Friday, June 27, 2008

It's Not Coincidence doesn't take a lot to wonder how everything has gone right for the administration personally while so badly for the citizenry of the US...and the rest of the world!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Words of Wisdom

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.

-Dr. Seuss

Monday, June 23, 2008

The End May be Near...RIP George Carlin

(One of the last voices of reason in the United States has left us. Be very afraid. People aren't very good at thinking for themselves and depended on him to help them do it!)

Carlin, counterculture comedians' dean, dies at 71

By KEITH ST. CLAIR, Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES - George Carlin, the dean of counterculture comedians whose biting insights on life and language were immortalized in his "Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV" routine, died of heart failure Sunday. He was 71.

Carlin, who had a history of heart trouble, went into St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica on Sunday afternoon complaining of chest pain and died later that evening, said his publicist, Jeff Abraham. He had performed as recently as last weekend at the Orleans Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas.

"He was a genius and I will miss him dearly," Jack Burns, who was the other half of a comedy duo with Carlin in the early 1960s, told The Associated Press.

Carlin's jokes constantly breached the accepted boundaries of comedy and language, particularly with his routine on the "Seven Words" — all of which are taboo on broadcast TV and radio to this day. When he uttered all seven at a show in Milwaukee in 1972, he was arrested on charges of disturbing the peace, freed on $150 bail and exonerated when a Wisconsin judge dismissed the case, saying it was indecent but citing free speech and the lack of any disturbance.

When the words were later played on a New York radio station, they resulted in a 1978 Supreme Court ruling upholding the government's authority to sanction stations for broadcasting offensive language during hours when children might be listening.

"So my name is a footnote in American legal history, which I'm perversely kind of proud of," he told The Associated Press earlier this year.

Despite his reputation as unapologetically irreverent, Carlin was a television staple through the decades, serving as host of the "Saturday Night Live" debut in 1975 — noting on his Web site that he was "loaded on cocaine all week long" — and appearing some 130 times on "The Tonight Show."

He produced 23 comedy albums, 14 HBO specials, three books, a couple of TV shows and appeared in several movies, from his own comedy specials to "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" in 1989 — a testament to his range from cerebral satire and cultural commentary to downright silliness (and sometimes hitting all points in one stroke).

"Why do they lock gas station bathrooms?" he once mused. "Are they afraid someone will clean them?"

He won four Grammy Awards, each for best spoken comedy album, and was nominated for five Emmy awards. On Tuesday, it was announced that Carlin was being awarded the 11th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which will be presented Nov. 10 in Washington and broadcast on PBS.

Carlin started his career on the traditional nightclub circuit in a coat and tie, pairing with Burns to spoof TV game shows, news and movies. Perhaps in spite of the outlaw soul, "George was fairly conservative when I met him," said Burns, describing himself as the more left-leaning of the two. It was a degree of separation that would reverse when they came upon Lenny Bruce, the original shock comic, in the early '60s.

"We were working in Chicago, and we went to see Lenny, and we were both blown away," Burns said, recalling the moment as the beginning of the end for their collaboration if not their close friendship. "It was an epiphany for George. The comedy we were doing at the time wasn't exactly groundbreaking, and George knew then that he wanted to go in a different direction."

That direction would make Carlin as much a social commentator and philosopher as comedian, a position he would relish through the years.

"The whole problem with this idea of obscenity and indecency, and all of these things — bad language and whatever — it's all caused by one basic thing, and that is: religious superstition," Carlin told the AP in a 2004 interview. "There's an idea that the human body is somehow evil and bad and there are parts of it that are especially evil and bad, and we should be ashamed. Fear, guilt and shame are built into the attitude toward sex and the body. ... It's reflected in these prohibitions and these taboos that we have."

Carlin was born May 12, 1937, and grew up in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan, raised by a single mother. After dropping out of high school in the ninth grade, he joined the Air Force in 1954. He received three court-martials and numerous disciplinary punishments, according to his official Web site.

While in the Air Force he started working as an off-base disc jockey at a radio station in Shreveport, La., and after receiving a general discharge in 1957, took an announcing job at WEZE in Boston.

"Fired after three months for driving mobile news van to New York to buy pot," his Web site says.

From there he went on to a job on the night shift as a deejay at a radio station in Forth Worth, Texas. Carlin also worked variety of temporary jobs including a carnival organist and a marketing director for a peanut brittle.

In 1960, he left with Burns, a Texas radio buddy, for Hollywood to pursue a nightclub career as comedy team Burns & Carlin. He left with $300, but his first break came just months later when the duo appeared on the Tonight Show with Jack Paar.

