As Lori reminds me, I haven't been around lately. Still alive and well, just navigating some unusually busy seas. Good things mostly - busy at work, a bunch of last minute preparation for the new course I'm starting to teach this week, etc. Hopefully things will let up enough so that I can take the Christmas tree down some time before I have to hang hearts on it and call it a Valentine's Day Fern.
A few thoughts and observations I've been wanting to commit to writing...
Taking a Dive
It amazes me that people think that photo really shows Michael Phelps dragging from a bong. He's an American hero, for goodness sake. He wouldn't do that. He was obviously attending a classical music event and was being shown how to blow into a bassoon. Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket.
Now that we've settled that, there's also a logical explanation for this A-Rod/steroid thing, and you'll read it here as soon as I come up with it.
Memo to Ashley Judd...
Readers here know I'm second to none in my lack of confidence in Sarah Palin to lead the contiguous 48. But fair is fair: when the problem at hand is that wolves are threatening the caribou and moose populations, even I can see the average New Yorker is probably not qualified to offer an opinion, including on whether or not aerial hunting is appropriate. Besides, we do something similar here. We just call them drive-by shootings.
Why I Wish Joan Rivers were a Wolf in Alaska
PBS has been airing a wonderful six-part series about the history of American comedy. A couple of weeks ago, during an otherwise hilarious and informative episode, I was floored - and not in a good way - by a clip from a Joan Rivers stand-up piece about how the 9/11 widows were better off having the financial settlement checks instead of having their husbands.
I read once a quote from Lou Jacobs, one of the greatest and most recognizable circus clowns of the 20th century. Someone asked in an interview how he knew whether something was funny. He answered, simply, that if people laughed it was funny. I understand what he was getting at, but I respectfully disagree with anyone who takes that too literally. To call everything that makes a portion of the population laugh comedy is something like calling every greasy, fatty, processed chemical-laden stuff people want to ingest food. It's bad enough when artless school-yard dog-piling on people who are gay, handicapped, or whatever the person trying to be funny is not passes as comedy. When someone uses 9/11 deaths as the object of jokes, a serious line has been crossed. It's doubtful Rivers would make the same statement, even as part of an act, to the face of a 9/11 widow who in reality would give that settlement check and another like it to have her loved one back. There's a difference - and it's a big one - between something being shocking because it's insightful and cutting edge, and something being shocking just because it's so cruel as to be inappropriate.
I don't care what Joan Rivers accomplished early in her career. And I don't give a damn how many people were shocked into laughing this time around. It's not comedy. Period.
In Ms. Rivers' case, her horrifying insensitivity is particularly surprising, even hypocritical. Her own husband Edgar, sitting in a Philadelphia hotel room in 1987 faced with a choice between staying married to her or swallowing a bottle of Valium, chose the latter. It's been 22 years, not the 7 the 9/11 widows have had, and I still haven't heard Ms. Rivers extolling the hilarity of that event in her own life. Maybe I just missed it.