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Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

I love Robin Williams.

Robin Williams is a hero of mine. But that’s not really a deep enough concept to express his role in my life. I have absolutely shaped my approach to life around what I perceived of him as a hero. I never met him. I never received fan mail back from him or did a stand up routine next to him. I don’t have any remarkable story about him – except that I stayed up late, rented, borrowed my way into every piece of work he put out. From Mork and Mindy to the Comic Relief stuff to all of his movies to every late night appearance… I took in all of it as some source-book of how to interact, how to think, how to absorb the world so fully you can be in all of those situations and BE REMARKABLE.

As a high school senior I thought deeply about the idea of Julliard because of him. I imagined a future in which I could go out to the world and say things he said… not because I rehearsed it but because I was speaking honestly in my synthesis of everything I was taking in. I wanted to be that good only better… even faster on my feet. Even quicker with my wit. Even deeper with my knowledge. Anywhere, in any circle, at any moment.

And make no mistake, I’m not delusional about Performance vs. Real Life. I read anything I could of his non-performance experiences – from his activism and social engagement to his personal struggles to his ideas about comedy to his appreciation of J. Winters. Robins Williams life, in all its facets, speaks profoundly to me.

For most of my life the person I’ve been mostly compared to in my approach to everything, even from my own mouth, is Robin Williams. (and I not only don’t hate it, I love it. I want to be that.) I’m drawn to this engagement with the world:

KNOW EVERYTHING YOU POSSIBLE CAN

LISTEN TO EVERYTHING (EVERYTHING!) and EVERYONE (EVERYONE!) AROUND YOU

SYNTHESIZE VERY QUICKLY

TRY ANY IDEA

10000000 jokes (ideas) is bound to deliver 1 GOOD ONE, SO KEEP GOING

ENGAGE EVERYONE SINCERELY and SERIOUSLY

WALK A BILLION MILES IN EVERYONE ELSES SHOES

SWEAT

Yes, Dead Poets Society is one of my top 5 movies. Good Morning Vietnam is also in the top 5. Good Will Hunting is such an important movie to me….. …. …. All these things are quite obvious. Robin Williams dealt with and engaged and seriously considered the entirety of the human experience. For me he is the ultimate synthesis of this absurd and beautiful world.

The vortex that is postmortem analysis will never change the strange loop that lives on through me and others. Posit what we want about mental illness and depression and comedy and hollywood or whatever else we will try to make it all tidy, it doesn’t matter. Robins Williams is a buddha. He’s one of those rare convergences of vitality that infuses many other souls with purpose. I love you, Robin. Thanks for helping make me, me.

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I lost one of my best friends this week.  My first father-in-law died at 89.  We got off to a rough start.  He called me ‘Meathead’ and I quietly referred to him as ‘Archie’.  Almost from the beginning we were diametrical opposites when it came to politics, religion, parenting; all the big stuff it seemed then.  We mostly agreed about the other things like sports, family, sales first, and of course, his daughter.

I’ll miss his passion for life, his love of fart jokes, his harsh opinions on opinionated people and the fact that he made no excuses for what he did, when he did it or to whom. I never went with him anywhere where he didn’t have a friend, make a friend or treat people like a friend.  Yet, he knew he was flawed.  Some of those flaws he relished.  I learned that although he relished and even nourished some flaws, he was conspicuous in never wanting to accidently offend anyone.  To the contrary, he could get hurt so easily when he couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t agree that he was right about a matter, just about any matter in fact.

He taught me a lot.  One-liners were always in his presence. When I once double-clutched at taking a risky job, he bristled over the phone and said,

“You can do anything for 6 weeks.  You don’t have to love it for kiap’s sake!  After 6 weeks you should have come to other decisions.”

When we talked about the good and the less good times, he was most proud of supporting his family, living his faith and yet almost ashamedly apologetic for the 2 ½ days he didn’t have a job in 65+ years of working during tough times, depressions and discourse.

Ya, we had our own ups and downs.  Some things we didn’t have to talk about so we didn’t. Luckily he didn’t like silence any more than I.  Other subjects were a running online commentary or the content of our attempted weekly phone calls but never face-to-face.  Face-to-face time was spent listening and laughing and occasionally discussing how the other one saw the world.  As usually happens, I thought he got smarter as he got older but we all know what was really going on.

He was intolerant, had high expectations and believed in an assortment of ideals – many of which went out of fashion everywhere but in his presence.

