Here Thar Be Monsters!

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27.3.16

Top 10 Comedies Of All Time (stage)

The theater is our first love.  We began our career there at the tender age of 12, and though we have ranged far and wide in other media, it has always been and will always be our home.

For that reason, we thought we'd devote one of our Top 10 lists to the Grande Dame of the arts, the Theatre.  In searching all the other Top 10 lists out there, we saw film and TV picked to the bone, but a search of Top 10 lists for the stage were virtually non-existant.  We have found ample explorations of books.  Even a few have bothered to look beyond the 20th century (as if everything of consequence has only recently been invented).

Ever on the cutting edge, we here on the Far Side are going everyone else one better.  Our list will explore comedy from ancient times until today, and offer up our most favorite picks for a great laugh in a live performance.  Cuz ain't no one what don't need no kul-cher.

Some conditions on our choices: no musicals (so A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is right out), it has to be written as comedies - not just funny because they are so dated, and they have to be funny to modern audiences, meaning the humor doesn't rely on contemporary pop culture.  Also, no Neil Simon.  Finally, the play should be revived enough so that someone has a good chance of seeing it on stage, whether it's a high school drama department or a West End theater troupe.  We will list them in chronological order, since it's nearly impossible to rank shows that have been classics for centuries.

So, without further ado, the Far Side List of Top 10 Comedies of All Time (stage)!
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1) Lysistrata (411 BC) - Aristophanes was somewhat of a revolutionary in ancient Greek theater.  He modified traditional staging conventions that still have a profound effect on how shows are done today.  Even more, he challenged the social mores of Athens and ridiculed his society for issues that still resonate.  In this classic, the title character is determined to put an end to the Peloponnesian War.  She hatches a plan and convinces the women of Greece to withhold sex from the men until the war ends.  Naturally, the plan goes awry and ends up starting a Battle of the Sexes.  Even though the play is 2,400 years old, modern audiences will laugh not only at the action of the play, but also at their own society.  The subjects of gender roles and male dominance are still very much part of the culture, and are still used in satire and comedy.  Watch university drama departments for the occasional revival of this fine show.

2) Bacchides (~200 BC) - Mistaken identity, prostitutes, scheming servants, bribery and extortion: must be a British comedy.  But NO!  This is the work of the famous Roman playwright Plautus, who basically Latinized older Greek plays, but we won't hold that against him, since Woody Allen Americanized many great comedies from Greek and Roman sources.  This selection is one of the best examples of themes and plots that were very popular in ancient Rome.  Two young Romans fall in love with two prostitute sisters who both have the same name, Bacchis.  Naturally, they engage in subterfuge and extortion to get the money to buy the girls' freedom, but the name confusion creates all kinds of chaos.  Hard to find this one produced today, but A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the forum should give you an idea of what this masterpiece of comedy is like.

3) Much Ado About Nothing (1598) - Those who love Shakespeare all have their favorites, and this happens to be ours.  Even the title is a pun on "noting" (gossip) and "nothing," which sound similar if you have a midlands British accent.  Like a game of Telephone gone mad, rumors swirl out of control, with people falling in love or rejecting each other based on misunderstandings.  A huge effort is undertaken by the characters to set things right, with the obvious comedic situations creating mayhem along the way.  This show has it all: slapstick, manners, situations, and even a dash of blackness.  There are some decent film renditions of this king of Shakespearean comedies, but if you happen to get a chance to see the Royal Shakespeare production, drop everything and get tickets.

4) Tartuffe (1664) - The Restoration Period and the end of Puritanism was obviously a fertile time for comedy.  This is considered by many to be Jean Baptiste Moliére's best comedy, as well as being an inspiration for our next selection.  Moliére was one of the most influential playwrights of the time and actors still scratch and claw to get a role in his shows.  In what is nearly a comedic foreshadowing of Gregoryi Rasputin 300 years later in Russia, the title character is a grifter and a fraud posing as a holy man.  He gets a husband and wife so far under his spell that the husband decides to marry off his daughter to Tartuffe.  No one else is fooled, though, and set up a series of complex traps to expose Tartuffe for the immoral scum that he is.  Naturally, this creates a number of comedic situations, and when done well, leaves audiences in tears of laughter.  Most of the really good laughs come from watching Tartuffe squirm his way out of various uncomfortable predicaments.  Like most enduring plays of this period, the comedy only thinly veils more profound social commentary with a healthy dose of satire.  This play enjoys regular revivals and may be easier to catch than some of the other titles on this list.

5) The Country Wife (1675) - The French theater was the guide for restoring the art form in London, and ridiculing Puritanism was a major theme. William Wycherley's bawdy play is both satirical and a fine situation comedy.  Written as a reaction to the long years without entertainment of any kind, this play lets it all hang out in a way that can still shock modern audiences.  The lead character Horner, wanting to play the field in London's upper crust, spreads a rumor that he was injured in the war, leaving him impotent.  Naturally, the husbands relax their guard and allow the wives to be around him without supervision.  In the meantime, an innocent young wife (the title character) moves to London and soon finds the atmosphere 'stimulating,' while attracting intense interest from Horner.  The play is fast-paced and stuffed full of double entendre (the "china" bit is hysterical).  It is also written in natural language, rather than the somewhat stuffy and stilted style of the contemporary French theater.  This show never fails to get an audience howling with laughter, and is well worth keeping an eye open for a local production.

6) The Importance of Being Earnest, a Trivial Comedy for Serious People (1895) - The laughs start with the title pun, and don't end until the final curtain, with piles of farce and satire heaped in between.  This ditty also has some of the best one-liners ever written (Every man should have a hobby!).  Oscar Wilde is the undisputed king of Victorian theater, and his double entendre are subtly layered.  His witticisms stab at the heart of stuffy society, while making us laugh at the wounds.  This play is so memorable that you will take up "Bunburying" as a diversion!  This show enjoys frequent revivals and has some very fine film adaptations if you can't make it to the theater.  This show is also notable for setting off a series of real-life events that led to Wilde being jailed for homosexuality.

7) Pygmalion (1913) - G. Bernard Shaw's (he hated the name George) most famous play, adapted as the musical My Fair Lady, is itself an adaptation of a mid-19th century play, which was an adaptation of a Greek myth about a man (Pygmalion) who seeks to create the perfect woman from a statue and is rewarded by the gods with the statue coming to life.  Here, though, the myth is lightened up into a comedy about a professor (Higgins) who thinks he can take a Cockney flowergirl and turn her into the cream of society, thus showing the upper crust that they are nothing special.  Of course, the woman's Cockney upbringing leaks out at the most inappropriate times creating all sorts of havoc among the gentile classes.  The biggest surprise, though, is Higgins' unexpected love for his creation.  Like all great comedies, this play operates on multiple levels, providing social commentary on classism and women's suffrage, as well as good belly-laughs.  This one is hard to find in the theater, since most productions default to the musical version, but well worth keeping an evening at the theater if you find it.

8) Waiting for Godot (1949) - Samuel Beckett's masterpiece is considered one of the greatest plays of the 20th century and won a Pulitzer the year it opened.  If this is all you know when you walk into a production of the play, then you are in trouble.  This absurdist comedy is one of those experiences where you are not sure what you just went through, and equally unsure if you want to go through it again to try to figure it out.  The entire show consists of two men standing at a cross-roads waiting for the title character who never shows up - and they talk a lot.  What you will find is that it causes you to look at yourself and laugh at the absurd things you find important in your life and the energy we expend to attain things that don't exist.  It's not one of those guffaw-type shows; it's very cerebral.  If you get the chance to see a quality production of the play, you should not pass it up.

9) The Birthday Party (1958) - And speaking of absurdist comedy, Harold Pinter's romp is another one of those weird mind-screws that's kind of like watching a building implode and then laughing because part of it collapses the wrong way and causes collateral damage.  In an unknown place at an unknown time, an unknown pianist prepares to celebrate his birthday at an unknown boarding house.  Two mysterious strangers arrive and turn the party into anything but the quiet marking off of another year.  Even the critics don't know how to classify this one (some say farce, others comedy of menace), and in fact Pinter's career nearly ended over it, until he was rescued by a critic.  Mark one up for the critics, because this play has gone on to an illustrious career.

