely to receive a full accurate characterization.”

That’s why nobody likes pessimists – they take too long to say everything.  And their answers, although on the money, are generically unsatisfying.  “Go, Team, Go!” is exponentially more inspiring than, “Are you sure you are calling the right play?”  (Although inarguably less clich├ęd.)  

For provable evidence of “successful pessimism”, it is functionally impossible to point to the stack of mistaken decisions that were not carried out because cooler heads, thankfully, ultimately prevailed.  On the other hand, the proactive “Let’s just go for it!” mentality has given us the Panama Canal, a man walking on a moon

and a malevolent Stink Bomb in the White House.  (“Two out of three”, optimists would crow, ignoring planetarially imperiling President “Three.”  Anyway, enough of that electoral college faux pas.)

A Meaningless Matter of Transitory Consequence:

The Los Angeles Dodgers

A team that, as of this writing, won 85 games this year, while losing a miniscule 34.

My assiduous research – which involves picking up the sports section of the newspaper and looking at the standings – indicates that the next highest division leader in all of baseball, the Houston Astros, has 74 victories (and 46 losses.) 

The Dodgers are undeniably red hot.

They are, in fact, very close to having the best seasonal record in the history of the game!  Going back to the Civil War era, when they played baseball with cannon balls,  contests that were inevitably curtailed on account of explosions.
Returning from whimsical frivolity, the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers are, by all measurable standards, really, really good.

What practically is the committed pessimist to do with this sunshiny scenario, what partisan pessimists might refer to as “The Difficult Times”?

The pessimist looks – or more accurately, their natural proclivity directs them – towards the proverbial “worm in the apple”, in search of what might identifiably be “wrong” in a seemingly glistening sea of impenetrable “right.”

Which is exactly what I did.

I do not have the exact statistics on this but my experiential sense from watching a lot of Dodgers baseball this year is that, in a remarkable number of games the Dodgers have been behind in the late innings – sometimes up to the last at-bat, where failure to deliver meant winding up losers – and have instead thrillingly rallied to win.

Everyone’s excited about that – a team heroically “coming through in the clutch.”  Call them “The Miracle Dodgers.”  A team that never says “Die.”

It is in that ostensible “Pure Positive” that I unearth a demonstrable concern.

If, it occurs to me – because I am a natural-born pessimist – the Dodgers so often snatch victory from defeat in the subsiding innings of the game, the logical corollary to that “Success Story” is that they are consistently behind during the early and middle innings of the game.

What this troubling trend means is that the Dodgers traditionally – if you can take one season as a tradition – fare less well against “starting pitching” – which they face during the early and middle portion of the game and who are generally the more gifted of the opposition’s pitchers – than they do against opponents’ less talented “Corps of Relievers.”

It is true there is a longstanding baseball dictum that says, “Good pitching always beats good hitting.”  Still, in the case of the 2017 Dodgers, their habit of punishing essentially substandard pitching but not their superior brethren, to the pessimist? – That’s an unavoidably concerning “Red Flag.” 

During the post-season (including the World Series), a time knowledgeable observers proclaim is “a whole different kind of baseball” (because the television-friendly scheduling makes frontline pitching more readily available for service), the Dodgers would, as a result, be facing better pitching more often.

Based on their detectable weakness against other teams’ elite pitchers, despite their eye-popping 2017 won-loss credentials, the Dodgers could be surprising – except to devout pessimists – vulnerable casualties in the playoffs.  

Making the pessimists correct, and the hapless optimists lamenting, “Wait till next year.”

Score one for the “Gloomy Guys!”

Except that sometimes…

Last night, the Dodgers were down 4-2, with one out in the ninth inning.  Yes, there was a weaker White Sox reliever on the mound.  But there were only two outs remaining in the game, and the reliable “Law of Averages”… I mean, how often can the Dodgers pull a rabbit out of a hat?

Anticipating a presumed negative outcome, I sensibly turn off the television.

I check the paper this morning…

The Dodgers win, 5 to 4.

Demonstrating the “down-side of Pessimism”: 

Your prediction makes sense.

It just happens to be wrong.

“Look at that, Abner.  A pessimist, pessimistic about pessimism.”


