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Older than I used to be, and Now I’m Getting Older

Older than I used to be, and Now I’m Getting Older published on No Comments on Older than I used to be, and Now I’m Getting Older

It was my birthday this week and as I pass further into the realm of not as young as I used to be towards no longer a spring chicken, I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on the nature of comedy. Because it’s a thin line between comedy and tragedy. Or so the saying goes. I don’t remember laughing a lot during Romeo and Juliet.

As a regular reader (I hope) of what I’m doing here, you may have noticed that I have the style of humor that I like to think of as classic. You can call it corny if you like. I love a good pun and I could never understand why Stephan Pastis felt compelled to put those self flagellating final panels in Pearls Before Swine where Rat felt the need to pulverize his author every time he felt the bounds of clever wit had been transgressed. But then, that’s probably why you’ve heard of Stephan Pastis and I’m uh… not in that league. Here’s a thought though: By having a character confront the author is it railing in the face of God? Am I so responsibility averse that I don’t use recurring characters for fear that they gain sentience and kill me in my sleep? That’s crazy. Of course not. Stop looking at me!

So… classic comedy. I am lucky (?) enough to have been raised pre reality television. If anything, I like to think that my general ennui/malaise towards life can be attributed to Punky Brewster, the Golden Girls and Cheers. Great as those characters were, the shows were not character driven. They put the situation in situation comedy. I thought when I grew up I would have all kinds of hilarious hijinks where I was mistaken for foreign dignitaries and business scions. Where I would have casual encounters with celebrities where I learned a great Life Lesson when we passed for thirty seconds in the hall. Where I faked my way into great jobs and made wonderfully anecdotal mistakes while fudging my way to competency.

Then reality tv came along. Sure, it was sort of there all along but it didn’t REALLY take off until I was already in college. Then we got to see survivors face their fear factor in the real world under the eyes of big brother. Of course, having to eat a pile of worms or run a footrace over a pile of craggy ankle beckoning rocks is about as likely for most of us as casual celebrity encounters. Despite that, reality tv became the new reality. Our relationships (to this old biddy) feel more complicated and dramatic than they used to be. Our conversations more rhetorical. That’s when I realized that somehow a funny thing had happened to us. Less funny haha than funny tragic (it’s tragic cos it’s true!). The more that we escape into fiction, the better we understand what is real. The more we tried to replicate (regulate?) reality, the more we hyperinflated those things that are fake. Art’s a funny thing, isn’t it? What happens when life imitates crap? Anyways, I think I’ll go infiltrate a strangers’ high school reunion. Time to put the wacky back in this whack job.

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I’m Irrational

I’m Irrational published on No Comments on I’m Irrational

People have been saying it for years but I’ve been reluctant (refusing?) to believe it. I am an irrational creature. And so are you. And that guy over there. And that woman… well it’s possible she’s a robot. But us flesh and blood humans are off the deep end.

I had this hammered home to me in a dash of insight while I was playing video games. That’s when all the best insights happen. I realized that as I was trying to turn a tight corner I found myself leaning to the right. Like the balance of my weight was going to be that one crucial factor that put me over the top to victory.

I am not new to video games. I’ve been playing them since 1982. This was not a wii or a PS4 with gyroscopic controls or motion detectors. No Kinect with a camera mapping my every move. I was playing a PlayStation 2 game and leaning as hard as I ever yanked on an Atari 2600 controller trying to make things go faster. Remember how bad your hand hurt using a 2600 joystick? How you were afraid you would snap the stick right off? No? Then you weren’t gaming in the 80s.

So what’s the point, you ask? You’re irrational. Big deal. The big deal is that I realized I was functionally irrational. That that is a constant human state of being. That no amount of knowledge or education can counter my most tightly held beliefs. It used to be that we would all employ rationalism as best we could to come up with a common consensus of what is real and what is not and make that the world in which we live. That was before King Rhetoric came to town. FDR once famously said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself and we believed him. Because we are dumb. And irrational.

There are plenty of things to fear besides fear. I won’t list any because I’m trying not to be overly a bummer and I’m sure you can think of 40 or 50 on your own. What I will say is it might be helpful if we redeployed our common rationality to separate the irrational fears (say, the boogeyman) from the rational (spiders- it’s true, you know it, shut up). If we can see reality, we can fix reality.

Optimistically yours,

Martin

p.s. Sometimes Admiral Ackbar is right and it’s a trap. Sometimes it’s just a house. Or a cigar. <.<

venus

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The Home Stretch

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I know these past few months have been rough on all of us and this is the last chance I have to throw my two cents in before we pull the ripcord on this freefall. I know that the idea that voting for the lesser of two evils is still endorsing evil is a tantalizing proposition (in a loose sense- because it’s not exactly going to get Tantalus foaming at the mouth like one of Pavlov’s dogs), but there comes a time when the focus needs must go onto the lesser part.

devilfin

I know that’s not very elegantly phrased but I was hoping to confuse anyone who might want to send me to a camp next week. Oh please, let Born in East L.A. stay an amusing vehicle for Cheech Marin and not a harbinger for an entire disinherited generation. I don’t want to go to a camp. I’ll be good! … ish…

In the mean time, please enjoy this new comic as the first in my new side series, 99 Ways to Spi. It’s a gentle and hopefully cute reminder that no matter what your creed, color, orientation or presentation, there is still one common enemy of which we can all be soundly afraid.

spider1

And that enemy is spiders. Spiders that will kill us all.

May (deity, ideology or force of your choice) have mercy on us all in 2017 and protect us from the spiderwrath,

Martin

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Use Your Illusion

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That's LifeSo I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Descartes. Like for the last 20 years. What? Shut up. You’re weird. So here’s the thing- he had some ideas about perception. Basic idea: There is a chair and there is your perception of a chair and you will never ever see a chair, you will only see a “chair”, because the form of your own mind lies between you and reality like a curtain.

But here’s the thing about curtains- there are blackout curtains and there are summer weight linens. Some people don’t have filters. They have blinders. We can’t have total agreement on anything ever, but we can approach reality. I guess. Theoretically. But should we? Is that not the way to madness? There is this quote, again by the great Descartes:

“An optimist may see a light where there is none, but why must the pessimist always run to blow it out?”

What I think we need to do is agree on where there is light, and where there is not. Where it’s beneficent to engage in some wilful denial and where we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. Cutting off our nose to spite our face. Running with the lemmings (that one’s not real, but I think it’s going to catch on).

Example: There was a study released recently that said that the Great Barrier Reef is significantly a dead thing in many places. The public at large read this as “Great Barrier Reef dead, the end is here”, angering a heck of a lot of scientists. Because the actual conclusion of the study was that if we want to save the reef, time is running out. See, this was not optimists seeing something that wasn’t there. Descartes doesn’t say so explicitly, but pessimists can do that too and it’s always good to check yourself to see where your head lies. What he does say explicity:

“The senses deceive from time to time, and it is prudent never to trust wholly those who have deceived us even once.”

Can we all do the best we can to figure out what beliefs our neighbors hold that don’t hurt us and leave them the heck alone? And then figure out the things that are plain crazy and hurtful and do in fact make life worse for everyone and not leave those people alone quite so much?

I think if we all do our part, we can fight the global melancholera epidemic that’s bringing us all down. Kumbaya, y’all.

Noninterventionally,

Martin

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