Thursday, October 11, 2018

Life is NOT like the Movies


There was a behaviorial experiment that involved mice.  An ordinary group of mice that were getting along very well together,  were bombarded with constant irritating stimuli.  Select frequencies of sound, unpleasant to rodents, played loudly in the lab. The bottom of the cage where the mice lived was electrified and the mice would receive a non lethal shock at various times.  There was no change in their feeding schedules, they were well nourished in a common cage.
The constant irritation and unpleasant stimulation took a toll on the mice over time. They became aggressive and fought with each other but not over territory nor food which was plentiful and accessible.  With constant agitation and no let-up  the mice were driven to kill each other.  Think about that for a moment. 

Because most of our culture and mor├ęs come from the mythology of our stories, we are accustomed to having problems solved in a reasonable time. Not real problems... story problems.  A half hour comedy is about the average time we will stay focused to resolve a story.   We want to see Heroes redeemed and villains punished quickly.  It’s a happy feeling when the universe balances itself even though the universe is imaginary. That’s what a happy ending IS.

But life is not like the movies. Or is it.  Unfortunately today that line is being blurred as our modern day life is being covered like it was a movie.  Technology is everywhere. Everyone has a camera with sound and video filming life happening and it is being broadcast to millions instantly. Most of our day is spent being recorded either privately or publicly    Today Sheakspear would probably write, “The world is a MOVIE and all are mere players.”   

So we have a reality show star as a President.  It would appear that his sole purpose is to create drama with himself at the center.  There are villains and heroes in his drama but there is no end.  The 24/7 wall to wall political coverage is unrelenting. It is constant irritation with no hope of slowing down or stopping.  Like the mice in the experiment, this constant state of stress causes chemical and psychological changes in our physiology as well.

The mice had no way to control the stimulation that made them aggressive.  We humans do have the control and we are intelligent enough to understand that the stimulation is adversely affecting us in the same way as the helpless experimental mice.  Science has informed us that we must cut down on the consumption of irritating stimuli. However, the same group that denies humans play a part in climate change will also deny the viability of any science they disagree with including this one. 

Here is what I propose.  A DAY WITHOUT POLITICS...especially any story, punchline or outrage that involves the ringmaster of incompetence, Donald J. Trump.  Admittedly a single day will not do much.  A week, a month or, please God, a year would be enough to show a definite correlation between Trumps manic desire for attention, and violence.  Let’s shun and ignore Trump.  As a classic narcissist Trump, does not care about being President, he only craves the attention he gets as President.  Not giving him any publicity much less the attention he lives for will upset him “biggly”, and while we are accomplishing that good deed we will absolutely be healthier for it.  

It is a pipe dream that the US press would or could ever ignore Trump and members of his Reich for a day much less any longer.  But I can ignore him for as long as I want to.  The television also has an off switch, and I can set my iPhone to ignore “notifications”.  I can forego Facebook for at least a day, and recover a portion of my sanity. 

I choose November 22, as the “DAY WITH OUT TRUMP”.  That happens to be the anniversary of the assassination of John Kennedy.  Nothing symbolic about the day, it is just a date that I will never forget.  I can think of no day in my lifetime that changed politics more than that single day in history, so it is relevant. 

I am not starting a #daywithoutTrump and have no real desire to go viral with this idea. Trump has become, to those who hate him and love him, an addictive habit as hard to quit as any drug.  There is no way the country will go cold turkey to quit him.  As for me, I’m going to give it a try.  I might lose some of my manufactured hate and be able to think of good things for a change. 
As you were, 
Jay

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Halloween ZEN



It is officially Halloween season, although I saw Christmas decorations for sale at Macy’s today,  can we please celebrate my favorite holiday before we have to think about Christmas.  Halloween is exactly one month away.  Perhaps with all the division in our country right now, we can forget our differences and all come together for Halloween.  