10) Noises Off! (1982) - Michael Frayn's famous farce is not only popular with audiences, it is one of the most fun shows to work on behind the scenes, as well, probably because it is so true.  What makes this show unique is that it is a farce within a farce.  Act I has the audience watching a rather funny comedy with plenty of laughs in its own right.  But, Act II turns the stage around, and now the audience is watching the exact same show, but from behind.  Not only is the show being performed a farce, but the show we are watching is a farce about the farce, showing the farcical nature of the theater in the first place.  It's all barely controlled chaos!  This show never fails to leave the audience gasping for breath.  With lightning timing and rapid fire action, this is probably one of the funniest shows of all time.  It depends heavily on the abilities of the cast and director to pull it off, but the result is an experience where both the audience and the cast feel the joy.

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And so, dear reader, there you have it.  Once again, the Far Side has brought you something no one has bothered to do.  And don't forget, most of these playwrights have other works that easily belong on this list, but then it would be a Top 47 list, and that just doesn't sound right.

In today's theater, where special effects and light shows dazzle, while cotton-candy stories melt in our mouths and leave us with big dentist bills, we forget that there is nearly 3,000 years' worth of great entertainment just begging to be rediscovered.  The next time you reach for the Netflix selector, why not check local theaters for something a little more visceral - live actors on a real stage working in synchronization with highly-trained technicians to entertain and amaze.  Who knows?  You might even catch tomorrow's movie stars in their early career, before they get all full of themselves.

26.3.16

Going Viral (The New Postal)

A while back, I spent two and a half years and a quarter-million dollars fighting Texas "Child Protective Services."  I use quotes because that and similar agencies do not protect children, but that's another post.

Among other issues, such as I wouldn't file a Birth Certificate (I had notarized letter instead), wouldn't get her a Social Security Number and home schooled, the big issue was that I stopped all vaccines.

Here's what happened: at about three months old, my daughter started having petit mal seizures, usually after eating.  Her eyes would roll back and her body would go stiff as a board.  Naturally, I did what any dad would do and freaked out.  I took her to the largest and most famous hospitals in the world.  They flashed her with colored lights, scanned her with CATs and MRIs.  Hooked her up to all kinds of electrodes and made reams of paper with squiggly lines.

In the end, I got one of the most distressing diagnoses you can get - the Big Shrug.  No one knew what was going on.  She was perfectly normal, as far as anyone could tell with all their gee-whiz machines and laboratory tests.  I was told everything from she'll grow out of it to maybe some future discovery will help.

I wasn't very happy with that, as you might imagine.  I started researching.  I read hundreds of medical papers.  I traded email with experts.  I consulted acupuncture and massage therapists.  I left no stone unturned.

That was when I discovered a network of parents who had stopped vaccines and had cured a whole host of things, like autism, learning disabilities, ADHD, even asthma (which my daughter also had).  I was skeptical, naturally.  Like any good parent today, I bought the line about vaccines being good and necessary for your child's health, but after reading the experiences and talking to parents involved, I came to the conclusion that something about the vaccines was inherently wrong, and that kicked off a whole other line of inquiry.

When I was done, I was convinced.  I stopped the vaccines immediately and from that point on, the seizures stopped.  The asthma eventually went away.  I became a convert.

There are far better articles out there on vaccines than the one I intend to write here.  What I am going to do is point out that there are a number of "authorities" who are also questioning vaccines, and that the veil that has hidden the corruption and greed behind the vaccine "industry" is slipping and a great many folks are waking up.  In fact, I recommended that my granddaughter not receive vaccines, but was ignored until a developmental psychiatrist (one of the most respected in Southeast Asia) told my kids to stop the vaccines to repair the problems they've been having (mild autism, allergies, the usual).

It's a very difficult choice.  There is a tremendous amount of pressure and guilt placed on parents to vaccinate.  The issue is clouded with a bunch of kooky conspiracy theorists that make anyone researching this feel silly.  Worst of all, the pharmaceutical industry is so powerful, that they have gotten some governments to pass mandatory vaccination laws (I won't go into the morality of this here).  It's getting to the point where there is little choice left but to pump your child full of toxic chemicals and lethal microbes, or the government will attempt to take your child away.  I know...I've been there.

What brought this rant on was a recent article stating that the Centers for Disease Control in the US has mandated three additional vaccines in the already overloaded schedule.  The average US child will now receive 74 doses with 53 injections by the time they are 18 years old.  This sounds excessive to me, considering most of the vaccines are for diseases that used to be considered a normal part of grouwing up (mumps, measles, chicken pox, etc.).  These diseases, with proper care and rest, are little more than inconvenient and uncomfortable.  In my day, if someone got chicken pox, all the kids were piled into the same room to get it over with.

Within days, I found another article about a court in Milan, Italy, ruling in favor of parents of a boy with autism, which the evidence showed was caused by a 6-in-1 vaccine (hexavalent) produced by GlaxoSmithKlein.  Good luck trying this in the US, since laws now protect and indemnify the Big Pharma producers from liability.

I no sooner finished that article, when this one popped up: Putin: Western Governments Are Enslaving Humanity Through Vaccines.  The gist of the article is this:

"According to the Ministry of Health insider, the report validates President Putin’s suspicions. There is a huge conflict of interests between the government agencies which regulate vaccines and the corporations that approve and implement the vaccines."

Of course, none of this is coming in through Western media, but a thorough search of foreign press will turn up additional articles.  I suggest using DogPile or some other search engine not bought out by corporate and national security interests.  You might even want to use the Tor Browser to avoid some of the censorship issues.

I still believe that the CONCEPT of vaccines is viable and correct, but the current implementation of vaccination policies and the toxic brews that are manufactured are far more harmful than taking your chances with nature.  There is a growing body of evidence that current formulations and practices are far more harmful than the diseases they claim to protect us from.

It's a tough decision and one that requires a parent to reflect deeply on what they believe, how much risk are they willing to take with their children's health, and how trustworthy are the institutions and corporations that are foisting these things on us.

In the end, there were several questions that led me to my decision.  If vaccines work, then why do children still get these diseases?  When someone gets sick at school, why do they go on quarantine?  If the formulas are good and risk-free, then why does Big Pharm need laws indemnifying them from damages?  Finally, does any individual or organization have the right to tell you what you must or must not put in your body or those of your family?

The answers to these questions are complex, and if properly weighted, will lead an individual to question a lot of things about our modern society, especially when it comes to drugs and medical treatment.  If nothing else, one must ponder the power of greed and the profit motive in all of this.

Maybe the answers to these questions are why we are so thoroughly discouraged from asking them in the first place.

25.3.16

Let's Get Physical

When you think about it, there are no such things as dimensions, and we do not live in three, four and any number of dimensions.  There are only measurements and coordinates.

There is nothing that exists that is not three dimensional.  Whether it is a cell, a molecule, an atom, an electron, a quark, lepton, gluon, muon, tauon, boson, whatever, they all have height, length and width.  There is no such thing as a one or two dimensional object.  Nothing can exist without a measurement in all three directions, even if the measurement is Planck's Length.  According to theory, nothing smaller than Planck's Length can be measured, therefore nothing can exist beyond it.

If nothing can exist without all three dimensions, then to label the measurements as dimensions is meaningless, since they cannot be extracted from one another.  Mathematical abstractions don't count.  To use an hypothetical one-dimensional 'point' in space may be useful in theoretical calculations, but in the real Universe, there is no such thing.  If you remove all but one dimension from an object, it ceaases to exist.  Mind games, such as Flatland are fun to explore as mental calisthenics, but in our reality, these are only abstractions.

When we come to time, we are in far greater trouble to call this a dimension.  With the first three, we can point in the direction of their vectors.  We can measure them with objective instruments.  We can move freely among them.  But with time, none of these properties exist.

Time is nothing more than our arbitrary means of separating past, present and future.  A clock is not an objective measuring device.  No matter how accurate it is, the settings and readings are arbitrarily set by someone at some random starting point.  Time has no vector.  You cannot point in the direction of time.  And if time is relative, then it most certainly is not a real thing in our real Universe.

A day is not an objective measure.  It is a measure of Earth's position/coordinates in space from when the Sun is overhead to when it is overhead again.  A year is nothing more than measuring Earth's coordinates in space from an arbitrary point until the Earth returns to that point again.  The numbers we assign to those concepts can and do vary all the time, and they are not the same elsewhere in the Universe.  A Martian day is nearly an hour longer than on Earth, and a Venusian day is longer than its year.  A year on Pluto has not passed since the American Revolution.

Conversely, kilometer on Earth would be the same on Mars, or anywhere else in the Universe, but time is subjective.  As Father Einstein himself observed, when you go to the carnival with a beautiful girl, and hour seems like a minute, but when you sit on a hot stove, a minute seems like an hour.  You cannot go in the direction of the future, then change your mind and go back to the past.  The concept of time is truly meaningless, while space is full of fixed points.

