If you go to the above link there is a pretty hilarious flow chart that shows how silly religious arguments against gay marriage are. Worth a moment of your time. And we won’t even get into the whole idea of how marriage has constantly been changing as society changes.
This aired last year, but I am only just seeing it now. Holy shitballs! When people believe the Old Testament literally, I have to wonder what they are smoking. Maher does a great job at pointing out the absurdity in the story of Noah. Great fun!
Today I was talking to my Dad on the phone about Dante’s Inferno. Surprisingly we both found it funny. This is a book where people’s souls are tortured in the most horrible ways imaginable for all eternity, often for no more than religious thought crimes or moments of passion. The religious medieval mind was sure a strange one! When things go that dark they, at some point, go through the looking glass and pass into the realm of absurdity, and then turn into comedy.
Lou Reed often makes me laugh in the same way, though I’m almost positive that he was in on the joke. When he was asked about his album Berlin, which many deem the most depressing album of all time, he said he was just, “having fun.” Whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul, I can put that album on, or any number of his albums, and find myself instantly cheered up. The final song on it, Sad Song, is the cosmic punchline to the album. I was going to describe it, but I found this description on YouTube by Adam Pendleton, the first comment at the time of writing, and I really enjoyed it:
So this poem is about an abusive husband, than his wife kills herself. Even so, he doesn’t really care. He half-heartedly chants “sad song.” than shrugs and moves on. Even after she’s gone he thinks of her as “wasting my time.” and that he was wrong for thinking she ever looked beautiful. He justifies his abuse, “somebody else would have broke both her arms.” At least that’s what I got out of it.
As Mark Twain once said, “Humor is tragedy plus time.”
Last weekend while in a hotel I caught a segment on HBO’s Real Sports about the ’85 Chicago Bears. The segment was about how football injuries prematurely turned a group of strong and charismatic men into shells of their former selves. Even coach Mike Ditka said he would no longer tell kids to play football knowing what he knows now. (Which is strange given that Ditka still humps it for the NFL doing game analysis.)
I grew up playing football and have always been a football fan. I also am aware that no matter what you do in life, it takes some kind of physical or mental toll. Life eventually makes monkeys of us all. If I know nothing else, I know that. However, I think this segment, better than anything else I have seen, demonstrates the moral uneasiness surrounding modern football. Is it possibly more like a match held in the Roman Colosseum than we previously wanted to believe?
As the Super Bowl approaches, I can’t help but wonder about this. I have always know that football is absurd, and in fact that is partly what I love about it, especially at the professional level. As George Carlin once observed, “There is nothing better than watching 300 lb millionaires kick the shit out of each other.” I think if nothing else though, having at least a conversation about the consequences of the game is probably a good idea.
Anyone that knows this record doesn’t need me to explain why I included it. However, I see this as a great comedy record. Like many comedies it takes horrible realities to such extremes that it exposes truth, while at the same time making you laugh at the absurdity. Lets take the famous, or infamous, song Fuck tha Police:
You’d rather see me in the pen
Then me and Lorenzo rollin in the Benzo
Beat tha police outta shape
And when I’m finished, bring the yellow tape
Those four lines both expose truth and take violence to a comedic extreme at the same time. It’s the fact that many white people would rather see black males in prison than driving around in a Mercedes Benz. And then in the next two lines Ice Cube is bragging about beating a cop to death with maniacal glee. So it is truth hidden in the guise of absurdity. (And unfortunately this song still seems relevant to our daily headlines.)
For all of this records violence and insanity, I have a hard time taking it too seriously removed decades from its release. Ice Cube is in children’s movies and Dr. Dre is a respected CEO. I think of it along the lines of something like George Carlin’s Life is Worth Losing, where he talks about some of darkest subjects ever and twists them until they become funny. But while Carlin is making you laugh, he is again making you see truths that evade us in everyday conversation. (It’s not as smart as Carlin is, but then no one really is.) Unfortunately many of the groups that were influenced by this seemed to lack NWA’s knowing sense of humor. For all this records absurd violence and gritty reality, there is the sense that they are having fun. And it is precisely that fun that makes this record fire on all cylinders for me. They’ve driven straight over the edge, and are having a laugh in free fall.
For the first week of 2015 I am writing pieces about records that I can only describe as “batshit insane”. These are brilliant albums that are so dark they cross the threshold into a knowing comedy. If you want to understand exactly what I mean in more detail read the first paragraph from the start of this series:
I love records that one can only describe as sounding “batshit insane”. Where the artist seems as if they are out-crazying the din and the whirlwind of the Great Void. Albums that trump death, even if the artists are alive and the albums don’t even have death as a central theme because, even if it is subconsciously, they know it is out there and they seem not to give a shit. I am reminded of the character at the end of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle who dies, “lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.” I also think of George Carlin, putting on a show making the batshit insanity of this world hilarious, and then ending his set by standing on one leg with his arms outstretched, daring to be smited. These are albums where artistic fear is not only not present, it almost seems as if the artists are daring you not to like them. Albums like this make me laugh out loud and warm my heart to its very foundation. I could be having the worst day possible and when I put one of these records on I think, “Thank God they are out there.” I wanted to write about several of these records to start 2015 out on the right foot. My goal is to post at least one record a day for the next week. I’m just having fun, like a child skipping through a field.