Halloween is a great holiday.  Perhaps it is not so much an official holiday as it is more of a custom or cultural tradition.  Whatever Halloween is, it always occurs at my favorited time of year.  I have done more than my share of thinking about Halloween.  Ventriloquism and Halloween are forever linked in my mind and life as a performer. (If you own a Theremin , you should play it now. It would fit the mood. ) 

With a lot of study and several decades of Halloweens in my past, I have come to a steadfast principle for humanity.  

There are only two kinds of people in the world, Those people who love Halloween, and those people you shouldn’t associate with.   

Who doesn’t like some aspect of Halloween?  They hook you as a child.  You dress up... and strangers  give you candy just for repeating a simple chant. My traditions for Halloween are particular and well ingrained in my habits.  

Halloween (for me) is gothic horror and dark magic,  not Casper the Friendly Ghost- Halmark card-cute. My apologies to all you who like to dress up like fairies and princesses. I prefer sensual vampires and mystic sorcerers.  But this darker slant on Halloween does not mean that everyone must celebrate the season my way. That is the best thing about Halloween, every person is free to celebrate in any way as much or as little as they wish.  There are no religious requirements nor family togetherings required. Just candy.


There have been some ugly things going around all media's particularly social, lately.  But it seems we can’t agree on what is ugly and inappropriate. It depends which side you are on.  I have contributed to this cesspool of negativity, so here is a picture to celebrate Halloween season.  



As you were,
Jay

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Judgement of Kavanaugh


I don’t know why the rush is on to confirm Kavanaugh.  He has obviously not been vetted enough, and if confirmed will be a Supreme Court judge for life.  If we are stuck with him for life it might be a good idea to take a few months to get to know who he is.  
At this point all we know is that he was Ken Starr’s attack dog during the Clinton investigation. As part of the George W. Bush whitehouse he was part of the lie that dragged us into the Iraq war. More recently during his tenure as a Washington District judge he  stalled decisions so that an incarcerated young woman would have to give birth to a child rather than have the abortion she wanted.  AND we now know that he has been accused of attempted rape when he was a senior in high school.  

I very much doubt that this allegation of rape can ever be determined to the satisfaction of either side.  However, what does the mere revelation of Dr. Ford’s accusation reveal? 

Brett Kavanaugh grew up in an expensive private, catholic, boys school, known for catering to the Washington privileged and wealthy.  Under age drinking and disregard for the law seems to be rampant at Georgetown Prep. Because these “young men” are  the upper orbit of the ultra privileged, their total disregard for the law and school rules went unpunished.   Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate Mike Judge wrote a tell all book about his days as a drunken teenager at that very school.  In his book he tells the story of a person named “Brad Kalahan” who passed out drunk on the campus lawn coming home from a party. It would seem to be a very obvious pseudonym for his classmate Brett Kavanaugh.  Kavanaugh’s accuser Dr. Ford, says Mike Judge was the stumbling drunk friend in the bedroom when she assaulted by Brett “Kalahan” Kavanaugh.  Both men deny even attending this party. Neither man has stated that they “never attended any drunken high school party”. However, Kavanaugh made this statement about those days at his alma mater:  “What happens at Georgetown Prep, stays at Georgetown Prep.”  

Regardless of the outcome of the rape allegation the fact that he was an obvious “party boy” at Georgetown Prep, in my book, disqualifies him.  This is not a generalization that every person who graduates from that school is unqualified, nor do I believe everyone should be punished for their unruly behavior in High School. There are plenty of people who have made excellent citizens after behaving very badly as a teenager. In fact those who have grown up experiencing the effect of their own cause can have a better insight into the difficulty of resisting temptation.  There are also many recovering Alcoholics who have become great contributors to society. BUT,  In every case the person’s value comes from their admission of  bad behavior and repentance.
But we are not talking about just any bad behaving teenager from an expensive Washington prep school: we are talking about THIS graduate from THIS particular school. 
Kavanaugh is “applying” for a life time appointment as the highest  judge in our Nation. He will rule and pass judgement on every person in America. How can he know the impact of his ruling when he is unrepentant and knows nothing of what it means to be punished for bad behavior.  Kavanaugh, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, has never been called out nor punished for breaking the law.  From Georgetown Prep he continued up the legal ladder to become upper crust of the Washington cesspool.  Because of his wealth, Like our President,  Kavanaugh has no idea how the average American lives.  He has never suffered from his own bad behavior.  He has not even acknowledging that he once broke the law and atoned for it.... or do we really know,  based upon a partisan two day judicial committee  hearing? ( And a committee of rich white men of the same ilk as Kavanaugh to boot.)
  