When it comes down to it, time is nothing more than measurements of distances traveled: the rotations and orbits of masses in space.  If you could completely stop an object's motion, time would cease to exist for it, since there would be no way to measure it passing except with subjective and arbitrary devices like clocks.  The only way time could exist for the stopped object is to measure changing distances to some other object.  Therefore, time is nothing more than movement along one of the spacial axes/dimensions.

At this point, we have dismissed time as a dimension.  That is a meaningless concept.  When it comes to spacial dimensions, one cannot be separated from the other; no coordinate can ever be zero because for something to exist, it must have coordinates in three dimensions.  As for higher spacial dimensions, they may exist, but if you read Flatland (link above) you will realize that we can never experience them, much less point in their directions.  They are meaningless in a real world.

To further beat home the point, modern physics has speculated endlessly on something called "space-time" for the past century, as if there is proof that this imaginary fabric of the Universe actually exists.  It doesn't.  It is a fabrication of Relativity Theory in order to visualize something being warped by gravity.  In this concept, gravity is not a force but a result of objects falling into rubber sheets.

In fact, there is no "space-time."  The Universe is a vast collection of coordinates filled with a 'foam' of neutrinos, akin to stem cells of reality, which are the being the building blocks of all we perceive.  Gravity is nothing more than a complex form of static electricity, pushing and pulling on objects like magnetic poles - like repel, opposites attract.

The Universe is really quite simple and comprehensible if you strip away all the mythical and mystical mumbo-jumbo that has formed a scum on the pond of clear thinking these past 100 years.  You can experience the Universal fundamentals by strumming a guitar, watch waves at the beach, playing with magnets, or sticking you finger in a light socket.  Everything else is little more than an attempt to mystify us mortals, thus requiring a priesthood of scientists to interpret Life's Great Secrets for us.  In other words, nothing more than a new religion.

When we strip away all the magical incantations and mystical mathematics that the Einseinian priesthood has foisted on us, we find the the Universe is conceptually and functionally simple and pure.  Vibrations, electricity and magnetism explain all we can experience, and all of it can be measured objectively in all parts of the Universe.

It's time taxpayers demand an end to the "grant money trough."  It's not that I oppose scientific inquiry, or supporting real science, but the system currently in place is nothing more than a means of political control over science to maintain the accepted mythology at the expense of real understanding.  Taxpayers have shouldered the burden of massive boondoggles, such as LHC and other billion-dollar scams to find things that don't exist.  If experiments cannot be translated into technology that improves humanity's lot, then stop throwing huge bales of tax money at them.  A Higgs boson or a Gravity Wave (neither of which exist) will not result in any usable information that can transform our daily lives.

It's time we stop worshipping "authority."  Neil DeGrsse Tyson has no more idea what he is talking about than you do.  We must realize that each of us has the sense and ability to understand the Universe.  It's just a matter of opening our minds.

24.3.16

Flat Earth For Flat Heads

I regularly receive clusters of emails from readers either promoting the Flat Earth Theory, or asking my thoughts on it.  A quick search of YouTube and other sites reveals a vast amount of work attempting to convince folks that the Earth is really flat, and that we have all been deceived for thousands (yes, thousands) of years.

The Round Earth Theory begins with the Greeks in 600BC, when they speculated that the Earth was round as a philosophical maxim to preserve the Grand Perfection of the Universe.  Later, a fellow by the name of Eritosthenes in the first century BC.

Eristosthenes noticed that sunlight shining down water wells in Greece and Egypt at the same time on the same day had different incident angles.  Using the angles he derived from these observations, he was able to determine that the Earth was a sphere of 250,000 stades, which happens to be about precisely 10% too large.  Turns out he was fooled by the Egyptian government (naturally) which added 10% to its measurements of land for tax purposes.

Other Greeks, such as Claudius Ptolemy, not only determined the the Earth was round, but that it orbited the Sun.  Yes, the heliocentric theory far and away predates Copernicus.  The Greeks weren't Jews or Christians back then, so they didn't have a theological imperative to have the Universe revolve around the Earth.

The Round Earth Theory was further proved by Galileo Galilei and his infamous telescope.  He watched several moons orbit an obviously round Jupiter, and that Mercury and Venus had phases like the Moon, meanings they were spheres orbiting inside the Earth's orbit, while the other planets did not have crescent phases, meaning they were outside the Earth's orbit.

Magellan, who was the first documented person to circumnavigate the globe in the early 1500s, put the final cap on the argument.  Setting out from Europe heading west and returning from the east. Furthermore, there were a whole host of constellations (not to mention the Magellanic Clouds) that couldn't be seen from the northern hemisphere.

There was little doubt after that, though photos of Earth from space, obtained for the first time in the 20th century, proved beyond doubt that our planet was round.  These photos view Earth from every position in the Solar System between the orbits of Mercury and Saturn.

Despite this long history of proofs, the Flat Earth Theory re-emerged in modern times in the 1800s, and has had several incarnations and reboots since then.  These groups re-interpret, or more commonly, misinterpret scientific data to prove that the Earth is flat.  The more extreme versions of the theory propose a vast conspiracy to make people think the world is round, though I have yet to find a viable reason why this would be important.  While I am open-minded about such things, I prefer a bit more compelling evidence to take them seriously.

Like all things that deny reality, the Flat Earth Theory is rather easy to disprove, and the proof is rather pragmatic, as well.

Modern microwave communications quite easily disproves a flat Earth.  Microwave technology is Line of Sight (LOS), meaning that the transmitter and receiver must be at the same levels or the signal will miss the target.  On a flat surface, a microwave signal at wattages used in video transmissions - such as live news feeds - can travel quite a few miles and remain coherent.

On the curved surface of the Earth, the beam will eventually intersect the ground level if the receiver is more than 5 miles away. Microwave LOS transmitters therefore use tall towers spaced at regular intervals, called repeaters, to take the signal and resend it to the next tower.  If you look closely at these towers, you will notice white vertical boxes mounted facing in various directions.  Those are the transmitters.  The round objects, usually with a conical cover on them, are the receivers.  If you were to climb the tower with a pair of binoculars and stand behind any one of them (not recommended for health reasons), you would see about half of the next tower above the horizon with the paired transmitter or receiver facing directly at you.

In none of the videos I have watched on Flat Earth have I seen this very simple test mentioned, probably because it is rather hard to refute.  LOS is LOS, and on a curved surface, the line will eventually intersect with the ground.  Believe me, if communications companies could spend a lot less on those towers, they would.  Grand conspiracies crumble in the face of economics and profits.

Having spent a significant part of my life aligning, bouncing and aiming microwave transmitters, I can attest that the world is round.  I accept that some footage of Earth from the Moon missions may have been faked for a number of good reasons, but a flat Earth is definitely not one of them.

One has to wonder why such theories get promulgated so easily.  I can envision a conspiracy to promote these kinds of things to create an air of lunacy around the whole area of inquiry.  The point of this exercise, though, is to highlight the fact that often nonsensical theories like this are promoted in order to discredit the whole category of alternative inquiry.  People will usually not persist in things that will get them ridiculed.  However, discoveries are frequently made by people who step beyond the boundaries of accepted knowledge, and all it takes, really, is a willingness to change your perspective.  Many of the household names today were crackpots in their own time.  No one is laughing now.

By the way, if you are not sure that men landed on the Moon, then look no further than the dust kicked up by the Lunar Rovers.  Yes, they really landed on the Moon.  The big question is, who exactly were the men who went there?

23.3.16

Ordo Ab Chao

Assuming Donald Trump is who and what he appears to be, is it possible that all the hysteria around his candidacy is fabricated?  If so, for what purpose and who are the players?

In my previous post, I speculated on the Trump Phenomenon and speculated on what may happen should the "establishment" take drastic action, out of fear, to stop his candidacy.  This essentially is looking at the election at face value, assuming all the players and events are what they appear to be.  Indeed, on the surface, most of the players are probably as they appear.  But...what if we dig a bit deeper, change our perspective a bit, look at the situation from another angle?

It is an established fact that the United States was founded by members of a secret society called the Freemasons.  It is further established fact that many of the players in 20th century American politics have been members of another secret society, the Skull and Bones.  Given these facts, it is reasonable to assume that there are many other such societies playing covert roles at much deeper levels.

It is also an established fact that the motto of the United States, enshrined on the Great Seal and published on the backs of every $1 bill is Ordo Ab Chao, a Latin phrase meaning "order out of chaos," which is the catch-phrase of 33rd degree Freemasonry.

