Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Geeking to extremes

Monty Python veteran turned historian Michael Palin recently wrote a book about the doomed Arctic voyage of the Erebus.He held a lecture at Saint Francis College in Brooklyn Monday night, so of course, I jumped at the chance to attend.

Seeing as I work bizarre hours, (after treating myself to an egg cream and matzoh ball soup at Katz Deli) I arrived there an hour and a half early. I figured I'd check out the venue before perhaps grabbing a beer. I walked towards the auditorium, and an elderly man with a kind and gentle face walked back down the hall towards me.

"Excuse me," he said in a British accent as he pointed towards the auditorium, "but are you involved with all of this?"

Now, I've met various celebrities in my life, but anyone who knows me knows what a complete Monty Python nut I've been since my teenage years. And here was my favorite member - one of my life-long idols - standing only a few feet away, waiting for me to put a few coherent words together to form a sentence.

"No," I managed to say as I extended my hand, "but I've been a huge fan of yours all my life." He took my hand and gracefully shook it. How could I explain to him about the happy times I had had with like-minded friends and family, listening to Python albums, and watching everything from Flying Circus to A Fish Called Wanda? How could I explain that in the 1980s, passing another geek in the hall and whispering "Wait 'till Biggus Dickus hears of this!" was the nerd equivalent of drawing an Ichthys (aka "Jesus Fish") in the sand - making life just a bit less lonely?

"I just wanted to say," I said, "thank you for all the years of laughter, you've spread a lot of happiness in the world."

The poor man, faced with yet another possibly crazed American fan, just smiled and said, "Oh... Thank you." He suddenly seemed embarrassed that I had come so early, as if - incredibly - he were putting me out in some way by not being ready. I assured him that he wasn't, and went outside to text all my friends and family - like the nerd that I am - that I had just actually met the one and only Micheal Palin.

Hey, at least I managed to refrain from singing "I'm a Lumberjack" or "Every Sperm is Sacred."


Monday, October 15, 2018

Dream 753

Last night, I dreamt that I was washing dishes, while everyone else was in the living room watching Annie. For some reason, our apartment had become my grandparents' old house in Brooklyn.

So there I am, scrubbing a cup while cherubic 80s show-tunes are coming from down the hall, and I can't seem to get ramen out of the bottom, no matter how hard I try. In fact, the corners of the sink are filthy, full of hair, and caked with dried Oodles of Noodles. Of course, I do what any parent would do - I shout for the kids to get in there, so I can blame one of them.

By this time, the kitchen - which has become completely filthy - has sunk down about five feet, and has stairs leading down. Joe comes, taking them in stride, but before I can rant about the ramen, he asks, "Hey, is that a mouse?"

And yes, there's a big, fat, gray mouse running around the kitchen. Great, I think, how am I going to get it out of here? I look around for a box, when I realize that it's not a gray mouse, it's a black kitten.

I pick it up, and it snuggles against me. Cute, I think, but I really don't want a cat. I show it to Jen, and she points out that it has a collar. I ask her to read its tag, so we can get it back to its owner.

We go out the front door, and wind up in an ornate, gold hotel lobby. The kitten has now become a puppy. "Wait," I think, "I must be dreaming, here. This was definitely a kitten a second ago." The concierge approaches, and it's (circa Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey) Pam Grier.

Cool, I say to myself, I'm definitely dreaming. Time to go lucid, and have some fun. I'll just give this dog to -

And then, of course, the alarm woke me up.

Feel free to analyze.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Life, the Internet, and Everything

I used to enjoy social media, but these days, it just makes me sad. It seems like no one is able to see anything from anyone else's point of view anymore, and everyone is at each other's throats. When I was a kid, our teachers used to tell us not to judge anyone until you've walked a mile in their shoes (moccasins?) Now it seems that people are proud of not being able to do that - and will come up with all kinds of straw-man arguments on why they're "right" not to do so - even for their own friends and family.

I feel very naive, because when the internet came out, it seemed like everyone could have a voice, and that would make the world better. Instead it wound up creating ideological bastions where everyone could reassure themselves that they're "right" and scream generalized accusations at everyone who's "wrong." In the recent words of Stephen Fry, "A grand canyon has opened up in our world... Neither on each side can hear a word that the other shrieks, nor do they want to."

Here's another favorite quote: "You'll never be able to use facts and logic to talk someone out of a position they've reached using emotion." I wish I remember who said this (Robert Anton Wilson, maybe?), but it should be on the sign-in page of every social media site.

I have to admit, I've played more than my share of identity politics in my life. I'm sure you could read a lot of them here. But in the end, it's not a zero-sum game. Spreading hate or love won't balance any scales. Hating one group doesn't add love to another; refusing compassion won't replenish any that was once refused to you. Love may not always get you love in return, but causing pain isn't going to lessen yours.