The Supreme Court operated for an entire year with only 8 judges because this fine committee would not even hold hearings for President Obama’s pick.  We will be stuck with Kavanaugh for the rest of his life, surely we can take a few more weeks to discover more about him.  For instance how can he afford his house, life style and his country club dues on his salary as a DC District judge? 

I have met and socialized with Clarence Thomas, who has always had a cloud of sexual inappropriateness over his appointment.  We seem to be heading to yet another appointment with an even darker cloud of sexual assault on his head. Clarence Thomas should have been disqualified, not for his bad behavior toward Anita Hill. Anita Hill became a distraction that obscured the real reason he should not have been appointed. Thomas should not have been appointed because he is not smart enough to be a Supreme Court Judge. He has turned out to be one of the worse Supreme Court judges of modern day but got the votes by accusing the committee of “high tech lynching”.  Yes he played a 1991 race card and it worked.  

The congress has no moral high ground on this decision to rush in Kavanaugh because of their decision to stop the Judge Garland nomination. This unethical decision gave us an eight judge court.. for a year.  Now however there is a rush to fill this Kennedy seat so we have a “full” court.   The rush is on to get Kavanaugh on the bench because this congress wants to stack the deck while they deal the cards. It doesn’t matter what his character is as long as he will rule against Roe vs Wade.  Two judges, Thomas and Kavanaugh, who don’t seem to believe that women are equal humans should not be allowed to rule on a woman’s right to choose.  Again, Kavanaugh will have the job for the rest of his life and probably the rest of mine as well, I would personally like a little more time to find out what kind of a man he is.  
That is the way I see it... you may see it differently.  You are welcome to your opinion as well. But if you are expecting to engage me in some sort of challenge to my opinion, that will not be the case here. 
As you were,
Jay


Friday, September 14, 2018

The Pirates of the Congress


I have an analogy that may not be the perfect metaphor but for me it is a cautionary tale.  Currently Congress is trying cut way back on social security benefits including Medicare.  I am neither politician nor economist but I do possess a normal amount of common sense.  Social Security and Medicare are not gifts from a benevolent government.  Every employer takes money out of your pay check and sends that money to the government earmarked for your retirement needs. You don’t pay taxes on the money when it is taken out of your salary, but you do pay the taxes on the money when you start receiving it.  It is not free money but it is definitely your money. In principle that money is held by the government as a quasi-saving account that is used for your personal benefit when you reach retirement.  It is your money and my money...not the governments money.... that is never to be forgotten.
Here is my cautionary tale.  
In the rock and roll days of the 80’s comedy clubs,  there were at least two major comedy clubs in ever town of any size. A comedy club is an easy convert from any type of business.  You just need a bar to serve drinks (sometimes food) a small stage and a microphone on a stand. All a comedy club needed to draw a crowd was a funny comic who people wanted to see.  The “product” of a Comedy club was the presentation of comics. 

At first it was a reciprocal deal. Club says to the comic, “If you perform and draw a crowd I will give you part of my profits for the evening.” With more people there, more drinks and dinners were sold.  Comics did well and their salary was somewhat based on their “drawing power”. 

Pretty soon the club was drawing crowds based upon the fact that they were known to employ funny comics.  They said, “How can we make more money given the fact that we are sharing the bar profits with the comic?”  So.... they decided to make the show a “Two drink minimum” making twice as much from the same number of people.  Comics were fine with this because they shared in the increase. 
But that was not enough for the Club. They wanted to keep all the profit from the increased bar sales. So they said, “Comics will no longer get a percentage of the bar profit, we will charge a “cover” or “door charge” and that will be the comics salary.”   Depending on the size of the club and how well the comic could draw, that deal was okay, if not as profitable as the bar percentage.  

