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Volume 19

From the "Weirdly Cool" sessions
Thanks to Andy Thomas

"Can we be funny?"- SNL's Lorne Michaels.
"Why start now?"- Mayor Rudi Giuliani


   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!
   "The 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 body-piercing camouflage.
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 denial."
   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 . . .

   "This is an unacceptable reality"
- Eyewitness to the attacks on Discovery


   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


   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


   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 knowledge."
- 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 potential inductees.
   "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."
(Ivan's Jokes)

[Go 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 the world?
   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.
   Deepak Chopra

   "I don't want to die in Bloomingdale's"
- Salesgirl Zhanna Nalbadyan,in an L.A. quake


   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 back."
   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 of heart?"
   "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


   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 enemy."
   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 nothing. "Rugrats" started its tenth season this week.
   Melinda 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.

   "Life is the only reality."
- the late, great Kathleen Freeman



* FIRESIGN SITE: http://www.firesigntheatre.com
* FIREZINE SITE: http://www.firezine.net
* FIRESIGN PRODUCT: http://www.lodestone-media.com
* FUNNY TIMES: http://www.funnytimes.com


Phil's "Signs of the Times"

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Latest Pic of bin Laden?

captioned by
Tiny Dr. Tim

2001 by Phil Proctor

Published 10/08/01