The power of low expectations

Sonny Perdue, the governor of Georgia, recently sent out this campaign message. The whole message is how well Georgia has fared in the recent SAT rankings. Georgia has achieved it’s highest ranking ever. Sounds impressive, right?

We went from 50th to 46th.

The fact that Mr. Perdue feels like this is something to brag about makes me think he didn’t do so well on his SATs either.

Encore Idiocy

Once upon a time, there was a performer. Perhaps a singer, perhaps a lute-player, perhaps a thespian of some kind. And this performer put on a show for the king. And the show was so good, the king and his court would not let it end. After the show had come to a conclusion, the applause and hurrahs began. Oh, how they rang from the rafters. As one, the audience rose to their feet, demanding, insisiting without words for More!! More!! At this spontaneous outburst of enthusiasm, our artist repeated some of the better parts of his show, to great acclaim and praise. For months afterwards, he was the talk of the court.

Boy, those days are long behind. You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger bunch of idiots than the tens of thousands at a rock concert screaming for an encore. Here is the script followed by every band out there.

1) “Thank you [geographic location]! We’ve had a great time! We are [band name, or individual members, starting with the drummer and bassist, and working your way up to “..and I am [singers name]”]
2) Stage lights go off, and the band walks off.
3) Concert rookies, the elderly, and the fans who don’t care much for their early stuff head for the exits.
4) The rest start screaming. They stomp their feet, they jump and yell. Lighters come out, thousands of lighters.
5) Meanwhile nothing is happening on the stage. Except you might see a couple roadies put out freshly tuned guitars.
6) The crowd continues. Spontaneous chants ring out.
7) What is the band doing? I’d really like to know. Resting? Talking about the brunette in the third row? Complaining that the bassist is jumping the beat again? Watching NewsRadio on Nick at Nite?
8) The yelling continues. Another ten minutes or so of this, and…
9) Holy cow! I don’t believe it! The band has responded to this outpouring of enthusiasm! Why they are coming out again! Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!
10) The band picks of their instruments, and without a word, launches into a mini-set. This set consists of 3-5 songs, all big hits that were conveniently omitted from the main set. Almost as if they were purposefully planning on an encore… No, don’t say that, it cannot be true!
11) The mini-set ends. At exactly 11:30 (or whatever time is mandated by the venue).
12) The band walks off, perhaps with another thanking of the crowd, perhaps with a reminder that [they’ll be back in the fall/our new album hits stores in the fall].
13) The houselights go up. The roadies come out and start taking the equipment down.
14) At this Pavlovian signal, the crowd meekly files out.

The whole thing is just such a farce. Here’s a few variants I’d like to see.

The band comes out and in the beginning of the show announces, “We’re going to have a 10 minute break after an hour or so. Also, we’re playing a bunch of stuff from the new album halfway through, so that’s a good time to get a beer.” (The Who introduced the song Quadrophenia that way.)
Or: “We’re planning on playing some more. But if you just act like a bunch of lobotomized sheep, it doesn’t seem worth it. We already got your money either way”
Or, I’d geniunely like to see: The band wraps up the main set. They announce, “We’re taking 15 minutes to cool off. Then we’ll be back, and play until 11:30. You can probably guess what songs we’re going to end the show with. You feel like shouting, go for it. We’re coming back either way.”

One joke comedians

I’ve watched every season of Last Comic Standing, and in the process inferred one of the things that bugs me about many comedians, and quickly put them in the “Not Funny” pile. Some comedians entire act is about a stereotype of themselves. Let’s look at some comedians from the show.

Group One
Dat Phan (season 1 winner): Awful. Never once told a joke that wasn’t about being Asian. Couldn’t even come up with new material, every night it was the same material from the week before about being Asian. I get it, you’re Asian. On this season’s finale show, he performed. He had better poise, delivery, and presence, but it was still the same joke over and over. I can only conclude that he had pictures of Jay Mohr.
John Heffrin (season 2 winner): Varied act. I didn’t much care for him, but I recognize why someone could find him funny.
Josh Blue (season 3 winner): One joke pony. However, his act is pretty good because at least his one joke is a joke no one else can do. Not a lot of palsy comedians out there. Nevertheless, it got old fast for me. I can’t imagine watching a half-hour of him.
The New York Jew or Italian lady who’s getting older: There’s one every season, I can never even remember their name.
The big black lady: Ditto. If I follow the gist of your act, you state in many ways that you have been known to overeat on occasion, as well as behave in a manner that many white people would construe as over-assertive, often accompanied by various gestures. I see.

