Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin - 1937 to 2008 R.I.P. - Zeitgeist Loses A Signpost

This is too hard for me to write about. George Carlin is a living legend. Here's Mr. Carlin talks about politicians and voting:

I grew up with George Carlin. This is the obt from the NY Times:

George Carlin, Comic Who Chafed at Society and Its Constraints, Dies at 71

Published: June 24, 2008
George Carlin, whose astringent stand-up comedy made him an heir of Lenny Bruce, who gave voice to an indignant counterculture and assaulted the barricades of censorship on behalf of a generation of comics that followed him, died on Sunday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 71 and lived in Venice, Calif.

Enlarge This Image

NBC, via Associated Press
George Carlin served as host of the "Saturday Night Live" debut in 1975. More Photos »

George Carlin, 1937-2008
An Appraisal: A Master of Words, Including Some You Can’t Use (June 24, 2008)

George Carlin Didn’t Shun School That Ejected Him (June 24, 2008)

TV Decoder: George Carlin’s Televised Stage (June 23, 2008)

Times Topics: George Carlin

Interview: Refusing to Coast on 7 Infamous Words (Nov. 4, 2005)

Blogrunner: Reactions From Around the Web

Enlarge This Image

Vincent Laforet/The New York Times
George Carlin at the Rihga Royal Hotel in Manhattan in 2004. More Photos >
The cause was heart failure, said his publicist, Jeff Abraham. Mr. Carlin, who performed earlier this month at the Orleans hotel in Las Vegas, had a history of heart problems.

“By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth,” read a message on Mr. Carlin’s Web site,, and he spent much of his life in a fervent effort to counteract the forces that would have it so. In his always irreverent, often furious social commentary, in his observations of the absurdities of everyday life and language, and in groundbreaking routines like the profane “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” he took aim at what he thought of as the palliating and obfuscating agents of American life — politicians, advertisements, religion, the media and conventional thinking of all stripes.

“If crime fighters fight crime and firefighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight?” he asked in a 1980s routine, taking a jab at the Reagan administration’s defense of the Nicaraguan Contras.

During a career that spanned five decades, Mr. Carlin emerged as one of the most popular, durable, productive and versatile comedians of his era. He evolved from Jerry Seinfeld-like whimsy and a buttoned-down decorum in the ’60s to counterculture hero in the ’70s.

By the ’80s, he was known as a scathing social critic, wringing laughs from the verbal tics of contemporary language like the oxymoron “jumbo shrimp” (and finding another oxymoron in the term “military intelligence”) and poking fun at pervasive national attitudes. He used the ascent of football’s popularity at the expense of the game he loved, baseball, to make the point that societal innocence had been lost forever.

“Baseball is a 19th-century pastoral game,” he said. “Football is a 20th-century technological struggle. Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park. The baseball park! Football is played on a gridiron, in a stadium sometimes called Soldier Field or War Memorial Stadium.”

Through the 1990s and into the 21st century, Mr. Carlin, balding but still pony-tailed, prowled the stage — eyes ablaze with intensity — as the comedy circuit’s most splenetic curmudgeon, raging over the shallowness of a “me first” culture; mocking the infatuation with camcorders, hyphenated names and sneakers with lights on them; lambasting white guys over 10 years old who wear their baseball hats backwards, baby boomers “who went from ‘do your thing’ to ‘just say no’ ” and “from cocaine to Rogaine”; and foes of abortion rights. “How come when it’s us it’s an abortion,” he asked, “and when it’s a chicken it’s an omelet?”

George Denis Carlin was born in New York City on May 12, 1937. His mother, Mary, a secretary, separated from his father when he was an infant, and he grew up with his mother and his older brother, Patrick, on West 121st Street in Manhattan.

“I grew up in New York wanting to be like those funny men in the movies and on the radio,” Mr. Carlin said. “My grandfather, mother and father were gifted verbally, and my mother passed that along to me. She always made sure I was conscious of language and words.”

He dropped out of high school and joined the Air Force, and while stationed in Shreveport, La., he worked as a radio disc jockey. Discharged in 1957, he moved to Boston for a radio announcer’s job, then to Fort Worth, where he was a D.J.

Along the way he met Jack Burns, a newscaster and comedian. They worked together in Fort Worth and Los Angeles, performing on the radio and in clubs and even appearing on “The Tonight Show” with Jack Paar. The comedian Mort Sahl, whose penchant for social commentary Mr. Carlin came to share, dubbed them “a duo of hip wits.”

Still, the Carlin-Burns team was only moderately successful, and, in 1960, Mr. Carlin struck out on his own.

He made his first television solo guest appearance on “The Tonight Show” in 1962, in the interim between Paar’s departure and Johnny Carson’s arrival; the host that night was Mr. Sahl. His second wasn’t until 1965, when he made the first of 29 appearances on “The Merv Griffin Show.”

