December 03, 2008
Obama Humor That Tastes Bad

Well, we have a new President-Elect. And yes, I'll continue my earlier promised (serious) political discussion soon. In the meantime, it's time to recognize that humor will never be the same now that we have Barack Obama as our newly elected President-to-be.

In the spirit of getting the ball rolling, I present to you my list of...

Top Ten "How Many President-elect Obamas Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?" Jokes As Told By...

  • Barack Obama: "One. And I'll set up the committee to look into that change on Day One."
  • John McCain: "One. That One."
  • Hillary Clinton: "None. He's not experienced enough to change a lightbulb."
  • Joe Biden: "One. But he'll need my help."
  • Sarah Palin: "All of them!"
  • George W. Bush: "It's too early to talk about numbers for lightbulbification."
  • The Cast of Saturday Night Live: "Shhh! We can't make jokes about the Chosen One!"
  • Bill Clinton: "I did not screw in that light bulb. Or anywhere else, for that matter."
  • Rush Limbaugh: "You see? Barney Frank *broke* that light bulb in the first place!"
  • Gloria Steinem: "THAT'S STILL NOT FUNNY!"
Now it's your turn. Got any to add?

PS: For those of you who don't get the Gloria Steinem reference, it stems from these two old classics:

Q: How many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?


Q: How many Harvard girls does it take to change a lightbulb?

PPS: Thanks to Allen M. who inspired me to think of the John McCain line, which led to the whole list, in turn.

Posted by at 06:02 PM in the following Department(s): Humor , Tidbits III | Comments (1)
 December 05, 2008
Roger Ebert, Expelled, and Missing the Point

I've been meaning for a couple of years now to post a little ditty here about one of my favorite authors, Roger Ebert. He is one of the most important 'men of letters' writing in America today.

You may remember him as one of the thumbs up/thumbs down reviewers from TV's movie-review programs "Siskel & Ebert" or "Ebert & Roeper". But he's been a newspaper man for a few decades in Chicago, and his work has been online for the last several years. I visit his site regularly ( and catch up as much as I can from the archives in addition to the new stuff that's posted. Mr. Ebert and I often disagree in matters of taste as well as politics, but I enjoy reading his work immensely.

Ebert has a phrase that he likes to employ when discussing a movie that has a particular bent; he'll remind us that "a movie is not about what it is about; it is about how it is about it." This is a profound thought, and it bears consideration. For the sake of argument, think about the movies "The Godfather" and "Analyze This". Among other things, both are ostensibly about how hard it is to be a crime family. But how they go about showing that is what makes them the (very different) movies they are.

This is all by way of saying that similarly, Ebert's movie reviews are not about the movies he's reviewing; they are about how they are about them. This is what makes his writing so much fun. His reviews and essays are multi-layered.

Take, for example, his review of "The Aristocrats," a movie featuring a large number of different comedians telling the same joke. Ebert starts his review by commenting on the nature of different kinds of humor (the quick and the slow build-up), then takes a series of quick snips at pieces of the movie. His review then ends with a killer punch-line, that reveals that the whole review was a slow build-up all along. Brilliant!

(As a former producer of a comedy radio show, I was put on guard when he states early in his review of "The Aristocrats" words to the effect that, "I know something about humor." Echoes of "Good Morning Vietnam" rang through my head. But when I got to his punch line, he had me convinced.)

Alas, my post today is not really about why I enjoy Ebert's writing so much. But take my word for it; you should go read him.

Mr. Ebert spent a couple of years recuperating from surgery complications that nearly ended his life. He still is unable to eat or speak (so yes, his television days appear to be behind him at present and may well stay that way, and yes, he is much thinner than the guy you might remember seeing on TV), but he is back at work, writing as if there were no tomorrow. During his medical ordeal, a movie called "Expelled" came out that, in Michael Moore-ish fashion, creatively mixed fact and fiction to claim that Intelligent Design proponents were being unfairly treated by Big Science.

As Ebert resumed writing, he was frequently pestered to write a review of this pseudo-documentary. He recently posted his response, not within his formal movie reviews on the Chicago Sun-Times sponsored site, but on his personal blog here.

In my opinion, the blog entry stumbles out of the gate, but once he picks up steam, he hits it out of the park. (How many metaphors can I mix in one sentence? My record so far is tied at three.) You should read it. Go ahead. I'll wait.

As you'll notice, he allows comments to be posted. What inspired me to write tonight was a series of comments that appeared below this particular entry. Keep in mind, his essay was about the movie Expelled and, in particular, the intellectual dishonesty that Ben Stein and the movie's producers employed in claiming that Intelligent Design was anything other than a cover for religious dogma. That was the whole point of Ebert's essay.

He often notes the use of the "excluded middle;" the failure of the movie's producers to entertain the notion that some people can be religious and still believe that evolution works the way scientists describe. What I found fascinating was how several commenters (commentors?) completely missed the point of Ebert's essay and went straight to the same "excluded middle" assumptions by begging the question, "What is the meaning of life if we're all just the result of a bunch of chemical interactions?"

Understanding biological evolution has nothing to do with resolving philosophical or, for that matter, religious conundrums. Ebert's review did not take a position on religion (although, if I recall correctly, he has stated elsewhere in his writing that he believes we are more than just a bundle of chemical reactions). Religion wasn't the point. Intellectual dishonesty in a movie that claimed to be a documentary was the point.

But I feel compelled to address the little philosophical conundrum that those commenters posed, because I hate, hate, hate crimes against logic. The commenters in question assume that subscribing to the concept of biological evolution necessarily means believing that we are nothing more than a bundle of chemical impulses. Therefore, they further deduce from this faulty assumption, people who agree with evolution have no ends worthy of pursuing; "no heart to love / no evil to rise up above," etc. If we accept the theory of evolution as demonstrated, then our lives hold no value and we hold no faith but greed.

These responses completely missed the point of Ebert's take on the movie, they completely miss the point of scientific inquiry, and they insultingly miss the point of logic. They also assume that atheists (as if everyone who understands evolution must therefore be an atheist) don't feel emotions, engage in morality, or hold values. Which begs a question that's interesting to ponder:

If this is all there is -- if we get one shot at life, and there's nothing left of our consciousness once our brain stops working -- then isn't this life that much more precious than if we instead assumed that life is never ending? Isn't the atheist who dies for a cause more noble than the believer who expects that there will be rewards in the Great Beyond? Isn't triumphing over evil all the more urgent if we know that there are no second chances to get it right? And likewise, aren't we less likely to strap a bomb to our chest or commandeer an airplane on a murder/suicide mission if we are assured that what waits for us "on the other side" is not our own personal paradise, but instead... nothing?

It seems to me that life is precious, no matter which side of the philosophical or theological fences you find yourself standing.

Posted by at 01:23 AM in the following Department(s): Books/Movies/Music , Essays | Comments (2)
 December 13, 2008
Another Shot of Andrew at Six Months

Holy Cow! He's already *seven* months old! Here's another shot I took of him on the day he turned six months (because I haven't processed the more recent photos yet):

Andrew in the Bouncey Thingy.

Love him! Love him!

Posted by at 02:24 AM in the following Department(s): The Boys | Comments (1)

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