Group Two (for contrast):
Ralphie May: Started off just doing fat jokes, but quickly morphed into a great all around comedian. Nothing wrong with a few fat jokes, just don’t make it your whole act. See Kevin James or Louie Anderson.
Dave Mordal (my favorite of all seasons): Can’t even peg this guy — some variety of Minnesota redneck?
Alonzo Bodden (sp?): Great. Again, he has black jokes, but that’s not the whole act.
Ty Barnett (sp?): Ditto. That guy is just plain funny.

In five years the second group will have a lot more success. Josh Blue will be remembered because of the originality of his schtick, but otherwise Group One will have faded into obscurity.

Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t just do Jewish jokes. George Carlin doesn’t just do hippie or language jokes. Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor and Chris Rock talked a lot about life being black, but didn’t just do black jokes. Bill Cosby never really did black jokes. You can make jokes about yourself and your life and how you see the world without having to pick out an obvious stereotype about yourself and make the same joke about it over and over.

Homeland Insecurity

Question: What do the following things have in common?

0) We’ve known about flying planes into buildings for years, but do close to zero about it. Until someone does it, then airport security goes nuts.
1) Someone tries to explode a plane with a shoebomb. From then on, all passengers get their shoes inspected. Oh, but it’s optional for children.
2) Someone tries to explode several planes with some liquid explosives. From then on, no passengers can bring liquids on planes. Except infant formula — since we all know that terrorists would never be so jaded as to use an innocent human life for their own purposes.
3) There is no more protection of chemical plants or ports than there was five years ago.
4) Homeland Security funding to the states is based on congressional seniority, or astrology, or something clearly at odds with empirical reality.
5) More nations are going nuclear than ever before
6) Nuclear materials are still pretty much as easy to get as ever. (John Kerry and George Bush both identified this as their greatest worry in the ’04 debates).
7) Only 40% of Americans accept evolution.

Answer: They’re all incredibly stupid. The last one has nothing to do with this security post, I just find it shocking.

Oh, by the way, did you know that we knew about the liquid gel idea back in 1994? Perhaps the security policy is this:
Figure out or discover a technique by which the bad guys can get us
Take no measures of any kind
Hope that when it is attempted, you stop it in time
If you do, take draconian measures that may or may not stop that technique, but definitely piss off hundreds of millions of other people.

There’s no real point to this post. It’s just remarkable how stupid, corrupt, and ineffective all of our security policies are, and that no one really seems to care that much.

America’s Got Talent

I flip to this show once in a while. If nothing else, I’m hoping to see David Hasslehoff reprise his greatest lyrics ever — hooga hooga oooga chakka, hooga hooga oooga chakka, hooga hooga oooga chakka… (easily the worst video ever, simply off the unintentional comedy scale).

So here’s my issue with America’s Got Talent. Some of the acts shouldn’t even be allowed on the stage. Not because of their [lack of] talent, but because of their field. Let’s just say it. Comedians, Singers and Musical bands shouldn’t be eligible. Why?

Because there are so many other ways for these people to get recognized if they really are talented. There are already plenty of venues for talent in these fields to be recognized. You can be out performing at countless open mic acts across the land, building a following, and getting to be famous the way all of your heros did. And if you’re really that talented, you’ll make it.

On the other hand, if your talent is quick change routines, juggling, smoking lots of cigarettes, mulitplying numbers quickly, or any of the truly bizzare acts, what else are you going to do? Not a lot of other ways to the top for you.

This is related to the now-famous Funnel Theory. If you are a comedian or musician, and you appear on America’s Got Talent, all you’ve proven is that you are a complete failure among your peers, and you are even worse than a sellout — you are a sellout that no one wants to buy.