Neil Simon was one of the most successful commercial playwrights in the history of theater and likely the most recognizable of American playwrights. In creating a steady stream of Broadway hits, starting with Come Blow Your Horn (1961), Simon garnered numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in drama in 1991. Though critics often found his work to be sentimental, predictable, and shallow, Simon was consistently popular with Broadway, regional, and community theater audiences. In his most popular period, the mid-1960’s and early 1970’s, Simon at times had as many as four hits running simultaneously on Broadway.
The Odd Couple is probably the best-known Simon comedy, owing not only to its strikingly comic situation and distinctive main characters but also to the commercially successful spin-offs from the play—a well-received film adaptation in 1968, an enormously popular television series that ran from 1970 to 1975, and a female-version sequel in 1985. Simon’s plays, and especially his early plays, typically generate belly laughs through carefully orchestrated comic conflict, brisk pace, and extremely witty dialogue freely punctuated with comic one-liners. The Odd Couple has all of these.
The theme of The Odd Couple, if it has one, involves human incompatibility and the observation that compromise is necessary in any kind of marital-like relationship. Oscar and Felix illustrate that men who do not get along with their wives will probably be incompatible with others in precisely the same way. Regardless of the situation and genders involved, effective compromise in human relationships is rare. To some, however, this description of thematic elements in The Odd Couple might seem excessively academic. Do Simon’s plays really exist to investigate thematic issues? Some find his plays, and especially his later plays, convincing in their treatment of serious thematic issues, while others find nearly all of his plays quite shallow. A large majority, however, simply assert that Simon’s plays are...
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Information Kills Religion. Yes it does. Science; modern knowledge, sweeps away the old myths, superstitions, repressions, and pessimism of religious thought.
Normally, I would prepare one of these posts on a specific topic, with references and illustrative images culled from more than a bit of effortful research. Gotta give the customers their money’s worth. And I learn a lot about a subject I may not be that well-versed on. It’s allgood. Additionally,there’s plenty of poorly researched rants on blogs, podcasts, and videoposts all over the Net: enuf for everybody nowadays.
But today’s post will be different.
An essay, not a rant. Just some observations on how much the modern-day perspective is changing toward the secular, the scientific. Even while some deny or outright fight a less religious view and the tolerance and progress that comes with it, we are all immersed in an exponential explosion of technological advance, and and a wealth of science information and discussion in our daily lives like never before. New knowledge appears every day in our media in all its forms, like it or not. We think smart phones are “normal” and fail to marvel anymore that we have this incredible 60’s Star Trek sci-fi technology in the palm of our hands. How times have changed. And that’s but one example.
Just a day or two ago, Kevin Smith, the previously greatly overweight comedy film director of Clerks and Mallrats, came within inches of dying, with a 90%+ blocked LAD (left anterior descending) coronary artery. He went in with telling heart-attack symptoms and they immediately run a catheter up an artery in his groin, open up the clog with a stent, and the next day he’s tweeting photo’s from his hospital bed, looking a bit shaken, but generally none the worse for the wear.
We think this is normal too. I remember hearing of the first bypass surgeries done in our area in one of the leading-edge cardiac hospitals up in Milwaukee WI in the late 70’s…a few years after my Dad dies of his one and only heart attack, having had massive blockage in nearly all his arteries. One and done. He’d have been a perfect candidate for the quadruple bypass that became routine soon thereafter. Now they don’t bother to crank open your chest unless they absolutely have to. Snake a stent up from your groin and your heart has the blood flow of a 20 yr. old again. For 99.999999% of human existance, Kevin Smith would have passed immediately, just like my Dad. He’s probably already home now. Normal.
And I couldn’t remember what LAD stood for, so I googled it here on my laptop (could have used my phone sitting nearby too) and got instant explanations and illustrations.
Education at lightspeed. (It will help kill Trumpism along with religion, but more on that later).
