04 February 2016

Routine sit-down

This picture was captioned randomly with a line from The Ring and the Book by Robert Browning.

Dear Blogmaster Bryan,

In the parlance of the community of stand-up comedians, when your routine causes the crowd to laugh repeatedly, you are said to have “killed”; whereas, if your act consistently fails to make the audience laugh, you are said to have “bombed.”

I find these terms themselves a little funny; because, when speaking literally, bombing is killing, and killing results from bombing. The main difference between the words is that killing is instantaneous—the audience laughs immediately—whereas bombing takes time: you have to wait for your explosive to reach its target; but its devastation ultimately can prove much greater than a single act of killing. This is why, as a comedian of the written word (that is, sit-down rather than stand-up), I myself prefer to bomb.

But nobody really prefers to bomb—that’s just what one says when one’s material requires extra time to find its audience. And I’m sorry for linking the words one’s material to my own publication; I have not yet monetized this diary, beyond allowing the occasional self-advertisement…

Goodness gracious. (I’m changing the subject here, because our town experienced a major blizzard between the last paragraph and this one.) It is questionable whether we’ll be able to get our car out of the parking lot this morning: there’s waist-deep snow everywhere. My sweetheart is trying to decide if she should cancel her class (she teaches a class at 10 a.m.); because the private-sector snow-removal company has not yet managed to clear the driveway of our complex, although the government’s plows successfully cleared all the local roads hours ago.

[…more time passes…]

It turns out that sweetheart made it to work without trouble. She just now sent me a telegram from the dojo where she teaches karate. The next two sentences I copied from an encyclopedia. “Dojo” is a Japanese term which literally means place of the way. A “telegram” is a message sent by telegraph and then delivered in printed form (synonyms are telex, wire, and cablegram).

Also, at the beginning of the film Wrong Cops (2013), a young boy meets with Officer Duke and says “Sorry I’m late—I saw my karate instructor on the way here and had to chat for a little while, to be polite…” Then, Officer Duke explains that he doesn’t need to hear about the kid’s life, and couldn’t care less about his karate instructor.

One of the reasons I love the movie Wrong Cops is that I’ve lived my entire life in the Midwestern U.S., and Officer Duke is the antidote to “Minnesota Nice.” Here is a passage from Wikipedia:

Minnesota Nice is the stereotypical behavior of people born and raised in Minnesota to be courteous, reserved, and mild-mannered. The cultural characteristics include polite friendliness, aversion to confrontation, a tendency toward understatement, disinclination to make a fuss or stand out, emotional restraint, and self-deprecation.

It’s a lot like the behavior of the characters in another film I love: Guy Maddin’s Careful (1992).

I used to call myself a pessimist, because my mood is always one of annoyance and disappointment—I’m habitually negative—but, while recording what I felt was an accurate introspection in yesterday’s entry (“my mind is a prettifying device, embellishing everything for the better”), I realized that maybe I’m even the opposite. Now, to reconcile these opposing reflections, I conclude as follows: My mind is compulsively optimistic, but only about the past.

That conclusion doesn’t feel right either, to be honest; but I like how it sounds, so I’ll let it stand. …I’ve actually noticed that I’m becoming optimistic about the future as well. In a funny way, the experience of living through years of decline has convinced me of the possibility of progress. Because a downward movement was able to be achieved so easily, surely we can as easily propel ourselves upward—that’s what I think.

The secret is that the generations are staggered in their commence­ment and demise: multiple ages overlap during each current period, and constantly there are selfish ages dying out and harmonious ones arriving. The opposite could also be true, of course; but I think that, notwithstanding the existence of self-obsessed internet culture and looming global conflicts, our world is improving overall. Maybe it’s true, what certain biblical writers say, that the troubles we see around us are only birth pangs—and none of these opposing forces matter, in face of A NEW CREATION.

I don’t mean to insinuate that Jehovah will descend in a supernal chariot or appear as anything other than humankind. Blake tells us: God only acts and is in existing beings. My stress is that the change will come from within (if it comes), and not without. Some take God as parent and then engage in sibling rivalry—I’d rather avoid that.

But if aliens from the outer spaces arrive on our planet, I say that earthlings should not worship them—aliens are no more divine than anyone else. I mean, their divinity stems from the fact that they too are living creatures; but don’t forget how weird and wild humans can be: don’t sell yourself short. Although their technology is superior to ours, it’s precisely our mechanical inferiority that allows us to boast a healthier imagination.

I say that it’s sensible and fine to speak of one’s being as a unity, and not to separate it into categories at all; yet, if a gunslinger demands that we think of each self as comprised of body and mind, then I say: as the body becomes older and weaker, the mind grows younger and stronger. This is another saying that’s obviously untrue but that makes me feel good.

Now an extraterrestrial asks: What about those of us who lose our mind before our body dies?

I answer: Sometimes the mind grows so strong and youthful that it graduates ahead of its body.

I wonder if Jesus of Nazareth would agree with this twist on his idea. (Is it a twist? Maybe it’s just a restatement.) If you could see your true being—your imagination—depicted integrally with your visible flesh, it would resemble a robust plant growing out of a seed; and the discarded seed is the flesh.

Consider the statement “Bodies are made to break: therefore break yours in style.” If a vendor of athletic gear employed this slogan in a televised ad, how would the voiceover talent accent the words?

For the record, I intended to talk about totally different subjects in this entry. But just now my sweetheart returned home from teaching her class, so I should stop writing and go to luncheon with her. By the way, she made it back safely, despite the blizzard. She even met one of her students on the way home, and he was polite enough to chat with her for a while.

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