To further set the stage, it is fairly well established that the US has, in many countries, effected "regime change" by creating chaos and then offering a hand-tailored 'solution.'  This is better-known as the Hegelian Dialectic, and has been used in numerous countries to throw out established power blocks and introduce others that are more in tune with the goals and objectives of the "establishment."  To give just a few examples, the color revolutions over the past 20 years, the Arab Spring, the Ukraine, various Central and South American countries, and so on.

The method is generally the same: create social divisions, polarize the parties, create fear and panic, then offer a solution that seems reasonable to all sides, or at least can be forced on those that still dissent.

I think it can be reasonably assumed that there are a great number of the "establishment" that have no national loyalties.  They are globalists whose interests supersede national boundaries.  Therefore, chaos and turmoil in any one country has little bearing on their thinking.  They are able to move about and take up residence wherever they please, so even if their apparent home country devolves into complete anarchy, the "establishment" simply opens the branch office in more quiet climates. Joseph Farrell has quite exhaustively shown how the Venetian banking elite moved first to the Netherlands, then London, then the New World, as their machinations caused nations to crumble and the natives to eventually rise up and cast them out.

We are not positing that the Freemasons are behind all this, nor the Jesuits, nor any of the other "usual suspects."  What we are trying to show is that the US has had individuals at its helm since the beginning who were members of international societies that were above national or even regional interests, and that superseded any one location.

We are also attempting to establish a modus operandi for the "establishment, whereby chaos and turmoil are created and used to effect changes more hospitable to the power elite.

Given that the "establishment" is a consortium of globalist interests with no interest in or allegiance to any one nation, we can assume that events within the US, no matter how chaotic and polarized, do not concern them.  They can simply move somewhere else more amendable to them.  Given also that the "establishment" has used chaos and turmoil in other countries to install more favorable rulers and systems, it is also safe to assume that they would use the same tactics in the US.  It therefore appears to be a reasonable argument that the current situation in the US could be a manufactured phenomenon in order to effect some change in the social and/or governmental structure of the US, in order to achieve some end that they desire.

One line of evidence is the amazing media attention being lavished on Donald Trump.  Four years previously, Ron Paul was at the center of a nearly similar uprising of voters that spanned all demographics, were fanatical supporters, and the candidate was far more intelligent and far more political experience than Trump.  However, the candidate was virtually invisible in the national media.  Even as Paul's numbers swelled and his campaign strengthened, the media simply shunned him, thus choking off what may have been the Trump revolution v.1.

It seems rather obvious that the media owners, most certainly part of the "establishment," have instructed their assets to lavish attention on Trump.  There is no other reason why every Twitter post and utterance by Trump become major news items.  It would be the easiest task to make Trump pay for every second of air time by shutting him out and forcing him to buy air time, just like they did with Ron Paul.  They could even break.  Therefore, the "establishment" is using its media control to create the phenomenon as a means to polarize the nation and create chaos.

As proof, we need only wait out the process.  If this line of reasoning is accurate, then the shrill voices and feigned panic in the halls of power will increase, and the violence and dissent among the electorate will ratchet up until it becomes the hew and cry of war.

What possible purpose could this serve?  Well, the obvious problem is that in order to crush dissent, you must first know who it is and where it hides.  By creating an atmosphere that draws even the meekest voter and voice into the fray, it becomes an easy matter to catalog the opposition. In the immediate moment, you can work the opposition into a complete lather and then humiliate them in front of the world, thus yanking the carpet of power and influence clean out from under them.  This would effectively silence any opposition for decades and give the "establishment" an unfettered run in power.

The result would be to silence the anti-globalists within the US, who have been the biggest impedance towards total global dominance in the past 100 years.  A solid trouncing would effectively prevent any organized resistance to the final steps in the destruction of national sovereignty and the destruction of social identity.

There are some risks.  Assuming Trump is genuine (and not a staged part of the ritual), he could take hold of the reins of power and actually cause some damage to the framework.  His presidency would also empower the anti-globalist movement and create strong hindrances to finalizing the Plan.  If things got too far out of hand, it might set back the globalist agenda by decades or more.

This scenario is not altogether implausible.  If Trump is actually an insider, then this even further complicates the process and outcome.  If this were the case, it would cause even deeper destruction to the minds and spirits of the people who are lining up behind Trump as their counter-cultural hero.  That sort of betrayal would have the same impact as, say, the murder of JFK, Kent State or 9/11.  It would be a critical blow to all those who seek leaders to validate their desires.

More than the simple "WYSIWYG" version of this campaign, the scenario laid out here is truly disturbing.  Given that the "establishment" has used similar tactics in other nations for years, it is not out of the realm of possibility.  There is, to my mind, plenty of evidence that supports this kind of set-up.  We could even speculate that the Russians are playing a not-so-subtle role in the background as revenge for similar meddling in the Soviet Union, Georgia and the Ukraine.  In fact, a number of national interests, such as China, could potentially line up to take advantage of chaos within the US political and social fabric.

Only time will tell what is really happening at this point.  One thing is certain: there are significant risks riding on this election, and an entire laundry list of folks who would benefit from the collapse of the American political system.  There are also major inconsistencies, such as the voluminous media attention being lavished on Trump despite the prolonged wail and gnashing of teeth by those same media.

It is a testable theory, though.  We need only watch as things progress and divorce ourselves of a passionate interest in the outcome.  Simply look at the threads of the fabric as they appear to see the pattern develop.

One thing is without question, the next nine months will be some of the most fascinating we have witnessed in our lifetimes.

22.3.16

The Giant Stirs

So, I've said my piece on Donald Trump - the candidate - now I want to say something about the Trump Phenomenon.

What the world is witnessing in the US is nothing short of a revolution.  No, the shooting hasn't started - yet - but I suspect that the trip wires are set and temperaments are leaning solidly in that direction.

As I stated in The Trump Card, there is no logical reason to select Trump as president.  He has no political background, obviously little diplomatic ability and is really not even an individual, but a brand.  Yet, he is drawing unbelievable crowds, record turn-out at the polls and a following that crosses all demographic boundaries.  Beyond that, he has so rattled the ensconced powers that they will do anything to stop this man from taking the oath of office.  They are so rattled that they have spoken openly about assassination, meaning there would be little room for "conspiracy theories" if that were to happen.

Both my grandfather and father told me for years that a revolution was coming to America.  It was inevitable.  Since the dawn of the 20th century, the power structure in the US has so grossly abused its position that at some point, the masses would finally be fed up and clear the table.  Had Ron Paul been just a bit more charismatic, we would have seen this scenario played out four years ago.

If you want to understand what is happening in America, there is a fun activity you can do at home that perfectly models this year's election.  Take some sticks and put them in the freezer.  Then take a pan of water and heat it to almost boiling.  When you get there, start stirring in sugar until it just won't dissolve any more.  You now have what chemists call a super-saturated solution.  Now take your chilled sticks and put them into the solution for a few minutes.  Right in front of your eyes, big, beautiful crystals of sugar will start growing on the sticks, and viola!, you have rock candy.

For a century now, the American cultural climate has been slowly heating up to just near the boiling point.  The political elites have been stirring in racial and class tensions, profligate spending, wars and "police actions," assassinations, and all sorts of mayhem, to the point where one suspects they have either completely lost their minds or are just suicidal - or maybe they have a back-up plan?

Along comes Trump.  Let's think of him as a chilled stick.  It's not really who he is, but what he represents that matters.  Before our amazed eyes, all the crap that has been stirred into our pot of hot water suddenly congeals around him: fear of losing jobs, fear of uncontrolled immigration, fear of economic Armageddon, fear of attack by (insert enemy du jour).

Trump is a catalyst for a chemical reaction that was slowly happening all over the country for the past 100 years.  He was just the right person who stepped onto the scene and said the right things and instantly, the chemical reaction accelerated without any signs of abating.

If we switch to a medical metaphor, Trump is a symptom, but not the cause.  Treating the Trump Phenomenon will not stop the disease, and may, in fact, cause it to quicken.  The "establishment" are like ignorant doctors (or are they?); unable to understand why the disease is happening, they desperately attempt to alleviate the symptom, only to make matters far worse.  For the moment, let's assume that this has not all been intentional - that's a different article.

It appears, for all intents and purposes, that Trump will now face off with the Democratic choice in the fall elections.  At this point, the "establishment" have no real choice (in their minds) but to actually kill Trump to try and save their hides.  The problem is that making this choice, as they did with the Kennedy brothers, will likely bring the country to full boil, where the Kennedys turned up the heat.  For them, there is no smooth path out of these woods.

