My daughter, Kristin, called
me from uptown Manhattan early on 9/11 to announce that a second plane had just plowed
into the World Trade Towers. I watched the rest unfold as I assume did many of you. It was
unreal, sickening and terrifying. It still is. Kristin is OK and has three passports.
My wife, Melinda, is also safe and sound and on her feet dancing the tango in
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, preparing for the opening night of "The Magic Fire"
written and directed by Lillian Garrett-Groag at the Milwaukee Rep. I'll be there as well
after a visit to Richard Fish at LodesTone in Bloomington, Indiana (the new home of Firesign Theatre Records), and a
drive to see my mom in Goshen. I will be away from 10/14 -10/23 and would appreciate a
moratorium on email!
The Firesign Theatre's PBS Special, "Weirdly Cool", is being edited by
our pals at K2 Pictures on West 26th and is looking good. There are a few chilling moments
as seen through our new perspective, but nothing to keep us off the air; and we have been
asked to appear LIVE on the East coast during pledge breaks starting at our sponsor
station WHYY in Philadelphia, late November. Request the show from your local PBS outlet
and maybe we'll show up there as well!
Bride of Firesign" Rhino CD is also out there, but beware! It contains some
spine-chillingly prophetic references like this exchange between Night Whispers' host
Harold Hiphugger and Alvin "the impact man" Bradshaw:
HAL: Chief, I see you're totally tattooed in
BRADSHAW: Yeah, and I'm wearing my angry hat.
HAL: Is that a whale pizzle in the band?
BRADSHAW: Full metal!
HAL: Does this mean - war?
Earlier, our all-night DJ, Bebop
Lobo, says, inspired by the Egyptian God, Isis: "The black velvet night waits like
the mystic crocodile to rip us into a thousand pieces on the slippery slopes of
The 666-story Funfun Needle is later shattered with a blast of lightning
invoked by a madman, followed by a Pearl Harbor joke at "The Gravediggers
Roadshow." Listen yourself, if you dare . . . but we're NOT INSANE! And we're not
involved, either; just sensitive to the dangers of the 21st century which this "loss
of innocence, learning-to-be-a-man" album seems to be all about . . .
an unacceptable reality"
- Eyewitness to the attacks on Discovery
'EM BACK TO THE STONED AGE!
Then, subscriber Paul Thielen
writes that "a pundit on KGO radio in San Francisco quoted Deepak Chopra, the
feel-good guru, as suggesting that we should "bomb Afganistan with literature"
(in an effort to educate them on current events). Shades of the 'Enola McCluan'!
For the uninitiated, that's an event from "Le Trente-huit
Cunegonde" on our first album, "Waiting for the Electrician or
Someone like Him" - a special performance of which will be on the PBS bonus tape.
"Some real things have happened lately."
- Joan Didion, "The Last Thing He Wanted."
Those of us who remember
getting laid during the Cuban Missile Crisis will have no problem understanding that a
whole "lotta lovin's goin' on" these days, often between total strangers. It's a
natural urge when a body thinks it could be the last chance to get one off before The Big One hits.
But according to a recent press release, high unemployment has the same
effect, so even if we survive, there's more hooking up ahead, at least according to
Swaziland ruler King Mswati III. Since hard times in his country led to an HIV/AIDS
epidemic, His Highness reinstated the "Umchwasho", a maiden's chastity
rule also called "Flower of the Nation". Thus, Swaziland has officially banned
single women from sexual activity for five years.
Maidens cannot shake hands or wear pants, and virgins must wear black and
blue "do-not-touch-me" tassels. Those over 19 or in a relationship wear
different tassels, and men acting against the ruling will be fined a cow.
Well, at least it's better than being "beaten black-and-blue" for
similar crimes in Afghanistan.
The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking of morality by
religion. However valuable - even necessary - that may have been in enforcing good
behavior on primitive peoples, their association is now counterproductive. Yet at the very
moment when they should be decoupled, sanctimonious nitwits are calling for a return to
morals based on superstition."
- Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Skeptical Inquirer
IN A NAME?
The Taliban means "an
organization of students", but they are described as "barbarians" by an
ethnic Tajik named Shuraj (which means "courageous") who escaped the Afghani
capitol, Kabul, after losing his job as a policeman. "It's a system of men with
guns." Osama bin
Laden says furthermore, "We do not differentiate between those dressed in
military uniforms and civilians; they are all targets . . ."
They claim they are waging a "jihad" or holy war against the
decadent and demoralizing incursions of the Western world, but in Islam "jihad"
is the interior battle all humans wage against their own resistance to God.
But however misguided, as op-ed writer John Balzar states, "These holy
warriors are the children of an American policy that once before, as now, split the world
into friend or foe." And after we helped create the Soviet pull-out in 1989, we
pulled out, too. Now we're experiencing the blow-back.
"The death you are seeking is sure to find you"
- Muslim saying
THE NAME OF GOD!!!
At a time when certain
lobbyists are declaring the Bush administration to be (of all things) "Pro Gay
Rights," that anti-Christian bigot, Jerry Falwell, is up to his old tricks again:
"I really believe," he said to his crony Pat Robertson, "that
the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are
actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American
Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face
and say 'you helped this happen'."
To which Pat responded, "We have a court that has essentially stuck its
finger in God's eye. We have insulted God at the highest level of government."
You've both insulted America.
"This is how men behave when they believe they have absolute
- Jacob Bronowski at the Auschwitz crematorium, "The
Ascent of Man"
A professional comedian was
going through a medical examination to volunteer for military service, and after being
stripped bare, fingered all over, including parts of the body better left untouched, he
finally came to a desk at which some sergeant was taking down information about the
"Occupation?" barked the sergeant.
"Comedian," replied the comedian.
