Saturday, March 08, 2008

It's Long Enough Now

I saw George Carlin's latest HBO special the other night. What's amazing is that Carlin is 70 years old and he still hasn't lost his edge. Well, that's not exactly true. I think he briefly lost his edge a few years ago when he made his last HBO special, but that can probably be attributed to the fact that he had recently stopped drinking, which makes just about everyone seem less interesting. But other than that, his edge might even be sharper now than it was earlier in his career.

George Carlin has had an interesting and protean career. He's always been funny, but when I first heard him, his humor generally came from the standpoint of an amused cultural observer. Now he's more of a scathing critic of politics, religion, business, people of all sorts, and life in general. He's still funny, though. He's always been funny.

In the early '70s, he was probably most famous for his "Seven Words" monologue. Around the same time, when I was just entering college, I saw him perform live. I don't know where I actually saw him perform -- I was still new to the area -- but I think it was some nearby community college. And I don't think it was in an auditorium, because I vaguely remember sitting on the floor during the entire performance. Whenever I see Carlin perform on TV today, I always think back to when I saw him in 1972.

That's all I have to say about that, except that if you subscribe to HBO, you might want to check out the show. I'm sure they'll rebroadcast it over and over again, like they do with all his other specials. As a matter of fact, you should watch some of his other specials as well.

Okay, that's all I wanted to say, but this post is still too short, so I'm going to mention another show I've been watching recently. It's called Head Case and it's shown on the Starz network. It's sort of like a live-action version of the animated series Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, except that it's not as funny. That's because even though Jonathan Katz wasn't an actual professional therapist, he is an actual professional comedian, and he knows about timing and subtlety, whereas the people behind Head Case usually just try to see what they can get away with that might make people laugh. But it's still funny sometimes, so consider that some sort of recommendation.

This post is still kind of short, so I'm going to mention something else. It doesn't have anything to do with what I've been talking about, but it's always bugged me, so I'm going to mention it here. It's hardly news that when lies get repeated often enough, people stop questioning them and start to believe them. As a matter of fact, it's such predictable behavior that it's become one of the cornerstones of most political campaigns. I'm not all that interested in politics, but there are a couple of untrue statements that are taken as fact by a lot of people.

The first one is that we only use 10% of our brains. I've heard this ever since I was a kid, but I'm never sure I actually believed it. It's since been proven false by experiments using functional MRIs, but that probably won't stop a lot of people from still believing it. But think about it: Why would we only use 10% of our brain? How would that benefit us as a species? Why would we even have the other 90% of it, if it's just sitting there idly doing nothing? We use 100% of all our other body parts, so I don't know what made anyone think we only use a small portion of our brain. Maybe the original idea was that we're capable of being a lot smarter than we are, and somehow the message got twisted. I happen to agree that we could all be a lot smarter, but I don't see it happening any time soon.

The other untrue statement is much more recent -- I only started hearing it within the last ten years or so -- and that statement is that 50% of marriages end in divorce. This is a classic example of how easily statistics can be misinterpreted when you don't spend much of time thinking about them. What actually happened is that some records clerk happened to notice that the number of marriage certificates issued one year was about twice the number of divorce papers filed. That's all there was to it, and it's hard to turn that into a general statement about the percentage of marriages that end in divorce, but someone managed to do it, and a lot of people ended up believing it. They'll probably continue to believe it until we all become a lot smarter, but as I said before, I don't see that happening any time soon.

So that's about it, except that this post is still a little short, especially considering the fact that I didn't write anything last week, so here's one more thought for you. I'm sure you're familiar with the Cadillac Escalade, but have you ever wondered why it has such a stupid name? It's not the only car with a stupid name, of course. Porsche makes an SUV called the Cayenne, which has nothing to do with either Cayenne the place or cayenne the hot pepper -- but it's arguable that the people at Porsche wanted us to think of their SUV as hot and spicy. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but cars have been called a lot of things that don't make any sense. For example, no car is actually sexy in any real way, although that term has been applied to them for longer than I can remember.

Anyway, back to the Escalade. Most people probably don't even know what that word means. I didn't even know it was a real word until it was the answer to a crossword puzzle clue. It turns out that to escalade means to scale a wall, especially the wall of a castle or fortification during battle. Pretty dumb name for a car, right?

Okay, that's it. This post is long enough now, so that's all for this week.