It is absolutely fascinating to watch this.  It is an historic event not at all unlike the environment surrounding the US Civil War.  A large and powerful block has been disenfranchised by the "establishment," and both sides now walk a very fine line to avoid all-out war.  All that is needed is a modern-day Fort Sumter, or to use another US revolution, another Lexington and Concord.

To my mind, Trump does not seek violence, but will not back down because of it.  He strikes me as one who fights fire with fire.  On the other side, the "establishment" are so terrified that violence is increasingly the only viable option they perceive.  The Big Question is, what price are the "establishment" willing to pay to keep their privileged positions?

The "establishment" has already shown its willingness to do whatever it takes to attain their goals and maintain their positions: violate the sovereignty of nations, fabricate evidence, commit acts of terror, round up citizens in concentration camps (American Indians, Japanese), commit treason, stir up internal strife to foment "regime change," and a whole list of crimes and misdemeanors.  Are they willing to shit in their own sandbox?

If history be our guide, the answer is "yes."  We must assume that if Trump continues to pose a threat to them, whatever that threat may be, the "establishment" will risk open war within America in order to protect their precious and privileged positions.  If the Bush family buying 100,000 acres in 2006, in Paraguay is any indication, the "establishment" has been preparing for this eventuality for some time.

The American Founding Fathers intended for the electoral process to be a form of peaceful revolution every four years.  It was a means to vent popular concerns, though the system was set up to buffer mob rule.  The "establishment" learned from Josef Stalin that 'he who counts the votes runs the country,' and it has worked for 100 years - but the jig is up.

The American people have often been compared to the proverbial "Sleeping Giant," slow to rouse but unstoppable once mobilized.  One senses that the Trump candidacy has awoken that giant, and the absurd fear and loathing demonstrated by the "establishment" makes it quite apparent that they are aware of the situation.

Whether or not you like Trump, or desire or fear his presidency, the larger issue is what he represents.  The long-simmering super-saturated brew that is American culture has reached the point where it can no longer absorb what it is given.  The process of crystallization has begun and there is likely nothing that can stop it, except to let it run its course.  We can speculate till the cows come home what America will look like at the end of a Trump presidency, but it seems rather certain what will happen if this process is aborted.

Yes, there are a great number of parallels with Germany at the moment the Brown Shirts began to rise, but I hardly find Trump to be another Hitler - different culture, different times, different person.  If anything, there is a stronger resemblance between the "establishment" and the Nazis, than with anything Trump represents.  I believe that what we are seeing now is actually what would have happened if Hitler had won the war and 70 years later, the German people were ready to change course.  Now there's an interesting thought.

21.3.16

All Alone In The Moonlight

Labor Day is the unofficial New Year's Day in America.  No one actually refers to it as that, and no one really thinks of it like that, but in effect, it is a truly transformative moment when one life ends and another begins.

Dad is drafted into the Attic Patrol to bring down the winter clothes.  Mom starts cleaning the house from stem to stern.  The air itself takes on a magical quality with the sunlight sparkling and just enough break in the heat of summer to cause young creatures to suddenly bolt in all directions at once.  And for a boy of 13, it is the moment he realizes that all his plans and resolutions for the summer months are left unfulfilled with only three days left to make good on his dreams.

And this particular Labor Day weekend, the boy also realizes that it is the end of childhood and that the specter that has been haunting him all summer is named Responsibility.  In three days, he would enter high school and life would never be the same again.

We lived on a farm that year about three miles outside of a bustling metropolis called Moulton, Texas, with an overflowing population of 679.  I always wondered if the ninth person was a widow, because otherwise, someone was going to lose at the Dating Game.

That Saturday morning brought the realization that time was running out.  Not only would the freedom of summer soon come to a crashing halt, but the brutal winter of the Texas hill country was just around the corner.

Determined to enjoy those fading moments of liberty, I made a pack with two bologna sandwiches, an apple and a half-frozen Coca-Cola, grabbed my trusty Browning .22 rifle with boxes of short rounds, and collected my ever-present companions Charlie Brown and Lucy - a pair of Dachshund book-ends - and set off in search of adventure.

First stop was the field behind the house.  It was 20 acres of endless imagination, and there were six of them spread out at my fingertips.  A boy with 125 acres at his disposal was not just a king, but a god.  It was the literal clay from which worlds could be fashioned, populated with creatures of every description, and all of which lived and died by my command.

This field had a small hill at one end and had dirt berms snaking across it, ostensibly to control erosion, but I knew the truth: they were the hiding places of legions of imaginary enemies begging to be vanquished.  It had also just been plowed, liberating great clods of earth that were the building blocks of dreams.

My faithful hounds and I realized the threats hidden behind those berms and we quickly dropped to our bellies behind the hill and carefully wormed our way to the high ground.  Once we obtained the peak, we could spy the legions of mysterious creatures arrayed against us.  Spread all across this alien world, they were milling about on the berms, attending to alien business that was as impenetrable to us as a book of Mandarin faiery tales.

Taking careful aim, I squeezed off a couple of dozen rounds, watching as their alien bodies exploded into great, satisfying puffs of offal.  My faithful hounds waited until the order, then sped across the rough terrain to engage the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.  Their yelps and barks told me that victory was at hand, and I triumphantly leaped to my feet and charged the alien strongholds.

A satisfying victory under our belts, we pressed on to the next adventure.

This one came in the form of a hole.  Not just any hole, but an armadillo hole.  Lucky for me, my trusty hounds were bred for just this sort of adventure, and on cue, they dived beneath the ground with only their joyous voices being heard as if coming from the very stones themselves.

I sought our the back door and waited.  It didn't take long.  Soon enough, the head of a living armored vehicle appeared just in front of me with the sounds of exuberant Dachshunds at its hind-quarters.  When the entire creature had been exposed, I sprang at it like a sunburned leopard, grabbing its tail before it could beat a hasty retreat.

I don't know if you've ever had the chance to examine one of these creatures up close.  From the neck down, they are God's own battle tanks, covered with dense plates of articulated armor, and sporting claws that would frighten any right-minded individual.  From the neck up, though, they were almost comical - small,oval ears twitching to and fro, little brown marbles installed like afterthoughts under a Neanderthal brow ridge, and a long, slender snout with two large nostrils that could be individually steered like chameleon eyes.

After what seemed hours of examination, we released the mysterious creature, who bounded into the tall grass and vanished before our eyes, and forgotten almost as fast.  There were other worlds to conquer!

Next stop was the graveyard for the disintegrating hulks of four Ford Model A cars.  These were ancient relics of some vanished civilization, left to rejoin the earth from which they had emerged.  So old they were, that their wheels had collapsed and their hulks rested belly-down on the ground.  The remaining glass in their windows were fogged like the eyes of old men and any paint that had once glossed their fenders had long since abandoned their posts.  They were now the domain of the biggest, meanest-looking yellow-and-black spiders you would ever want to avoid.

My trusty hounds had stirred a grasshopper into flight, and he flew directly into the web of one of these fearsome aliens.  We hunkered down and watched with battling emotions of fear and fascination as the struggling critter was set upon by the alien.  A lightning-fast bite quickly paralyzed the hapless hopper, and then the alien set about wrapping him with dense threads - turning, turning, turning - until there was hardly anything to identify the victim.  A chill landed at the base of my spine and crept like molasses in January up to the base of my skull and settled in for a session of shivers and involuntary shakes.  We beat a hasty retreat from the sight of this horrific and ignoble end.

It was now time for lunch, and that could only mean one thing - The Twins!

Down by the creek were a pair of the most enormous oak trees I have ever seen.  Easily 50 feet tall with canopies that spanned globes, they stood about 100 feet apart like sentinels at the gates of Heaven.  At the base of one was a sizable limestone boulder, looking as if the roots had squirted it out of the earth at that exact spot, and through some trick of weather and geology, was shaped almost perfectly like an arm chair.  This was my throne, from which I could survey the entirety of my realm.  To one side was the creek, which to me was not just a creek, but actually a mighty raging river cutting through my kingdom thousands of feet below.  To the other side were the vast fields and hills of my domain.  I dined upon great hunks of roasted beast and swilled the wine of victory.  I cast my crumbs to my faithful hounds and issued forth new laws upon the land.

When I had supped and rested, I tossed the Coca-Cola can across the great canyon and imagined it to be the citadels of infidels.  I squatted down behind my throne, took careful aim, and laid waste to the usurpers who dared to impose on my domain.