This was the standard for awhile, but as the club saw the amount of money that was being taken in “at the door” they said, “We need to keep some of that money.” So the comic was then offered a “percentage” of the door charge.  (A fee that was set up originally as the comics salary.)  But that was eventually not enough.  The club decided that the percentage would begin only after the Club recouped a certain amount of money.  In my day it was a percentage after $6000.00 profit, at the door.  After some time even these contracts were reserved for comics that were a sure draw.

Comedy Clubs are not the steam roller they once were.  They are still around but paying comics minimal salary or “letting” them do a “showcase” for free.  But they do not exist in the numbers they used to.  The greedy clubs were the ones that disappeared first. 

The point is... the minute money was coming in the club decided it was all theirs.  Once the money started coming in the rules changed. Substitute government for the word club and American worker for the word comic and you will see the connection I do.  In a congressional spread sheet the legislators can, with a mere accounting post, take the money you have paid in away from you to use for themselves.  They are trying to make up for the government money short fall from giving tax breaks to the rich by using YOUR money.   The money that was "set aside" for your future benefit. It is greedy, it is uncaring and it is doomed to failure. How long will the workers be willing to have money taken out of their salary, in addition to the taxes they pay, so that the government can fund the rich.  When you are no longer contributing money, because you retired from the work force, you are useless to the government.  Becoming old and sick is your fault, you should have made more money and put some away for these "emergencies".  But wait wasn't that why the whole social security system was set up for, just that contingency?  

The clubs that did not treat its comics well did not survive.  A capitalistic government that does not treat its workers well will not survive either.  This is not an illegal immigrant taking your job, this is the government taking YOUR money. Vote for people who understand this principle.

As you were,
Jay

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Mule Deer Meme

This is a quick anecdote. (An anecdote is just a joke that a raconteur stretches out to a story). Probably too short to be a proper blog, but I didn’t read the terms of service. 
The two things you need to know in advance:
Gary Mule Deer is one of the funniest people I know and I have known him for several decades. He lives in North-South Dakota but travels all over the country. Gary Mule Deer is not necessarily a household name, but he is a comedian’s comedian and a great guy.   It is always a treat when I get to work with Gary Mule Deer, and it never happens often enough. 
He sings funny songs and delivers deadpan comedy lines causing an audience to explode with laughter.    A typical Gary Mule Deer joke: “I saw a butterfly the other day. It had the tattoo of a biker chick on it’s shoulder.”

The second thing you need to know is that I take a regular Pilates class once a week. It is the only time I wear tee shirts out in public. That said I have some great tee shirts that represent my level of humor and I like to show them off in the class. 

Recently I wore one of Gary Mule Deer’s merch tee shirts to class. There is a picture of it above. It is a souvenir from the last time we worked together. Midway through the Pilates class the teacher noticed my tee shirt.   She starred at the image for a second or two, kind of tilted her head to get a different view and said, very slowly, “ A Gary... Mule... Deer.  I don’t get it.” 

Gary Mule Deer is not a Meme. 

As you were,
Jay 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Prime Time Pitch



