Monday, November 11, 2019

"Lewis Black - In Concert"


The comedy “headliner” has it together. 

His “Opening Act” has it assembled.

An important distinction.

Virtually the first lines from the “Hired Gun” comedian preceding Louis Black to the state, were,

“I am the father of four teenaged children.”

The gist of his following half-hour of disjointed comedy was,

“Kill me.”

Lewis Black is hardly the “Captain Funny Pants” of stand-up comedy, but his act reflects a signature style, tone and vituperative inflection.

Black begins deceptively, mentioning what he insists makes him genuinely happy:

“Two-day ‘Free Delivery’.”

(Rumbling Innuendo:  “If that’s the best we can do…”)

Lewis Black’s act is of one piece.  (As opposed to his “Warm-Up” compadre, whom you could almost hear thinking, “Eleven more jokes, and they pay me.”)
 
Black draws us in with (a well-crafted illusion of) a chat, rather than a performance. (Indicating a consummate professional.  “Don’t rush.”  And “Act like you are telling a story in a living room.”)

He arrives in L.A. for the concert, considers renting a car, notes the prevailing  traffic, and then decidedly goes,

“No.”

Black instead hires a driver, and proceeds by his own admission to express “‘Road Rage’, from the back of a car.”

Black’s first trademark “eruption” arrives shortly thereafter.  When it comes to the issue of “Climate Change”, he explains what ninety-six of all scientists collectively believe:  (And here comes the eruption.)

“Facts!!!” 

No added specifics. 

“Case-Closed” bullet points, and move on.

(Laced inevitably with anger, because, through “trial and error”, Black learned that’s where his “Maximum Funny” resides.)

Referencing our current president whom he dispassionately calls “Our leader” – though not exclusively “Our Leader” if you actually think about it – Black says there is this new idea going around that,

“If you think something… it’s true.”

Indicating that, beneath the one-liners, there is a serious philosophy.  (Championing sanity.)

Which I enjoy.

And, though you are aware where he stands politically, there is a humanizing compassion.   

Which I also enjoy.

Case in Point:

During an e-mailed “Q & A” following of the concert, Black’s reading of an upset conservative audience member’s question is drowned out by an knee-jerk angry liberal backlash. 

Black gently admonishes the crowd, explaining that “knee-jerk angry liberal backlash” is exactly what makes conservative audience members upset.

Lewis Black will never be onstage “Mr. Sunshine.”  That’s not what he does.  But what he does, he does skillfully.

And, for me, who aspired to that pulpit, if only secretly in my mind,

It is a joy watching a professional at work.
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Pick up a poppy. 

Remember "Remembrance Day."

Friday, November 8, 2019

"The Questionable Boundaries Of Buddhism"


(Note:  Offering a book-marking summary till I am comfortably back on my feet, which is hopefully soon.)

Written from a near total lack of understanding.  Though – everyone! –

“When has that stopped me before?”

Okay.  Let the ignorance begin.

I like Buddhism, which Wikipedia says is the fourth most popular religion, so I apparently have company. 

Buddhists are calm.

They’re joyfully benign.

They say everyone’s equal.

Which sounds great.

If you’re a person.

But then there’s this “reincarnation” idea, where, if you do not behave admirably, you come back as a “lowlier species.”

Okay.  I have questions about that.

First:  Who drew that line between people and everything else, placing us “top of the heap”?

Two:   Who creates the “hierarchical ordering”?

Is worm “lowlier” than woodchuck? 

Is bird “loftier” than dung beetle?

Three:   What is the basis for the tallying direction on how far you “proceed”?

Is it like “Snakes and Ladders”?

“Thoughtless Behavior” – “Go down seven”?

“Generous Compliment” – “Up three”?

And while we’re at it, what of the unequal chances to “actively ascend”?

POISONOUS SNAKE:  “We have a limited range of ‘Positive Movement.’  ‘There’s a baby!’  We don’t bite it.  What does that buy us?”

SUB-HUMAN SPECIES: (Together)  “Plus, again, who exactly is making this up?”

SUB-HUMAN SPECIES  (with legal training in an earlier life):  “And is there possibility of appeal?”

Sure, Buddhists are vegetarians.  

Which clearly “softens the blow.”

But man!

You don’t walk on two feet, and to varying degrees –

You’re a punishment.

Where’s the “boundless compassion” in that?

(Or is this totally haywire?) 

(Offending millions of Buddhists for no reason.)

Thursday, November 7, 2019

"Watch Out World!"


I imagine people of other ages – what else can I do but imagine I am only one age – listening on their headphones to motivating music, fueling their secret dreams and desires.

Or maybe they are listening to stock prices.   Who knows?  (And who knows they’re not their secret dreams and desires?)

For me – yesterday’s post reminding me of the power of musicals – it was “Old School” record player and vinyl.  Which you could not practically carry around on the street – people would trip over the cord.  You had to “gas up” at home, before going out where people thought you were nothing.  (The most thundering sound I ever imagined was Canadian television producers seeing my name on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, going “Him?”)

Lacking external support – or detectable internal support, for that matter – I turned to the stirring songs in musicals, where characters, currently down but not out, got up, “held” for the cue from the conductor, and told the world they’re not done.