Carlin said he hoped to would emulate his childhood hero, Danny Kaye, the kindly, rubber-faced comedian who ruled over the decade that Carlin grew up in — the 1950s — with a clever but gentle humor reflective of its times.

Only problem was, it didn't work for him, and they broke up by 1962.

"I was doing superficial comedy entertaining people who didn't really care: Businessmen, people in nightclubs, conservative people. And I had been doing that for the better part of 10 years when it finally dawned on me that I was in the wrong place doing the wrong things for the wrong people," Carlin reflected recently as he prepared for his 14th HBO special, "It's Bad For Ya."

Eventually Carlin lost the buttoned-up look, favoring the beard, ponytail and all-black attire for which he came to be known.

But even with his decidedly adult-comedy bent, Carlin never lost his childlike sense of mischief, even voicing kid-friendly projects like episodes of the TV show "Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends" and the spacey Volkswagen bus Fillmore in the 2006 Pixar hit "Cars."

Carlin's first wife, Brenda, died in 1997. He is survived by wife Sally Wade; daughter Kelly Carlin McCall; son-in-law Bob McCall; brother Patrick Carlin; and sister-in-law Marlene Carlin.


Associated Press writer Christopher Weber contributed to this report.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


A great cover of Paul Westerberg's 1980's song by the amazing Joan Jett.

A Call to be More Civil

From the Cristian Science Monitor:

By Timothy Snyder Fri Jun 20, 4:00 AM ET

New Haven, Conn. - Congress has just approved a massive upgrade for Amtrak, the national rail service. As fuel prices rise, we will become again, like it or not, a people that rides the trains. Now is our chance to think of how we might make that necessity a pleasant one.

Trains were once the civilized form of travel, allowing us to contemplate, read, or talk to a neighbor. A whole genre of American films, such as Hitchcock's "North by Northwest," depended on the premise that people could get to know each other on trains.

Today, this would be impossible, since we neither think nor talk to each other on board. Generally, we sit with eyes glazed, making cellphone calls, reminding friends and family far away that we are on the train, that the frozen peas are in the freezer, and that the baby's diaper will need changing.

Is this necessary? Why not install cellphone jammers on half the train cars on the new Amtrak?

What about all of the businessmen and their urgent conversations? Surely we need nonstop communication for economic growth? Sound business decisions, like all sound decisions, require concentration and focus. They also require the development of an attention span.

Sometimes, when the stakes are highest, connectivity is exactly what we don't need. Take, for example, the International Congress of Plasma Physicists: Organizers of the most recent congress consciously decided to forgo Internet connectivity. These are the scientists who are working to turn fusion into a viable solution to the world energy crisis. Their task is quite literally to save the world, so they concentrate on their work.

But who is Amtrak, or the government, to make a decision to jam cellphones in the train? What about free speech? No one freely chose the situation we currently have, in which we beam radio signals through our skulls and transmit obnoxious noises into the hapless minds of our neighbors.

Public cellphone use today is what smoking in public places was until very recently: an obvious violation of the rights of others. Cellphones also undermine the whole purpose of free speech, as understood by the Founding Fathers: public discourse. Contrary to the intention of the framers of the Constitution, we have made speech into something that keeps us apart, rather than brings us together.

When people can't use cellphones, they are much freer to speak with one another. Buddhists advise us to "be here now." As we zone out and force others to do the same, our motto is rather "be nowhere indefinitely."

We can do better. Cellphones are useful tools for the lost traveler, the fireman, the farmer in his combine in the middle of a field. They can bring the lonely together and keep comrades close. But there is no need for cellphone access everywhere.

Airlines should not use jammers, for technical reasons, but they should ban cellphone use on board. There is no reason why people couldn't say "I'm at baggage claim," rather than the current "I just landed and I'll call you again from baggage claim." With the exception of true emergencies, such as terrorism and heart attacks, no one actually has to make a cellphone call from an airplane.

If some train cars could be jammed, then others could be connected. Then cellphone users could choose to be together, as could those who prefer traditional conversation or reading. People who think they might need their cellphones could simply sit in an unjammed car.

This would be far better than a single "quiet car," where oversensitive passengers hush people who are having normal conversations. Let us create a real choice and allow people to have a public space.

This could be the beginning of a national conversation. Mindless, habitual connectivity in all places is making us a worse society. The time has come for some forethought, about the kind of people we are becoming ourselves and about the generation we are creating.

University and school buildings should all have jammers in their classrooms, for example, to be turned on and off at the discretion of teachers.

At some point these decisions are no longer a matter of courtesy, but a matter of the creation of a thoughtful body of citizens. The train is a good place to start.

• Timothy Snyder is a professor of history at Yale University. His most recent book is "The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of a Habsburg Archduke."