In LAX waiting to fly to Australia. I realized today that there was no way I could blow up a plane, aside from any moral misgivings I might have. Under no circumstances could I ever choose to have an airport be the last place I see. How depressing is that shit?!!! Not only do you have to blow yourself up, but you have to agree to an airport being the last place your feet touch the ground.
Kevin Russell once said that an airport was, “a mall, a jail, and a bus stop”, all added together. But like one of those great bands where the sum is infinitely bigger than the sound of the members, an airport might be worse. I’ve spent a night in jail. It made me want to kill someone, but not myself.
At what point did Americans become such a pussified fear ridden country? One dude has explosives in his shoes that don’t even go off, and we take our shoes off when entering an airport for the rest of eternity.
And when did we start having stores in airports which have items that cost more than the GDP of some third world countries? Why do they hate us? Because when Muhammed is the first from his village to study abroad, the first thing he sees is a purse that costs more than every hut in his village combined.
And does fear of flying turn everyone on a plane into rambling idiots? I have never heard one conversation on a plane that didn’t sound like the adults in Charlie Brown. Do you know what the sound of crushed souls combined with the failure of the test driven American education system is like? And let’s not even talk about the babies.
Oh, don’t go getting your panties in a bunch, I am just having fun.
Terry Gilliam’s latest movie is one of his masterpieces. The Zero Theorem, staring Christoph Waltz, is a subversive science fiction movie that uses the future to show us our present. It is full of ideas, great performances, and is a visual wonder.
The movie follows Q, someone that works a mundane office job, as he tries to solve the zero theorem, which is a mathematical equation that will prove that life is meaningless. Q is a damaged individual that takes no joy out of life. He is an introvert that tries as much as possible to avoid human communication. He wants to work from home, so that he has even less contact with others. He unwillingly goes to a party at his supervisor’s house. There he meets the boss of his company who grants his wish to work from home as long as he will work on the theorem. At the party he also meets a young and beautiful woman that shows interest in him.
Q spends his days waiting for a phone call that he believes will give him the meaning of his life. Much of the film deals in symbolism like this. The phone call represents anything outside of ourselves that we believe will give us the answer to life’s mystery. The dialog in the film, like the film itself, jumps back and forth between the absurdly comic and of a more philosophical nature. However, just because the film deals heavily in symbolism, does not mean that the main characters are not three dimensional or that the world is not fully realized.
Visually the film is an absolute masterpiece, both for the cinematography, the realization of the world that the characters in habited, and the sheer amount of ideas that are on the screen. In Q’s house there is a crucifixion where Jesus’s head is replaced by a camera that watches Q’s every move. In his office he is working on what looks like an absurd video game with a video game controller replacing the typical office keyboard. I have worked several office jobs in the last ten years and working on a meaningless video game is not too far from the truth of what a great deal of office work is like.
The colors explode on screen. Every scene looks like it was carefully orchestrated. Every nook and cranny of the film looks like it had thought put into it.
The film is like our world, but on steroids. If the capitalism that runs our country is allowed to continue one can imagine that this is what our world will turn into. Commercials follow Q down the street as he commutes to work. The party scene, with its garish colors and cartoonish behavior, looks like a modern nightclub taken to its logical conclusion. The characters work ridiculous jobs that bring no meaning to their lives. Terry Gilliam is showing us the absurdity of our world. He is just pushing things a little further so that the everyday becomes new again.
Even though this film is very subversive, it is not without heart. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but the film is not without some small sliver of hope. Gilliam knows what is important despite how much we get wrong.
If you are a fan of Gilliam’s work than I highly recommend this film. if you don’t know any of his work, but are willing to try something that will make you think, then give this film a try. Some critics have described this film as Gilliam-lite, but I don’t agree. This is a unique filmmaker operating at the height of his powers. This is like a modern update of his masterpiece Brazil. While Brazil dealt with a dreamer in the middle of a bureaucracy, this movie imagines a future where corporations run everything.
On a personal note I watched this movie the night of the election. Feeling somewhat depressed I decided to watch something else other then the returns. It was one of those instances where art makes one feel less alone. I thought, “Thank god someone understands what is going on.” Gilliam is a tremendous filmmaker and we are lucky to have him amongst us. He is one of those rare souls that uses his imagination to paint the world as it truly is.