In those times, there were eternities in a moment.  Life was anything I imagined and freedom was a constant companion.  Magic filled every molecule of the atmosphere and I could conjure empires of dirt and castles of oak.  Scale was an arbitrary definition that I could expand or contract at will, and I could play any role in my worlds that I chose and my faithful hounds would drop instantly into role at my command.  I was man, king and god.  I held the power of life and death in my hand.  But it was all like grasping at water - at once tangible and ephemeral - as real as my throne and as fleeting as morning mist.

16.3.16

For Hate's Sake I Spit At Thee

For years now, the public discourse - at least from certain sectors - has focused on something called "hate speech."  If you try to figure out just exactly what "hate speech" is, you end up with circular references and vague definitions akin to "pornography."  No one really knows what it is, but hey, they know it when they hear it.

I looked up the definition of "hate speech" on Google and got this, "Hate speech is speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits."  So, according to this definition, almost every human alive in every context and every day commits "hate speech."

Schoolboy taunts are "hate speech."  Calling Nazis evil is "hate speech."  Saying that Attila the Hun was an invader rather than an immigrant is "hate speech."  Hell, even referring to "white privilege" is "hate speech," except that it's quite in vogue right now.  And therein lies the issue.

"Hate speech" is one of those amorphous things used to paint anyone we don't like with the brush of "political correctness."  You see, it's OK to bash the white race, and for non-white races to bash each other, but it is a sin of the highest order for white folk to say even the least derogatory thing about anyone else.  It's OK to bash Nazis and fascists, but not socialists and communists.  In fact, the borders of "hate speech" keep moving to suit whatever the Gatekeepers want.  In other words, "hate speech" is a tool of a controlling elite to stifle free and open discourse on whatever topic they don't like.

There is no right not to be offended or insulted.  Sorry, but that is a fact.  Trying to skate through life without someone somewhere offending and insulting you is a hopeless and ridiculous exercise.  For example, if you are fat, then at some point in your life, someone will call you "fat."  It is an accurate description of you.  It's a fact, get over it.  If it offends or insults you, then shutting up the person saying it will not change the fact.  Only direct action on your part to lose weight will do that.  If you don't take action, then you have chosen to be fat, and if you are insulted by someone noting that fact makes you an oversensitive idiot, as well.

Since records began, humans have had prejudices.  Every sub-group of society bashes every other sub-group to make themselves look superior and thus attract and keep members in the group.  Exclusivity is a selling point.  People want things that no one else has, and feel superior when they have them.  Whether your group feels snobbish because you eat at the finest restaurants, or your group has a lock on eternal salvation, everyone everywhere at all times has felt superior because of their membership in some group - and they have bashed other groups for not having the same thing.

Every race has bashed every other race for being inferior.  Every religion has bashed every other religion for not having the secrets to eternal truth.  Every political party has bashed every other political party for not having the answers.  And every individual has bashed some other individual for not being in their group.

It is a fact of life and the human condition that we define ourselves in opposition to others.  It is also a fact that at some point in our life, we will feel insulted or slighted in some way.  For crying out loud, siblings fight at the dinner table because one of them got a piece of pie that was slightly larger than another.  People get their feelings hurt.  So what?

The thing about "hate speech," and other terms, like "conspiracy theorist," is that they are a way to stifle thought and expression that are not in line with our own.  And when you put the deadly force of law behind it, you have a formidable weapon to shut down dissent and control the boundaries of public discourse.

Puppeteers control their marionettes using strings and sticks to animate the bodies and mouths.  Ambiguous terms like "hate speech" are nothing more than those strings and sticks making us dance to whatever tune the Puppeteers wish.

The terms are so vague that they seem reasonable, until you think a little deeper, but the Puppeteers control thinking with "conspiracy theorist" to prevent folks from doing that.  It's a vicious merry-go-round designed to entice people to jump on for the ride, and then slamming the gates behind them so they can't jump off.  All the pretty lights and organ music make the ride seem so cool and reasonable, but you are not allowed to wonder why you would want to ride in endless circles.

In the end, "hate speech" can be defined as just about anything the Puppeteers want, while at another level it's a means of having society itself limit each other from expressing opinions and facts that might hurt someone's feelings.  Anyone who speaks against a protected group or idea is using "hate speech."  You can't even defend freedom of speech without crossing this arbitrary border.

If you start thinking for yourself and offering alternatives to the sanctioned mindset, then you are a "conspiracy theorist," and again free speech is shut down.

The truly amazing thing is that this form of "political correctness" is a classic case of Double Think.  In effect, the individual ends up suppressing others' right to free speech by labeling what they say as "hate speech," while at the same time the individual believes he is protecting free speech.  It's a ghastly mind twist that has been installed in our minds.

Finally, these labels release us from having to think.  We don't need to respond intelligently, or formulate arguments to refute, we just utter "hate speech" and walk away.  No effort.  No thought.  No danger of actually using our minds and reason.  Good little marionettes.

It is time to eradicate these terms from our vocabulary.  They are too glib and vague to be useful in the best case, and deeply dangerous and controlling in the worst.  The control is not on others, it is on ourselves.  We close and lock our own cages when we use these terms.

There is no right to be un-offended, un-insulted or inconvenienced.  You have a right to pursue happiness, which means you can walk away or change the channel.  The other guy has the same right and is using his speech to seek that happiness.  He doesn't have a right to force you to listen, but you don't have a right to shut him up.  This is what used to be called being an adult.

If someone says or publishes something untrue about you, we have slander and libel laws to protect you, and if someone incites violence, there's laws for that too.  Otherwise, get over it and deal with it like an adult.

(By the way, the title of this article is taken from Moby Dick, so sue Herman Melville)


13.3.16

Top 10 Comedies Of All Time (film)

Believe it or not, we here on the Far Side love a good laugh.  Sure, a lot of our musings here seem a little moody and even a bit dark, but what better reason to pop in a good comedy once in a while to lighten things up!  So we decided to share some of our favorites with you as suggestions for those long rainy Saturday afternoons when a good guffaw comes in handy.

This list was a tough one.  After making our list of top comedies of all time, we had somewhere around 89 titles, and for a Top 10 list, that was just stretching it a little too far.  So we came up with some guidelines.  Even still, we couldn't get the list below 15, so we figured what the hell?  A Top 10 List of Comedies with 15 titles?  Perfect.

Shorts, like the majority of the Three Stooges filmography, were left out of this list.  They deserve one of their own, and we'll get around to it someday.  Geniuses like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, the bulk of whose works are silent, were left off, because again, they deserve a list of their own.  Then for folks like Monty Python, the Marx Brothers, Martin and Lewis, Abbott and Costello, and Mel Brooks, their masterworks include almost all of their output, so we had to limit ourselves to just one top pick.

Finally, we choose films that are culturally iconic, hold up to repeat viewings over long periods of time, and have had a profound impact on other films and filmmakers.  Even so, we were left with about 20 great comedies, so we flipped a coin.  The results are below, and interestingly they fell into neat sub-genres.

So without further ado, we present the Far Side List of Top 10 Comedies of All Time (film).  We added the (film) part because there are some great stage shows that deserve yet another list, which we will naturally get around to someday.

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15. She Done Him Wrong (1933) - Mae West is the undisputed Queen of Double Entendre, with lines that have become cultural catch-phrases like, "Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?"  Ms. West's look and voice are iconic.  Her comedies blazed the trail for talents such as Mel Brooks, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, and Richard Pryor.  What more can you say in recommending this film?  In this diddy, Ms. West is a saloon entertainer in the 1890s, playing the field of male suitors vying for her attentions.  There are so many double meanings that you will catch something new every time you watch it.  You'll also see the inspiration for our #1 pick on this list.

14.My Favorite Year (1982) - Peter O'Toole is a washed up movie star (not an actor!) brought out of obscurity to feature on this week's installment of the Sid Caesar...oops, King Kaiser Show.  The problem is, he's never worked in front of a live audience and King's mob skit has upset the local crooked kingpin.  This one of the finest examples of situation comedy we know of.  Great set-ups, heartwarming story, and some classic lines make this film an easy choice for a date movie at home.  Snappy pacing and brilliant period sets keep the story moving at the perfect popcorn comedy.

13. Bringing Up Baby (1938) - Hepburn and Grant, with Howard Hawks in the God Seat.  This one is just brilliant.  The writing, direction, acting, and pacing make this film one of the funniest parlor comedies out there.  The one-liners come at you like a hail of machine gun rounds, with timing that is nearly perfect for the entire hour and forty minutes.  The leads never miss a beat and the iconic voices of the two stars keeps us watching again and again.  Timeless fun.