It’s all corny.

It all helped.

Helped what?  I don’t know. I just remember that look of despair when I was teaching in England and another teacher said, “Don’t worry, it probably won’t happen” and I said, “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

I needed that out of my head.

And got the inspirational “antidote” with:

“Stand well back, I’m comin’ through
Nothin’ can stop me now…”

(”The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd”)

“There’s got to be something better than this
There’s got to be something better to do
And when I find me something better to do
I’m gonna get up, I’m gonna get out,
I’m gonna get up, get out and do it!”

(“Sweet Charity”)

“I’m the greatest star, I am by far


But no one knows it…”

(That one’s embarrassing.  “Funny Girl.”)

“I’d like to swim in a clear blue stream, where the water is icy cold.
Then go to town in a golden gown, and have my fortune told.”

(Girly, but hopeful.  “The Fantasticks.”)

Okay, what else?  Oh, yeah.  Sammy!

“I ain’t bowin’ down no-o more
I ain’t bowin down no-o mo-ore.
Now I’m standin’ up, I ain’t on the floor
I ain’t bowin’ down no-o mo-ore.”

(“Golden Boy”)

And if Sammy, why not Steve Lawrence.

“I’m no loser!
That’s a dirty word to me
I’m no loser!
And I’m never gonna be…”

(“What Makes Sammy Run?)

Okay, three more, among others I’m forgetting.  I mean, I had a medley! 

How’s this for “uplift”?

“I’ve got to find a reason
For living on this earth
Something to want
Something to be
Somehow to say
I am me.”

(“Carnival”)

And, of course,

“This is my Quest, to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far,
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into hell
For a heavenly cause!”

(That one rattled the rafters.  “Man of La Mancha”)

And maybe the sappiest of all, but it still works,

“Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on
Walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone.”

(“Carousel”)

Y’know, just remembering that jostled the pheromones.  Which, more than perhaps, was probably the point.  I’ve been battling a “bug” lately, which, like a bad houseguest, refuses to leave. 

Maybe musicals can help!

Any song – from any genre – help you rise and prevail?  Let me know.  Maybe I’ll add it to my repertoire.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

"A Reader Responds"


Not long ago, I wrote about lowing cattle.  And wouldn’t you know it?  A reader from a herd wrote back.  Not any reader, mind you; he is a herd-member reader who worked frequently in westerns, appearing prominently in stampedes.  He’s the one going, “I hate this!”  But being a cow, it just came out “Moo!”

The following, in English, is a translation of his remarks:

“First thing you need to know is that, by nature, cattle do not like to stampede.  We don’t even like walking that much.   

“Mostly, we like to low and eat grass.  What does ‘low’ mean?  I’m not sure, except that it involves minimal movement, beyond occasionally raising our heads, and shooing away flies with our tails. 

“It’s not that we’re lazy.  We are simply content.  ‘Lazy’ is, ‘Oh, grass.  I should bend down and eat that.’  And we don’t.

“Now, about stampedes.  The script says, ‘The herd is bedded down for the night.’  That we like.  It’s quiet.  It’s cool.  We get a break from walking to the ‘railhead.’  I don’t know what the ‘railhead’ is.  No cow ever came back to tell us.

“The script says, ’The cattle are driven.’   The Rawhide theme song says, ‘Through wind and rain and weather…’  It was terrible! 

“’Cows hate being ‘driven.’  Even on nice days!
  
“Of course, they made it up to us.  When they bedded us down for the night, they’d helpfully sing us to sleep.  Did you ‘get’ that was sarcastic when I said that?  It’s hard to tell.  We have expressionless faces.  ‘Big brown eyes.’  But they look sad when we’re remembering a joke!

“Let me ask you something.  Where did they hear a herd of overworked cattle appreciate singing?  ‘Night sounds’ put us to sleep.  Singing?  That’s so the cowboys don’t fall asleep.

“Okay, so we are just about to drop off.  Suddenly, the script says, ‘Reaching for a lick of sugar, he accidentally rattles the pots. The herd immediately “spooks”, and they begin to stampede.’

That would never… happen.  Someone rattles some pots, we’d go ‘Pots’, and that’s it. 

“I am saying from experience:

“No one ever stampeded from ‘Pots.’

“You hear gunshots, you run, because, you know… you remember the buffalo.  They didn’t run – now there’s eleven of them left.   But believe me, after a long day on the trail,

“No one’s running from ‘Pots.’

“First time, we were invited to the premiere, which was nice.  They almost never invite horses.  Sure, the ‘Names’, but no one from posses. 

“The thing is, as soon as the ‘Pots’ scene came on, the area allocated to ‘cattle’, we start rolling our big brown eyes, and loudly ‘Mooing’ our objections.  They had to turn on the lights, and someone made a big speech.  

“The scene’s back on the screen – we immediately react.

“We’re not idiots!  It’s ‘Pots!’

“Needless to say, they never invited us back.  Which was fine.  After the show, they served ‘barbecue.’

“I mean, what were they thinking!    

We appreciate the comment, and encourage readers, bovine and otherwise, to feel free to join in.