“Whoopin’ ‘Duh’, Elwood.  What else would you expect?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

"A Possible (Potentially Game-Changing) Re-Thhinking"



In the same league as the discovery of germs, “Natural Selection” and “The Unconscious”, although considerably lower in the standings.

For as long as he could remember, Jimmy had a natural gift for balancing a kidney bean on the end of his nose. 

It came easily to him, right from the beginning.  In his elementary school “Talent Show”, Third-Grader Jimmy won First Prize, defeating a boy who could balance a teaspoon on the end of his chin.  (The unfortunate ”Runner-Up” had suddenly sneezed, his unmoored spoon clanging noisily to the auditorium stage floor.) 

Meanwhile, standing unfazed beside him, Jimmy’s proboscally-borne kidney bean remained visibly – to many onlookers miraculously – unperturbed.   For a full nine minutes and forty-seven seconds!  After which it inevitably fell off, Jimmy’s towering achievement met with thunderous applause and a commemorative Blue Ribbon.

Jimmy’s natural gift made him a popular member of the community – overshadowing his occasionally dark and borderline hostile personality.  Nobody cared.  Known as the incredible “Bean-Balancing Guy”, Jimmy was welcomed appreciatively wherever he went.

Jimmy’s reputation spread far and wide.  No one could recall anyone balancing a kidney bean on the end of his or her nose longer than he could.  Jimmy was the acknowledged, territorial “Champeen.”

As he advanced into adulthood – as all of us must – Jimmy had to face a serious decision concerning his future.  Rejecting the more traditional careers – as they did not involve balancing a kidney bean on the end of his nose, except maybe peripherally – “Not only is he a wonderful accountant, he can do your taxes while balancing a kidney bean on the end of his nose.”  That would not satisfy Jimmy, being an amateur, “bean balancing” celebrity.

Jimmy wanted to balance a kidney bean on the end his nose full-time.

And professionally.

With the “word” in the wind, to nobody who knew him’s surprise, Jimmy was invited to join the company of the “Elites”, in the widely known – and accurately attributed –  “Bean-on-the-End-of-Your-Nose-Balancing Capital of the World”, where Jimmy was readily accepted and, after some preliminary jitters, felt like he comfortably belonged.

And there he remained, balancing kidney beans on the end of his nose with distinction, amongst the recognized “Top Dogs” of the industry.

Yet, despite ostensibly flying high, Jimmy felt vaguely unhappier than he should have.

Because he knew he wasn’t the best. 

Jimmy understood the idea of “Personal Best.”  But, though he got what “Personal Best” was driving at intellectually, the bolstering rationale seemed to be “Brought to you by the folks who gave you ‘Everybody’s A Winner.’”   Through inordinately hard work and endless repetition, Jimmy himself improved his “Personal Best.”  Still, Jimmy’s incremental advances left him naggingly discontent, knowing there were a sliver of competitors who were “Personally Better.”

Despite demonstrable success, Jimmy worryingly wondered,

“How come I’m not the best?”

He considered the possibilities.  He could not believe it was his externally bestowed natural gift that was holding him back.  Natural gifts are perfect.  Aren’t they?  Who would bestow an imperfect natural gift?  (Which, based on the definition of the word “gift”, must be externally conferred rather than internally conceived.)

Would the “Unlabeled External Bestower of Natural Gifts” give an aspiring opera singer “perfect pitch”, except for “B Flat”, which they consistently missed by a mile, even when it was “A Sharp”, depending on the key signature designation?  No.  They got the entire octave.  Even the black notes.

Process of Elimination.

If it was not his externally bestowed natural gift that kept him from maximum accomplishment,

Then it had to be him.

Specifically, his innately pessimistic personality.

It seemed that, deliberately or otherwise, externally gifted Jimmy was sabotaging himself.  

Jimmy sought out professional assistance, to help temper the flaws in his hindering behavior.  But to little detectable avail. 

Jimmy was Jimmy. 

That, in a deal-breaking nutshell, was – and would always be – the inescapable problem. 

And so Jimmy believed, throughout his extended career and into his necessary retirement, the cumulative wear-and-tear robbing the tip of his nose of its earlier resiliency, the balancing kidney beans falling, as never before, to their Newtonian destination.

Besides, nobody was hiring professonal bean balancers anymore.