And I could have chosen any one of 300+ images about LAD’s (I stopped scrolling down at 50 rows), or I might have searched Yahoo images for a similar volume and variety of illustrations: photos, angiograms, CT scans, old time Xrays, MRI’s, heart models,…you name it. Even pictures of Kevin Smith himself, proudly displaying that shit-eating grin he well deserves, for being the unplanned beneficiary of 21st century medical technology allowing him to cheat death, almost routinely, like humans could not have imagined while watching the original Capt. Kirk flipping open his communicator, in glorious black and white on their humongous living-room console TV with the 3 channels…and no remote. No simple infra-red technology to run 1st generation remotes was available yet in 1966. We fought over who would get up and change channels. Undoubtedly a better time to the Conservatives among us (whether Trumpsters or not); no remote to get lost in the couch cushions, America was predominantly white and Protestant Xian, and civil rights activists were still getting firebombed in Mississippi. That was normal. And 50-100 US soldiers dying per week in Vietnam. Normal then, not now.
Obviously I couldn’t pull that figure for Vietnam war deaths outa my head (or my ass) but also at lightspeed, I got dozens of responses to my search for “1966 US weekly Vietnam deaths”. Monthly totals were provided in the second link, and I did the math.
Around 10 or 11 at night, the TV stations had no more programs to broadcast so you got the test pattern above or just the “snow” image and static crackle for as long as you left your TV on. Of course we didn’t know it then that the static we heard and saw was the CMB (Cosmic Microwave Background) radiation left over from the Big Bang which was discovered quite accidentally in ’64 by a couple of Bell Labs technicians trying to figure out what was interfering with their radio-telescope scanning of the night sky. They thought it was pigeon shit. They won the Nobel Prize.
Now in my March, 2018 Yahoo news feed, an article describes astrophysicists discerning the ripples in that left over radiation as evidence for the birth of the first stars. My Yahoo News feed, one of dozens on the net which puts out cutting-edge rather high level science news blurbs to the general public. Not so in ’64. Normal, now.
In contrast to Kevin Smith’s miraculous recovery from the brink of total and final cardiac arrest, the un-paralelled symbol of 50’s-60’s religious hegemony; the undisputed scion of Conservative Xianity’s unquestioned dominance over every aspect of post-WWII American culture: Billy Graham, just died at 99. While he lay in state at the US Capitol, old secularists like me muttered “good riddance”. America’s Pastor: intolerant, anti-gay, anti Jew, anti-atheist, anti-Catholic. Our culture will not miss the pompous sonofabitch. In contrast, the youth of today, those 18-35, I would wager, the vast majority of them, have never heard of him. It’s a beautiful thing. Tellingly, the youth of today would share little of “America’s Pastor’s” views on most anything. They have no problem with pre-marital sex, divorce, sexual orientation, racial diversity, marijuana use, porn,…so it goes. And why dont today’s youth buy all of Rev. Graham’s views on the evils of the above mentioned list? They know better. They have information on all these behaviors and issues and know Graham’s archaic views (as still espoused by many of the Xian right) to be wrong. Porn doesn’t destroy your life or your marriage, being gay is not an issue, weed is not evil, divorce is a way to get out of a relationship that isn’t working (and an accepted way to leave an abusive one, which was very difficult for women back when Billy Graham’s ideas dominated the culture), marrying outside your race doesn’t matter, pre-marital sex is enjoyable, normal and not morally degrading…and it’s OK for Jews to belong to country clubs. We know better now. Normal.
In today’s Yahoo News Feed I got not one but two Trumpisms: where he, per usual, makes false claims so matter of factly,(his well polished con routine) as if they were true and just well, completely accepted. The first is that “wouldn’t it be great if we had a lifetime President like China and that we (the US) prolly will someday” Once again, as in so many times past, almost daily in the past year of his occupying the White House, and regularly the year or two before during the campaign, Trump just shoots his mouth off repeating something he just heard, having done no consultation with advisers, nor research on his own to understand what he is saying or whether its even true or not (something he has never cared about, or purposely lied as part of his overall strategy).