12. National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) - It was hard picking just one of National Lampoon's great comedies.  We were stuck between Animal House and Vacation, both of which have us howling out loud every time we watch them.  In the end, we chose Vacation because it so closely resembles our own real-life experiences while travelling.  The premise is a family driving vacation cross-country, in which everything (and we do mean everything) that can possibly go wrong, does.  Add to that the impeccable timing and reactions of Chevy Chase, whom we believe is one of the greatest comic talents of his generation, and you are literally exhausted from laughing by the time the credits roll.  And the jokes hold up to multiple viewings.  This is one of the few comedies that leave us in tears of joy every time.

11. Office Space (1999) - OK, we're prejudiced because Mike Judge is a Texan.  Beyond that, however, is a film about corporate drones that is both incredibly real, but presented in such a way that you will laugh till it hurts.  We all know the characters, in one form or another: the slacker, the geek, the smarmy boss, the beer-swilling neighbor.  The scene with the main characters going ape-shit on a printer is something that every one of us has wanted to do.  The weird thing about this film is that every situation seems so much like everyday life, yet when we look at it objectively, it's really hilarious.  This film will actually make you change your perspective, no matter how much you hate your job.

10. Airplane! (1980) - This is the film that launched the ZAZ empire.  It is one of the zaniest mad-cap comedies of all time.  Every visual joke, play on manners, and trope-twisting situation fills the screen the entire run time - even at the end of the credits.  At a time when disaster films were about the only thing coming out of Hollywood, this one did a full Nelson on the genre, while throwing gags out of left field in nearly every single frame.  Even after 40 years, you can still find new jokes.  Just turn off the sound and watch the backgrounds alone.  What really made this film was the sheer number of "serious" actors who turned in great comedic performances - including Leslie Nielson who went on to a second career making similar films, like the Naked Gun series.  Avoid eating or drinking during this flick, so you don't end up passing a ham sandwich through your nose.

9. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Great Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) - This flick was so off the wall that we watched it the first time in stunned awe.  It took five or six more viewings just to begin digesting what Sacha Baron Cohen had done to our psyche.  This is probably one of the most unique comedy of manners ever recorded, and what makes it so stunning is that most of the people on-screen had no idea they were being lampooned.  Even the mistakes (watch the background during the rodeo scene) are just stunningly amazing.  This film is so unique as to almost require its own category.  You feel like you've just watched a serious car wreck, but you can't help laughing at the way the bodies landed.  This masterpiece humiliated so many people that it's probably still being sued somewhere.  Even the entire nation of Kazakhstan took offense.  This one has to be watched to be believed.

8. Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) - When you think of comedy, Stanley Kubrick is not one of the first names that come to mind, but this is by far one of the funniest films out there.  Not only is the writing terse and slick, but performances such as Peter Sellers playing three distinct characters are compelling.  This pick also belongs in the same category with Borat, since the humor just barely hides some serious issues under the surface.  But lines like, "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here.  This is the War Room!" just lay you out on the floor.  One thing to note about this film (and Kubrick's obsession) is that the US Air Force refused to allow filming in a B-52 Stratofortress, so Stanley built the set using articles and descriptions from various sources.  The USAF was reportedly upset, thinking that someone had secretly let him in to film on one of the planes, the details were so exact.

7. A Night at the Opera (1935) - The Marx Brothers are synonymous with comedy.  The painted eyebrows and mustache sported by Groucho are easily as famous as the tragedy/comedy mask symbols.  We pondered long and hard over which of their films would best represent their outstanding body of work, and this one had it all: Harpo's musical numbers, Chico's flim-flams, Groucho's eponymous looks and walk.  The only parts missing are Zeppo and Gummo.  In any case, this is a fine comedy of manners in its own right, which was the specialty of the Marx brothers.  This flick has some of the best gags and one-liners in the Marx repertoire, as well.  The "four-men-in-the-apartment" gag is one of their most famous, after the "mirror gag" in Duck Soup.  This is probably the best introduction to new viewers, and well worth revisiting for us old geezers.

6. Sleeper (1973) - Woody Allen is a problem.  He's had such a long career with so many great films, its virtually impossible to choose only one, but we managed to settle on this one.  We went with this film because it has some of his most famous gags (robot butler, balloon suit) and because it is among his less cerebral works, making it more accessible  to those not familiar with him.  This flick also falls into a category of sci-fi spoofs that has precious few good entries (see Honorable Mentions).  It makes a tidy double feature with our previous pick because of Diane Keaton's Groucho impression, as well.  Woody's films don't fit neatly into any one genre.  This selection has elements of comedy of manners and situation comedy, with a healthy dash of slapstick.  His comedies are always worth watching because he is a master of the telegraphed gag - even when you expect it, he knows how to squeeze every laugh out of the setup.

5. It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1953) - This is one of our all-time favorites.  Nearly every working comedian in Hollywood at the time is in this film, except for Zazu Pitts (and she was not happy about it).  Not only is the all-star cast of loonies amazing, but the non-stop parade of cameos, from Buster Keaton to the Three Stooges, crams every scene full of laughs.  This flick is also notable for some of the best running gags ever committed to acetate.  This is also a fine example of the epic event films popular in the early 1960s.  If you can get a copy of the complete film, it comes with overture, intermission and post-credits segments.  Another notable item is one of the best animated opening credits we have ever seen, and that includes Around the World in 80 Days and the Pink Panther series.  This is a long one, too.  Original run time is three and a half hours.  You'll need a lot of popcorn and a heating pad for the side-cramps from laughing so much.

4. This Is Spinal Tap (1984) - We have cramps in our jaw every time we watch this gem.  Not only did it practically create the genre of "mockumentary," precious few films have ever matched it for sheer lunacy.  Every single band, event, rumor, and legend in the history of rock 'n' roll is skewered here, from exploding drummers to critics to rock star peccadilloes.  And all of it is throw-away.  There's no setup and no pause for the laugh.  The visuals and lines are flashed past you so fast that the film begs to be watched a dozen times to catch everything ("C'mon people!  Mime is money!").  You have to listen to the song lyrics (actually written by Spinal Tap), read everything written on-screen, and note every single detail (cold sores).  This film is absolutely brilliant improv comedy combined with sharp, insightful writing and performances.  This flick will hold up for decades to come.

3. Best In Show (2000) - Christopher Guest, one of the star of Spinal Tap (Nigel Tufnel), and a brilliant comedic actor that almost no one knows about, until you look at his list of credits.  The reason we placed this film above Spinal Tap is that Chris took the "mockumentary" genre and went on to perfect it with several more excellent helpings, like A Mighty Wind and Waiting for Guffman.  This flick, though, is drop-dead funny.  It has some of the best running gags and off-the-wall characters seen anywhere.  On top of that, the scene with the two TV commentators will leave you gasping for breath.  By the time the film ends, you'll almost want to start watching dog shows.  Who could have ever thought such things were this funny?

2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) - Yeah, you knew this was coming.  No list of great comedies can leave out anything by Monty Python, but much less their first film.  The Pythons began by completely rewriting to rules on TV comedy shows.  They went on to turn comedy movies upside down.  What makes this film so great is that there are layers upon layers of jokes in every scene.  Not only does this film have some of the most unique running gags ever (coconut shells), but it also has one of the most protracted setups ever recorded (swallows).  Everything, from God being a famous cricket player to the technicalities of filmmaking itself, is open to attack, and the result is brilliant.  Amazingly, everything in and around this film was set up for failure, yet the Pythons made savory lemonade from every lemon life handed them.  In the end, this is probably one of the most quoted and most re-watched films ever made, in any genre.  From the opening credits to the copyright notice, you'll be wiping tears away, as you struggle to breathe through the laughter.

1. Blazing Saddles (1974) - Mel Brooks writes, produces, directs, and stars in this greatest comedy of all time.  It was difficult to decide between this and the Pythons, because they are a pair of book ends - one American, the other British.  The deciding factor was that this film came out a year before Holy Grail.  This flick blew movie-making and story-telling right out of the water.  It also lambastes politics, religion, race, economics, gender, Hollywood, toll roads, and just about every other topic you can think of.  Absolutely nothing is sacred here.  This film is so masterful that almost every word or frame is a gag, setup or joke.  No one and nothing are left standing at the end.  When corrupt political and business interests conspire to destroy a small old west town for economic gain, they appoint a black sheriff to fill the vacancy left by a suspicious murder.  Just to make sure that positively every segment of society is properly skewered, the recruitment scene is thrown in to run down the entire list.  This movie will likely remain at the top of the list for decades to come.