And there it stood, Jimmy believing for decades that the limitations in his personal limitations had defeated his externally bestowed natural gift, which would otherwise have taken him to the top.

Then one day, while in comfortable retirement, Jimmy’s brain experienced an illuminating epiphany.

“What if it wasn’t me?” Jimmy thought, for the very first time in his life.  “What if, although I dismissed the idea several paragraphs ago, the limiting obstacle was instead my externally bestowed natural gift?”

Jimmy thought long and hard about that, wondering if he had for decades erroneously blamed his perceived “falling short” on his admitted character flaws when the more salient explanation was that, in the context of Olympics gymnastics judges, his externally bestowed natural gift was an impressive “Nine-Point-Seven” but not the Nadia Comaneci-like, glittering “Ten”

“Why have I been defending my natural gift all this time at the expense of my less culpable personal demeanor?” Jimmy curiously wondered, suddenly open to the enormity of his misjudgment.  Jimmy could not figure that out - beyond the obvious “Who wants an imperfect natural gift? – leaving his epiphany inadequately explained, though continuingly intriguing.

“I could easily be mistaken about this”, Jimmy observed.  And he was correct to include that possibility.  New ideas are not necessarily better ideas.  They are simply the most recent ideas.

Still, Jimmy went on,

“It is something to think about.”


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"Upgrade"

Remember when I said recently that Dave Chappelle’s approach to comedy was similar to my own if I had done comedy but I didn’t but if I had I would have been conversational and relaxed like Dave Chappelle, except that Dave Chappelle would have been better?

Well – Happy Days – by which I do not mean the 70’s sitcom with Fonzie in it but real-life happy days themselves – I have discovered – or, more accurately, re-discovered because I was already aware of him – what I perceive as a superior comedian who exhibits a top-of-the-line of what I would have been like as a comedian had I been a comedian but instead wasn’t.

It is an exhilarating feeling – knowing I am not as good as a better comedian.

Hallelujah!

And who is that, at least in my view, superior comedian?

Eddie Izzard. 

That would have been me.  Minus the eye shadow, the high heels, the sequined outfits and the painted fingernails.  Which is a lot, but is not the comedic essence of Eddie Izzard.  Though it is integral to his persona, and we shall leave it at that.

I have been recently re-introduced to the inimitable comedy stylings of Eddie Izzard – well not entirely inimitable; I believe if I had done my version of Eddie Izzard-style comedy, he’d have said, “You got me… sixty-seven percent.”  So… “not entirely inimitable.”  Now where was I?  Oh yeah.

I am currently listening to a Book-on-CD entitled Believe Me – A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens, written by Eddie Izzard.  (Although, as an admitted dyslexic – who believes it’s unfair bordering on cruel for dyslexics to have to learn to spell the word “dyslexic” – it is unclear how Izzard is reading this book, or wrote it comprehensibly in the first place.) 

Note:  As with virtually all the books I listen to on CD, the author I am currently reading’s writing patios inevitably seeps into these offerings.  Like, when I was listening to the Master and Commander books, there was a lot more in my posts about rigging.  You may not remember that but there was. 

“When I went to the Toronto Hebrew Day School, if we were caught eating a non-kosher hamburger we would strung up from the yardarm by our yarmulkes.”

Coming back to you now, isn’t it?

Anyway, that wasn’t true.  Although I did serve a month’s detention for that aforementioned transgression – lusting after unsanctioned meat products.

Anyways…

“No more ‘anyways’ – You are wasting their time!”

Sorry.  Anyways… oops, sorry, that was definitely my last “anyways.”

“No more ‘anyways’ or we’ll chop off your leg.” 

Okay, moving on.  Warily.  Wait.  “Anyways” – “Anyway.”  Is there a difference?  I’m not really sure. 

“We shall confuse them with a distinction without a difference.”

Damn, those sadistic linguistics people.  Anyways… oh, no!  There goes my leg!”

Okay, back to reality, or what passes for reality in this venue.

Biographical Similarities Between Eddie Izzard and Myself (possibly random, possibly significant, nonetheless fascinating.  He said, secretly fearing the opposite):

Eddie Izzard was born on February the 7th.  Earlo Pomerantz was born on February the 4th.  Astrological influences?  Maybe, maybe not.  With evidentiary leanings towards “Maybe.”