At that time, he was primarily known for his clever wordplay and reminiscences of his Irish working-class upbringing in New York. But there were intimations of an anti-establishment edge. It surfaced, for example, in a parody of television newscasts, for which he invented characters like Al Sleet, “the “hippy-dippy weatherman”: “Tonight’s forecast: Dark. Continued mostly dark tonight turning to widely scattered light in the morning.”

Mr. Carlin released his first comedy album, “Take-Offs and Put-Ons,” to rave reviews in 1967. He also dabbled in acting, winning a recurring part as Marlo Thomas’s theatrical agent in the 1960s sitcom “That Girl” and a supporting role in the 1968 movie “With Six You Get Eggroll.” He made more than 80 major television appearances during that time, including on the Ed Sullivan Show and Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show”; he was also regularly featured at nightclubs in New York and Las Vegas.

He was one of America’s most popular comedians, but as the convulsive decade of 1960s ended, he’d had enough of what he considered a dinky and hollow success.

“I was entertaining the fathers and the mothers of the people I sympathized with, and in some cases associated with, and whose point of view I shared,” he recalled later, as quoted in the book “Going Too Far” by Tony Hendra (Doubleday, 1987). “I was a traitor, in so many words. I was living a lie.” ...more.

George Carlin on white people

This is totally funny. Listen carefully to what he says in this video:

Don Imus - Give Mr. Imus A Break On PacMan Jones

Ok. I like you totally rolled my eye and called my Mom with the latest news of radio personality Don Imus' latest racial slur. You know after the whole event with the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team and Don Imus referring to them as "Nappy Headed" Whatevers, then losing his job after a dramatic meeting with the classy members of that team, then returning, America was just waiting for Imus to explode with something.

Today we got it. Sort of.

This is the text of what Imus said from AOL Sports:

When one of Imus's on-air partners, Warner Wolf, discussed Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones' legal troubles, Imus asked, "What color is he." When told that Jones is African-American, Imus said, "Well, there you go. Now we know."

The full transcript is below.
Wolf: "Defensive back Adam 'Pacman' Jones, recently signed by the Cowboys. Here's a guy suspended all of 2007 following a shooting in a Vegas night club."
Imus: "Well, stuff happens. You're in a night club, for God's sake. What do you think's gonna happen in a night club? People are drinking and doing drugs, there are women there, and people have guns. So, there, go ahead."
Wolf: "He's also been arrested six times since being drafted by Tennessee in 2005."
Imus: "What color is he?"
Wolf: "He's African-American."
Imus: "Well, there you go. Now we know."

When I first listened to that on the radio, I couldn't believe it. I called my Mom and we talked in agreement that it wasn't the right thing to say. But then after a few hours, I actually listened to Imus again and I could not work up a sweat of anger. I actually looked at what he said in this way:

Imus was trying to say that given the way Blacks are treated in America, that's why PacMan has had so many problems. I got that. I get that. Don Imus is right.

Hey, Imus did screw up with the Rutgets Women's Basketball Team -- he admits that. But this is far afield from that by a long stretch. Let's give Don Imus the benefit of the doubt.

Nigerian Larry Bowoto's War Against Chevron Hits Brick Wall

Who is Larry Bowoto?

Larry Bowoto is an indigene of Ilaje community in Ondo State, Nigeria. He claims that Chevron hired people to shoot him as he was protesting. This story is all over the Internet, but the other side of it is not. Chevron claims that Bowoto was one of several 100 who held Chevron employees hostage for several days.

A trial starts in September 2008 in San Francisco federal court against Chevron by Larry Bowoto, but after almost a decade, Bowoto’s legal team very quietly dropped half the case against Chevron earlier this year...More.

UPDATE: Trial Information

Sf Chronicle Losing $1 Million A Week - Newspapers In Trouble

According to today's NY Times, the newspaper industry is in trouble, as papers suffer from competition from the Internet. The SF Chron has been losing $1 million a week since last year. As Time O'Reily wrote last year, he reads the online version of the SF Chron 95 percent of the time, and the "offline" version about 5 percent of the time. That's probably true for me, as well, but Tim and I are both in the Internet business.

What can be done? Well, my answer is "nothing" -- the offline news people have to adjust to this New Media world, as do institutions and PR people who have been oriented toward using offline newspapers to get the news out. This also includes sports leagues like the NFL, which has a long standing relationship with such organizations as The Associated Press, but not the Huffington Post, which draws 14 million visitors a month.

The SF Chron seems to be trying to find its way on The Internet, where it gets about 5 million visitors per month. That's still far less than the 23 million visitors that Craigslist gets, but then CL's reach is nationwide.

In fact, I think the future of the SF Chron is -- well, let me restate. The SF Chron should be more of a national and international online news system, with a local twist. Thus, it can get eyeballs from more places than just the Bay Area, but still be focused on the SF Bay Area.