He cut a wide path in a lot of areas of life without much fan-fair approaching an allegorical Willy Loman-type character but instead ending as a hero he never saw himself as being.  We’ll just have to wait and see who steps up and strolls down Don’s path now.

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We invite them here and then kick them out… Migrant workers suffer and have no rights…

– Stephen Colbert

Ya may not agree with him but at least you understand his point.  And that is the start of real policy making… good communication.

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You may have seen it on news shows…

Athletic Clubs with cardio programs where members jump up and down as if using a jump rope but don’t really have a rope to jump.  Why?  The club doesn’t want people to feel bad if they can’t jump rope like others in the class… …or feel bad if they mess up in front of people not messing up.

How about the no tryouts, no exercise, no activities pep clubs that provide a uniform, trophy at the end of the season and certificate saying they are, “PEP FANtastic!”   Really, this is no joke and it is not a knock-off of the ABC TV show “The Middle” where daughter Sue is the easy-to-recognize enabled student with no clue how to compete… and she is not taught how by parents or teachers or the church or synagogues, or her horoscope.

So, should schools do the about the same thing in math, history, chemistry, business, accounting and insurance as the athletic club does for its members?   How about a prize for attempting to clean up the oil spill in the gulf or attempting put a man on the moon!  “What?”, you say, “That wouldn’t make sense???!!!”  Of course it doesn’t make sense!  But that’s what is being done in education due to myopicos like Alfie Kohn.  Ya, the one and only who writes as an education ‘expert’ for The Huffington Post blog….

Competition is what is.  It starts with the struggle out of the birth canal. For many it ends with seeing who can live the longest with the most toys, or experiences, or charities, or wives, or single malt Scotches. We learn to eat, to live, to work and to mate and there is a competitive component in every second of it.  Those that don’t compete never learn skills that they can use in life later on to provide for their families, communities and the world.  And then we wonder why we are with competitive academics in the world, or why there are more and more 3rd world foreign-borns in colleges and universities, engineering schools, MBA programs, Ph.D. programs, medical schools, etc.  [No, that is not bigotry; it is that they get it!] The answer is competition.  They are serious about it and we (whoever that means) aren’t serious about it.

Perhaps it is a vestige of our ‘Man-is-superior-to-all-the-rest-of-the-animals; we don’t compete like they do!’ shtick. How’s that workin these days.  Are we winning any competitive wars you’ve noticed?

In fact, we’re frequently going in the opposite direction due to the early years being filled with the ‘help’ being offered from the very beginning.  Businesses from McDonald’s to McDonald-Douglas spend billions every year teaching their employees how to compete at different levels.  University of Phoenix makes a living for a lot of investors in grades for profit involving students companies send them who can’t compete; write, read, organize, manage or lead.  If we were doing such a great job they would be out of business.

Community Colleges have many students that don’t know how to compete.  They haven’t competed up to the point of college and now competing for jobs is almost foreign to them, not because of the jobs, but because they didn’t get the subtle or the explicate competitive approaches or experiences that are learned early on.  The ‘help’ provided is to not let them come into contact with any consequences.

What is ‘entitlement’?  It is what adults do to their children and what students learn that ensures that they do not have to compete to get what they want; they do not have to attend to what works and that they can get the same credit for ‘trying’ as for succeeding.   They say it is for the children but it isn’t; its for them, the parents.

FFPS and similar organization institutionalize the entitlement.  Learning to ride a bike you can get hurt.  Get hurt??? No, we’ll cover you in Velcro pads so if your training wheels don’t protect you and you fall, you’ll not have to connect with any unpleasant consequences.  Bad nightmares; bad marriages, bad jobs, bad DUI???  Shameful; you shouldn’t have to suffer.  We’ll get you in a program where you are given the drug propranolol to eradicate the experience, or dampen the bad history or events.   The louder the communities yell about the child, student, or young adult, the more and more it becomes about everything else but those groups.

For the things valued in life, there is way too many ‘self-referential’ content today and it is working to our dis-service, from families to the halls of Congress.   That being said, for every virtue listed to reduce competitive activities, there is an equal and larger set that most of us see as a product of competition.

For the things valued in life, there is way too many ‘self-referential’ content today and it is working to our dis-service, from families to the halls of Congress.   That being said, for every ‘virtue’ listed to reduce competitive activities, there is an equal and larger set of virtues that are a product of competition.

