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.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"The Converse - But I's Not About Sneakers"

The following is the converse of the post from a couple of days ago.  In that one, I proposed that we believe what we believe because believing what we believe makes us feel better.  The “flip side” of that theoretical coin:  We do not believe what we do not believe because believing what we do not believe would make us feel worse.

This one came to me yesterday, so it’s coming to you hot off the griddle (as opposed to when I talk about movies that have stopped playing everywhere.  What can I tell you?  The ideas come to me when they come to me.  Though you would think they could come to me on time.  “How horribly ungrateful”, I just realized.  It’s a miracle ideas come to me at all.  Ending these bracketed comments, hoping they will keep coming to me… whenever they want to.) 

I am watching C-SPAN “Non-Fiction Weekend.”  (Note:  Every weekend, the three C-SPAN channels stop broadcasting Congressional sessions and hearings and transmogrify into airing interviews and book tour events featuring non-fiction author’s promoting their latest publications.  It’s like a complete televisional “makeover.” 

(Paralleling Side-Note:  I am reminded of how, at camp, we stopped wearing any sloppy thing we wanted and dressed instead in mandatory “whites” for “Shabbat (Friday night) Dinner.”  Providing a graphic opportunity for us to see who the messiest eaters in camp were, as “Shabbat Dinner” involved grape juice.  “Hey, is that a white shirt with purple grape juice stains on it, or is it a grape juice-stained shirt with patches of white?”… I recall hearing, though not about me.  Okay, sometimes about me.  Though it was more chicken-grease stains because I didn’t like grape juice.  End of “Paralleling Side-Note.”  And now, back to the story.)

An author appears on C-SPAN 3, having written a book about the “Warren Commission” – whose final report on the Kennedy assassination concluded that shooter Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone) – the author’s provocative thesis proclaiming that pertinent information had been deliberately withheld from the “Warren Commission”, specifically that the Kennedy White House had made numerous attempts to knock off Cuba’s president Fidel Castro.  Insinuating Implication:  Retaliating Cubans had conspired to kill Kennedy, a line of investigation the “Warren Commission” never pursued because pertinent information had been deliberately withheld. 

The historical accuracy of the author’s claims, for these purposes, is not important.  What’s important is how I reacted to the program, which was this:

I almost immediately changed the channel.

Why?  (A preliminary hypothesis):

Because I do not want to believe what I do not want to believe because if I believed what I do not want to believe it would make me feel worse.

(Note: Before I almost immediately changed the channel, I heard the book’s author quote a statistic – which, if I knew I’d be writing this I’d have remembered but since I didn’t, I don’t – asserting that something like three times as many people today – it might even be four times as many people today – do not believe the final conclusions of the “Warren Report”, compared to the number who believed them when the “Warren Commission’s” final conclusions were originally announced.  And yet no one has substantially done anything about it.  So it’s not just me who swept the Kennedy assassination issue dismissingly under the rug.  A substantial majority of people, faced with newly unearthed, conflicting information about the Kennedy assassination have gone, “Not interested in that.”)

Why would disrupting information about the Kennedy assassination make them feels worse?  (Another hypothesis):  Because they initiate loose ends, and nobody likes loose ends.  Or at least a substantial majority of us don’t, including the provocative C-SPAN 3 author himself.  He just doesn’t want those loose ends neatly tied in a bow using an inaccurately colored ribbon.  He instead insists on the truth.

Here’s the thing, the “thing” being the reason this concern rose to mind in the first place.

As a longstanding “Seeker of Truth”, one might expect that, eschewing the shrugging proclivities of the “substantial majority”, I might have sided with, the intentions of not the specific conclusions, of the C-SPAN 3 author instead.  But, tellingly demonstrated by my almost immediately changing the channel, I, startlingly disinterestedly, “took a quick left.”

Raising the question:

What the heck happened to me?

Yes, there’s the practical “If the author is right, what do we do now?” consideration. 

I mean, what are the options?  Bomb Cuba?

CUBA:  “Hey!  Why’d you do that?”

US:  “Because you assassinated our president.”

“That was fifty-four years ago.  And besides, you tried to assassinate Presidente Castro numerous times.”

“But we didn’t.”

“Forgive us, but something is terribly wrong with that reasoning.”

Okay, bombing Cuba’s a “non-starter.”  (For one thing, we’d be deprived of some wonderful baseball talent.  Not to mention some world-class cigar rollers.  On top of that, it is just a horrible idea.)

So what’s left?  I am actually not wondering about “What’s left?” (Tying up a dangling loose end, because the reasonable response to “So what’s left?” is “Nothing.”)  What I am wondering about is why a longstanding “Seeker of Truth” such as myself does not care who really killed Kennedy.  Seems like a big deal “Who really killed Kennedy?”  And yet there I am, switching over to a Dodgers game.

Am I maybe just a longstanding “Seeker of Some Truth”, and the rest, I leave disinterestedly by the wayside?

A “pick-and-choose” searcher for answers.


What kind of longstanding “Seeker of Truth” is that?