Having rulers for life is the complete opposite of the checks and balances built into any democracy which the majority of the world’s countries have adopted this past century, and if Trump knew anything about the US Constitution he’d know how highly unlikely it would ever be we would have lifetime terms for Presidents. And the article immediately points that out. Information kills religion and any other form of bullshit.
Fact-checking, whether its the Donald or some Fox News “alternative fact” report is the new normal. A good thing to be sure. The second Yahoo blurb has a fact-check in it’s headline:
“Donald Trump is wrong about video games and violence.” He of course, repeats the un-analysed assumptions of the conservative religious, having got the idea evidently thru his Xian Press Secretary Huckabee-Sanders. Media violence is a fav subject of mine that I cover in my Intro to Psych classes. Concerned Pyschologists have been studying the effect of violence in our TV, movies, and music since the 50’s when that B/W console TV with the 3 channels only showed (now politically incorrect) Cowboys and Indians or gangster shows where people were gunned down in a closeup of the muzzle firing and a dramatic fall of the victim to the floor or into the canyon. The extent of violence a child could witness in the movies was Bambi’s mom getting shot off-camera by the evil hunter. That was it. No 3-D video graphics of spattering blood, or Quentin Tarantino. But we did have the Dallas school shooter in 1966 who killed 14 and wounded 31.
We have an epidemic of such shootings now, since the 90’s, but each time a link to violent video games in our culture which is proposed,suspected by not only the conservative religious, but by many a researcher in social psychology, we find that immediate aggressive responses measured in a lab study from playing violent video games, never seems to relate to increased actual violent acts days, weeks, months later in real life. Kids don’t go punch out their friends or push their little sister down the stairs as a result of video game exposure (or hi jack cars or shoot prostitutes). Additionally, some of the recent school shooters who did watch violent games did so no more than their age group, while others that also perpetrated horrific mass shootings preferred rather bland non-violent games. Tellingly, the violence in our media has exploded exponentially since Bambi and cops and robbers TV, becoming a 21st century multi-billion dollar industry in violent video games alone, consumed regularly by 100’s of millions of teens around the world, and the violent crime rates: murder, armed robbery etc., are lower worldwide (in developed countries at least) than the 60’s. There seems to be no link. Fact check on Trump and the religious right in real time, the new normal.
Nowadays kids do this.
We did this.
Trump and the showcasing of the lie : his lifelong costly, dishonest scam-strategy and now his underlings covering for him (shit flows downhill): Spicer, Conway, Huckabee Sanders, Nunes, Fox News are an aberration. He has made complete fabrication a mainstream occurrence it is true, legitimizing Breitbart, InfoWars, and the commentators on Fox News who don’t get fired for promulgating fake stories, as is the case with real reporters who’se stories can’t be verified by the rest of the media, but the pushback has been just as prominent and is having its effect. From my reading of 4 books and countless news stories on Trump’s past and present business behaviors, I was calling him the conman in the White House from day one, long before it became fashionable. Him being called a conman is now mainstream. The general public is now hip to his daily lying. They have seen him profess to be ready to make a deal, and do a 180 the next day often enough now to know that nothing he says can be counted on.
Information kills all manner of bullshit and the information we have at hand, in hand literally, in a matter of seconds, at our immediate request is staggering in its scope and availability.
The Big Bang and Expansion of the Universe.
So we got the Big Bang and it’s ripples in the CMB, telling us how the first stars may have been born. We got Kevin Smith’s LAD stent saving his life in an almost routine surgery, and Billy Graham’s demise, significant of the seachanges in our culture since his heyday. We have a smartphone with instant information (and fact-checking) in the hands of 2 billion people today, with up to nearly half the world’s population online in such palmar fashion in just a few more years: a reality beyond the imagination of even the Star Trek communicator’s creators. We got daily science and technology impacting our lives and our perspectives, of almost a science fiction level we scarcely notice as the incredible advances they are…cuz they’re normal. Despite Trump, I am excited to be living in these times of the New Enlightenment, where we are immersed in the scientific knowledge we have earned, and the repressions of religious thinking continue to fall away, one by one.