This is a new game show reality program that is sure to keep America watching.  Shot on location at the Whitehouse and privately owned golf courses, starring an aging television pitch man and failed public servant.  
The opening season of twenty episodes features five “senior staff” members from the Presidential Cabinet each week, competing for Trumps loyalty. Each “contestant” will have a few minutes to verbalize why they love the job of Presidential sycophant more than any others on the staff.  The truth will not be required for this round.  
At the end of the episode the President will have all the contestants into the Oval Office.  Sarah Sanders will read the most flattering things said about the President from each of the contestants. Their actual identity is unknown to the President.  The President will then tweet the flattery he likes the best about himself.  The person who actually said that line will be revealed.  The President will then use the catch phrase.. “You’re a kiss ass.”  
The”kiss ass” then goes to the next round after all 100 senior staff members have a chance to charm the president.  
The 20 “ass kissers” who make it to the second round are divided into 5 groups for the next four shows.  Each one is given an opportunity to tell more about themselves and why they choose to work in an administration so toxic and full of hatred.  More importantly each one will be given a lie detector test with pertinent questions about Russia, actually loyalty and knowledge of who wrote the New York Times Op Ed piece.  At the end of each second round show the President will, based on whim and fantasy, pardon two of the contestants.  
The season finale will bring all those left of the senior staff into the blue room of the Whitehouse.  Their polygraph test results will be displayed on a big screen, with out analyzation results. Finally the results uncovered and the writer of the New York Times Op-ed is revealed. The President will then tweet that the person had nothing to do with his administration and is barely known to the staff. 
Assuming the ratings are big enough for a grand finale season recap special,  the President will shoot the writer of the Op-ed on 5th Avenue in New York to see if he loses voters. 
As you were,
Jay 

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Black Rabbit Rose


At N. Hudson and Hollywood Blvd in Hollywood, CA (only blocks away from the world famous Magic Castle) there is a new club called “Black Rabbit Rose”.   The word Magic is not in the name but the show is a magical experience nonetheless.  I went there last weekend to see our friend Liberty Larsen perform. She also serves as the hostess/producer/conjuror for the event.  I did not go there to review the evening but came away with such a wonderful experience I want to share it with everyone.  
We had dinner before going into the show room.  The restaurant is romantically dark with vintage hammered tin ceilings and ancient ceiling fans that are all connected to the same exposed belt system that drives them all in unison.  The bar is beautifully lit with dark wood and a patina that only comes with age.  They have specially drinks themed with the atmosphere and the food is Thai tapas. We were entertained table side with some stunning close up from a magician named Roeby... 

When it was time to go into the show-room we were escorted to the holding area and given a few instructions, mainly confirming that we all still had the four cards we were given earlier in our possession.  Ultimately these cards play a role in a magic effect performed by the entire audience.   After the indoctrination a secret door opens and you are let into the theater.  

The room is small and intimate, decorated in magical parlor style.  There are  locked glass front cabinets of magic memorabilia around the room and small cocktail tables.  Historically the theater boasts of being a speakeasy during the prohibition days.  In fact this clandestine room claims its former clients as some of Hollywood’s early show biz  royalty.  Some of the ghostly celebrities seem to still be present and helping with the illusions.  

The show itself is hosted by a funny magician, aided by Liberty and a gothic fire handler/sword swallower.  It is as much a variety show as it is a magical experience.  I would compare it to a Bookledge Follies show if you have ever been fortunate enough  to be invited to one of those events. 
For me, the show at Black Rabbit Rose is a new trend in “club” shows.  Not just someone doing stand up material with nothing more than a microphone, but it is a more structured show with talented people making you laugh while doing amazing things as well.  The fact that this is the show template for a new generation was born out by the young demographic observed at the club. 

In all candor I am a Lifetime Member of the Magic Castle.  Going there is an experience that never disappoints. It is an evening as much about the ambiance of the venue as it is the show itself.  The Magic Castle is, however, a private club with a very strict dress code. For those who don’t want the hassle of dressing formally or begging a magician member to get you a pass, Black Rabbit Rose is an extremely satisfying and similar experience.  This is not so surprising because Liberty Larsen, the Black Rabbit Rose hostess, is the granddaughter of the founder of the Magic Castle; performance magic is in part of her DNA.
Like any new club, the competition for the entertainment dollar is massive in Hollywood.  There is so much “out there” that it is  tough for any one new place to grab attention.  I believe that word of mouth is the best form of promotion.  So this is my mouth telling you that this experience is one you won’t forget, unique, entertaining and waiting for you to be amazed.
As you were,
Jay