  • self-composure

  • self-reliance

  • self-control

  • self-assured

  • self-analysis

  • self-abnegation

  • self-development

  • self-evolved

  • self-enriched

  • self-judgment

  • self-mastery

  • self-reflection

  • self-restraint

  • self-trust

Here is just one option provided by the FFPS web site…

FFPS [Fun, Fair, Positive Soccer]

…to provide every youth soccer player with a positive experience. They saw the main problem as parents who put too much pressure on the kids to perform and the programs that emphasized winning as the main focus. They developed a system so the kids could play and enjoy the sport without demands from adults to win or perform. They modified the rules and designed a process of 5 aside rules, equal play with a unique equal substitution system, balanced teams, and parent training to ensure that it would be fair. The parents would behave and be positive so it would be really “Made For Kids”.

We wouldn’t want the kids to actually perform as in ‘do’ something…. Why not just take the nets and goalie away and have the kids run up and down the field….  I know that might look more like baby sitting but then again, no one would have to explain why the other team had more goals than your team did.  Don’t drink the Cool Aide…

Geeze!

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“So we cheated and we lied
And we tested
And we never failed to fail
It was the easiest thing to do.

You will survive being bested.
Somebody fine
Will come along
Make me forget about loving you.”

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Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.”

—H.L. Mencken: attacker of ignorance, intolerance, frauds, fundamentalist Christianity, osteopathy, myths and writers that mocked him for sport…

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I propose one hard test for the progress of comp sci.  I’ve laid the ground work for a computational engine that can write late night talk show monologues as well as the human writers.

Do you think it’s possible?

Here’s my basic idea…code forth coming.

—GENERATIVE JOKE ENGINE——

Some Basic Info
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computational_humor

Mathematicas and Humor, a book by John Allen Paulos

Philosophy of Humor/Theories of Humor
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_humor
http://www.iep.utm.edu/h/humor.htm

Some useful mathematical theory
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catastrophe_theory

Liguistics
http://www.tomveatch.com/else/humor/paper/humor.html

Joke Generator
http://grok-code.com/12/how-to-write-original-jokes-or-have-a-computer-do-it-for-you/

Potential Ideas
Simple Program based on Replacement rules of Subjects, Relationships, Events

Simple Program of puns, word combinations, definition crossing

Simple programs and then an rich interface that uses and avatar or on screen talent to “tell” the selected jokes.  Would prefer it to all be computer based as we want to find out whether the “telling” of a joke contains a lot (most?) of the humor.
How to do this:

Prep: Create a database of common objects, slang terms, relationship descriptions

a) parse the news each night for subjects, relationships, objects, events

b) enumerate all jokes (basically sentence combinations) using replacement of subjects, objects, relationships with objects in the prep database.

c) run training algo against real monologues (what jokes are likely to be used based on past jokes)

d) tune it

e) create inflection and pausing algorithm that “tells the joke better”

We can exclude the use of existing monologues to train the algorithms and instead use an audience (internet visitors) to rate the jokes and monologues.  The algo can then learn what replacements, what structures, and what styles work best.  Though i think using existing monologues is realistic as most writers and comedians borrow from successful previous work to save a long, boring training period.

Exhaust all possibilities of jokes using replacement rules.  Then run this model against actual jokes used on late night television.

Analyze how many of the actual jokes we found.  Push this analysis to back in to give weighting to the generated jokes to predict late night monologues.

Can we ever replace monologue writers?

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Web Coder’s Congressional Testimony

Hired Code Slinger: You want answers?
Congressman: I think I’m entitled to them.
Hired Code Slinger: You want answers?
Congressman: I want the truth!

Hired Code Slinger: You can’t handle the truth!  Son, we live in a world that has web sites. And those web sites have products and services that must be refreshed with code every damn second.  Who’s gonna do it?  You?!  You, Congressman?   I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for news updates and you curse porn. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that porn traffic, while illegal, out-sells everything else I try to do on the Internet.  And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, makes everything on the Internet happen… You don’t want the truth because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that keyboard. You need me on that keyboard. We use words like bomb, socket, mash-up…we use these words as the backbone to a life spent providing you with content. You use ’em in a punch line!  I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain my work ethic to a man who rises and falls asleep to the sound bites of Britney Spears or Anna Nicole Smith clips I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it!  I’d rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a laptop and code-up. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to!

Congressman: Did you order the code released?
Hired Code Slinger: (quietly) I did the job you need me to do.
Congressman: Did you order the code released!?
Hired Code Slinger: You’re goddamn right I did!!

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