Honorable Mentions: As noted, we had an original list of almost 100 films, so something had to get cut.  But we had to mention The Blues Brothers, Clerks, Galaxy Quest, and the Coen Brothers (Raising Arizona, Fargo).  There are so many classics, but these are stand-outs.

As the legendary British actor observed on his deathbed, "Dying is easy.  Comedy is hard."  Good comedy is a gift that requires rare talent and high intelligence.  It also takes smart folk to enjoy the best comedies.  These are our favorites.  How about yours?  Send us a comment with your thoughts.  And emjoy!

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Reader rights!

R.F. sent this:
Thank you for your favorite comedy choices, several of which I placed on my Netflix queue because I can't remember if I've seen them. For instance "She Done Him Wrong (1933)." As you say, comedy is a tough subject to hone in on, but you got me to thinking about a few of my own favorites. These are probably my top ten, not in order of favorite.

The Quiet Man (John Ford 1952--Maureen O'hara, John Wayne)
Dr. Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick 1964--Peter Sellers, George C. Scott)
Blues Brothers (John Landris 1980--John Belushi, Dan Aykroid)
Our Man Flint (Daniel Mann 1966--James Coburn, Lee J. Cobb)
Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis 1993--Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell)
Silver Steak (Arther Hiller 1976--Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor)
Watermelon Man (Melvin Van Peebles 1970--Godfrey Cambridge, Estella Parsons)
Jumanji (Joe Johnson 1995--Robin Williams)
Popeye (Robert Altman 1980--Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall)
Carnage (Roman Polanski 2011--Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet)


Can't argue with those choices.  Several were cut from out original list due mostly to space constraints, rather than quality of laughs.

Reader L.K. said:
best comedy right now is watching the politicians and media spin

To which replied, "That's what inspired the post!"

11.3.16

The Trump Card

For some reason, a number of readers have asked me to expand my thoughts on Donald Trump.  Apparently, the subtle jabs I've taken in past articles have led some to believe I don't like Trump, and others to believe I do like Trump.  Either way, I'm going to get hate mail on this one, I think.

Que sera.

Basically, I score candidates on three main issues: statesmanship, leadership and economics.  I will say right up front that NONE of the candidates for US president rise to the top in any of these categories.

To give an example of someone who does score high in all three categories, I would point to Vladimir Putin.  In terms of statesmanship, he knows history, diplomacy and politics.  As far as leadership, he is circumspect, cautious and flexible.  When it comes to economics, he has proven able to guide his country through some tough times and still manage to keep the economy growing.  The economics part relies heavily on the first two categories to formulate the proper policies and implement them correctly.  In short, I admire his skills, though I can say nothing about him personally.

That said, I can evaluate what I see of Donald Trump.  Since I do not know him personally, I can only do as I would with Vladimir Putin and look at the publicly available information.

When it comes to statesmanship, I will use the dictionary definition of the term in order to remain objective.  Statesmanship means "the ability, qualifications, or practice of a statesman; wisdom and skill in the management of public affairs."  In this category, I include knowledge of history and law, as well as the legal processes that make government work.

In this category, I think we can say that Donald Trump has no record whatsoever.  He has never held public office and his experience with politics seems fairly limited to his ability to buy and sell politicians to get what he wants in the way of tax concessions, property easements and other things needed to run his businesses.  Knowing how to manipulate political systems says nothing about his ability to operate on the other side of the table.  He is used to buying what he wants to make his operations run smoother, not protect public interests and the commonwealth.

Furthermore, by listening to his public statements, we can conclusively say that Donald Trump has little or no knowledge of the legal and political processes that maintain government.  He does not know, or has never studied, the US Constitution.  That he promotes torture and similar remedies means that he is unfamiliar with the Enlightenment and the philosophical underpinnings of American law.  Trump promotes expedience over justice, making him rather dangerous in this area.  His stances on immigration and border control, however, don't seem out of place, since most of what he proposes is simply enforcing the current laws, which has not been done for some time under other presidents.

In the area of diplomacy, I think it is fair to say that Donald Trump is seriously lacking.  Even when he espouses ideas that are valid and/or popular, he has a way of expressing them that alienates many people.  I happen to agree with his desire to reduce globalism and bring manufacturing jobs back home, but the way he lays out his views make more than just the globalist bankers nervous.  The US trade partners are also balking, since Trump has been both blunt and has not given any basis for his proposed policies.

As for the wisdom of circumspection, it is hardly controversial to say that Donald Trump is not much of a deep thinker.  He is reactionary and unable to express his reasoning in intellectual terms.  He appeals to and plays on emotions, which given his obvious popularity, could be very dangerous in the long term.  This is precisely the kind of rhetoric that gets nations in trouble.  Again, I point at Vladimir Putin, who is most often understated and places numerous historical and legal references in his speeches.

In terms of statesmanship, we can only put a big question mark, since we know nothing about his abilities here.

In the next category, leadership, we find a rather mixed bag.  Donald Trump has a long public record of corporate leadership where his attitude appears to be one of "my way or the highway."  This attitude works fine in a business, because when people don't like "my way," they are free to change jobs.  However, when running a country, things are not so straight-forward.  Countries contain thousands of competing interests, and a republic (at least in name) has the further duty to protect certain basic rights against even majorities who would take them away.  Leading a country requires diplomacy and compromise, skills which Donald Trump has seldom displayed.

Donald Trump is charismatic and expresses things that a lot of disaffected voters feel.  On the campaign trails, this is useful and obviously successful, but with no record of statesmanship, we cannot evaluate how he would behave in the office of president.  Being emotional and unpredictable when you control one of the largest militaries on Earth and have your fingers poised on the nuclear launch button are not ideal qualifications.  They are equally undesirable for a leader whose job is to calm the anxieties of foreign leaders, who could easily be on the receiving end of military responses.  As a cut-throat real estate developer, Donald Trump is used to getting his way by using any means at his disposal.  What happens when the means include all the weight of the US military complex?

In the category of economics, it seems reasonable to assume that Donald Trump has a strong intuitive grasp of economics.  He understands interest rates and taxes, and likely can calculate large sums instantly in his head.  As a developer, he understands profits and margins for a lot of different suppliers and laborers.  He can probably generate a 5-year plan with cost-benefit analysis in his sleep.  But , government is not a business.  It is a cost-center that generates no products and is incapable of earning a profit.  Government, in other words, is the fundamental opposite of business.  Being highly successful running one does not imply success with the other.  The skill sets are completely different.

I would place Donald Trump in a much higher place, when it comes to economics, that I would any career politician.  The politician has no experience with the "real" world.  They can vote themselves a raise, and frequently do.  Their incomes are derived from threatening physical violence on the productive workers.  The only time a politician answers to anyone is when he runs for office, and it is quite easy to manipulate the constituency using well-established media tricks and a few pork-barrel projects for the home crowds.

In light of the preceding, I find it very difficult to support Donald Trump, not to mention his rather potent ego-centrism, which puts me off.  The problem is, there is no one in the rest of the field that would seriously turn the country around, or at least get it off of the current course of destroying the world and itself.  In additional, I have always supported the non-establishment (can't really call Trump anti-establishment) candidate, and in my lifetime, I have never seen such a candidate reach this level of support.  For that reason alone, I secretly admire his chutzpah.

If for no other reason, I like Donald Trump because he will, without a doubt, stir the pot, something desperately needed in the US.  I can't believe he will make it past the convention, since the entrenched powers literally cannot afford to lose control.  They will stop him, one way or another.  They have come too far down the their road to let one man derail the whole thing.

The best endorsement Donald Trump has received is the vitriol pouring out of the establishment media in the US.  That those media would try so hard to get rid of someone almost guaranteed to bring ratings, both now and in the White House, means that they are truly and profoundly scared of him.  I like that.

In the end, for anyone wanting to break the grip of the neo-cons, Donald Trump is probably the best bet.  One thing is likely under a Trump administration - the business environment would return to the heady days of the early Reagan years.  Even though the country (and the world) has suffered dearly for the wave of deregulation in the 80s, no one can deny that a lot of people made a lot of money back then.  Just look at the movies that period spawned.

You pays your money and you takes your chance.  I naturally will not vote, as I haven't for decades.  I prefer "none of the above."  In this position, I can claim to have always been right, because I have always said that no matter who gets elected, everyone will be sorry.  Go back and look at my early posts on Obama, when it was oh-so-incorrect to say such things.  Unless Trump returns the US Federal government to a size somewhere equivalent to pre-Civil War days, neither he nor anyone else offers much more than the impossible dream.