"Oh, yeah?" sneered the sergeant, "Say something funny."
The comedian turned around, looked at his fellows beings stripped of all
their dignity and waiting their turn to be further humiliated, and said, "O.K.,
fellas, you can all go home. I got the job."
to next column to continue reading]
"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has
always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible; but
in the end, they always fall. Think of it. Always."
- Mahatma Gandhi
As we hear the calls for
tightened American security and a fierce military response to terrorism, it is obvious
that none of us has any answers; however, we feel compelled to ask some questions.
Everything has a cause, so we have to ask, what was the root cause of this
evil? We must find out not superficially but at the deepest level. There is no doubt that
such evil is alive all around the world and is even celebrated. Does this evil grow from
the suffering and anguish felt by people we don't know and therefore ignore? Have they
lived in this condition for a long time? One assumes that whoever did this attack feels
implacable hatred for America. Why were we selected to be the focus of suffering around
All this hatred and anguish seems to have religion at its basis. Isn't
something terribly wrong when jihads and wars develop in the name of God? Isn't God
invoked with hatred in Ireland, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine, and even
among the intolerant sects of America?
Can any military response make the slightest difference in the underlying
cause? Is there not a deep wound at the heart of humanity? If there is a deep wound,
doesn't it affect everyone? When generations of suffering respond with bombs, suicidal
attacks and biological warfare, who first developed these weapons? Who sells them? Who
gave birth to the satanic technologies now being turned against us? If all of us are
wounded, will revenge work? Will an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a limb for a
limb, leave us all blind, toothless and crippled?
Tribal warfare has been going on for two thousand years and has now gotten
magnified globally. Can tribal warfare be brought to an end? Is patriotism and nationalism
even relevant anymore, or is this another form of tribalism? Everyone is calling this an
attack on America, but is it not a rift in our collective soul? Isn't this an attack on
civilization from without that is also from within? I only hope that these questions are
confronted with the deepest spiritual intent. None of us will feel safe again behind the
shield of military might and stockpiled arsenals. There can be no safety until the root
cause is faced.
In this moment of shock I don't think any one of us has the answers. It is
imperative that we pray and offer solace and help to each other. But if you and I are
having a single thought of violence or hatred against anyone in the world at this moment,
we are contributing to the wounding of the world.
"I don't want to die in Bloomingdale's"
- Salesgirl Zhanna Nalbadyan,in an L.A. quake
VS ALSO IRAN
Saddam Hussein was sitting in
his office wondering who to terrorize next when his telephone rang. "Hallo! Mr.
Hussein," a heavily accented voice said. "This is Paddy down in County Cavan, Ireland. I am ringing to inform you
that we are officially declaring war on you!"
"Well, Paddy," Saddam replied, "This is indeed important news!
Tell me, how big is your army?"
"At this moment in time," said Paddy after a moment's calculation,
"there is myself, my cousin Sean, my next door neighbor Gerry, and the entire
dominoes team from the pub - that makes eight."
Saddam sighed. "I must tell you Paddy, that I have one million men in my
army waiting to move on my command."
"Begorra!", said Paddy, "I'll have to ring you back!"
Sure enough, the next day Paddy rang back. "Right Mr. Hussein, the war
is still on! We have managed to acquire some equipment!"
"And what equipment would that be, Paddy?" Saddam asked.
"Well, we have two combine harvesters, a bulldozer and Murphy's tractor
from the farm."
Once more Saddam sighed. "I must tell you, Paddy, that I have sixteen
thousand tanks, fourteen thousand armored personnel carriers, and my army has increased to
one and a half million since we last spoke."
"Really?!" said Paddy. "I'll have to be ringin' you back!"
The next day Paddy rang again. "Right, Mr. Hussein, the war is still on!
We have managed to get ourselves airborne! We've modified Ted's ultra-light with a couple
of rifles in the cockpit and the bridge team has joined us as well!"
Saddam was silent for a minute, then sighed and said, "I must tell you,
Paddy, that I have ten thousand bombers, twenty thousand MiG-19 attack planes, my
military complex is surrounded by laser-guided surface-to-air missile sites, and since we
last spoke, my army has increased to two million."
"Faith and begorra!", said Paddy, "I'll have to ring you
Sure enough, the next day. Paddy said, "Mr. Hussein? I'm sorry to tell
you that we have had to call off the war."
"I'm sorry to hear that," said Saddam. "Why the sudden change
"Well," said Paddy "We've all had a chat, and there's no way
we can feed two million prisoners."
"The desire to bang is gone - at least temporarily."
- NY movie producer Scott Rudin
DID YOU CALL ME?
My partner Peter Bergman -
soon to be delivering a daily one-minute NPR satirical commentary on "All Things Considered" - noted that after
dropping the name "Operation Infinite Justice" because it might offend the
enemy, and before adopting the somewhat ambiguous call-to-arms "Enduring
Freedom" we actually had for a while, "A nameless operation against a faceless
Know how to make a terrorist laugh? Bomb on stage . . .
If you don't
stand for something, you'll fall for anything."
- Dr. David Walker
Have I been affected? Collaterally, one might say.
Stricter security on the studio lots. The threat of bomb scares. The loss of work due to
the postponement or shelving of films and CD-roms and interactive on-line games. It's
started its tenth season this week.
is working, my friends and family are safe and Kristin is appearing as
"Cindy", the snob with a nose job, in the upcoming Penny Marshall film
"Riding in Cars with Boys", as "Lisa" in "Boy's Life"
directed by David McDermott at the Flatiron Playhouse November 6th - 11th, and in April,
she'll be performing in "Measure for Measure" by the Acting Shakespeare Company
at 45 Bleeker.
We go on. And the planet still spins.
is the only reality."
- the late, great Kathleen
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