Eddie Izzard’s mother died when he was six.  Earlo Pomerantz’s father died when he was six.  Freudian Analyst:  “Vehghry Intehrehsting.”

Eddie Izzard likes to play the piano, but only music he is interested in.  Sounds extreeemely familiar.  Although still possibly meaningless.

Eddie Izzard has an older brother with whom he unconsciously competes.  

Enough!  Sometimes you feel like you have given away too much.  I may regret revealing I only play music I am interested in.  But I can’t take it back now.  It is out there.  And I am ready to face the consequences.

Stylistic Similarities Between Eddie Izzard and Myself:  

Eddie Izzard is a comedian/slash/teacher. 

(Footnote:  He is also, like me, obsessively specific in his recollections, often to no imaginable effect.  In his audio memoir – where he regularly interrupts his readings to include spontaneous “Footnotes”, like when he explains that some pianos at his sleep-away school were locked but one of them wasn’t, he goes on to delineate in which rooms in the sleep-away school each of those locked and unlocked pianos were located.  Not dissimilarly, I once expended numerous paragraphs on “Choosing the appropriate hotdog stick.”  End of “Izzardian” footnote.)

My favorite example of his comedian/slash/teacher approach is a routine in which Eddie Izzard exposes the transparent outrage of 19th Century imperialism:  (An impressionistic facsimile):

“A British sea captain arrives in India.  He and his crew come ashore, the British sea captain plants a flag on the beach and says, “I claim this land for Her Majesty Queen Victoria and the British Empire.”  Then an indigenous Indian comes out and says, “What are you doing?”  To which the British sea captain replies, “I am claiming this land for her Majesty Queen Victoria and the British Empire.”  The indigenous Indian goes, “You can’t do that.  We live here.  Five hundred million of us.”  To which the British sea captain replies, “Do you have a flag?”

Message received.  With an enormous laugh, usually accompanied by applause.

I can imagine doing a similar narrative about Canada.  Except at the end, the imperialized Canadians would go, “Okay.”

Why wasn’t I comedian/slash/teacher type of comedian, or any other type of comedian for that matter?  (He explained, not for the first time, although this time, with a more clarified understanding.)

Well, I’ll tell ya.  Are you familiar with the idea of “Necessary but not sufficient”?

You have a cluster of attributes necessary to make you a lesser but still viable comedian/slash/teacher type of comedian.  (Though dressed in more conventional attire.)  But there are also attributes you lack.  So, although though you  demonstrably pass on the “Necessary” you fall short on the “Sufficient.”
 
Eddie Izzard has “Gusto” (personally acknowledged in his memoir) and “Cheek.” (Which his biographical anecdotes reflect.)

Sounds like an English vaudeville team: “Gusto and Cheek” – “Featuring their classic, riotous routine:  ‘Two comedians – one pair of trousers.”’

Eddie Izzard began as a street performer, what they call in England, a busker.  Buskers muck entertainingly about with, like, people standing in line, waiting to go into the movies.  (Footnote:  In England, at least when I lived there, rather than standing in line to buy their tickets, moviegoers purchase their tickets and then line up to get in.  Which… either way, I guess… it’s a line… so never mind.  End of unnecessary footnote.)

(Belated Correction:  I just heard in the Eddie Izzard audiobook that he was never a busker, he was specifically a street performer, the vital distinction being that buskers are invariably musicians who entertain captive audiences like lines of people waiting to get into a movie, and street performers put on complete shows for crowds of people who gather around.  I did not delete and replace the last paragraph because… doing this is easier.  End of corrective footnote.)

Rather than “Gusto”, I am more insinuatingly “under the radar” funny.  And you can forget entirely about “Cheek.”  Approaching strangers in a movie line?  I wouldn’t talk to a movie-line stranger if they were standing on my foot.  (I would.  But it would be brief and not imaginably funny.  “Excuse me.  You’re standing on my foot.”  That’s asking directions to the train station.)

Diagnosis of Inadequacy (a summary for the written exam):  “He had the ‘Necessary’ but not the ‘Sufficient.’”

You know what they call a “Necessary” comedian without the “Sufficient”?

A writer.

Still, there is a comfort in being an untried lesser version of a wonderful comedian.


And only a modicum of envy.