Friday, October 28, 2005

The Anger Management Blog!

Ducks have flown.
Our little two-night mini-tour is over, and all the Ducks have flown, waddled, or staggered back to their respective nests. But we had so much fun that we’re talking about doing an extended run sometime soon. Sometimes we forget how really funny we were, and are. Leon is looking into grants. Hey, we’re a goddam national treasure.

Last angry girl.
Waiting for the Muni, I saw a wizened young female teen take a header on her bike, for no apparent reason. She shrugged off attempts to help. Her lip was bleeding.

She got on the back of the train with the rest of us, with her bike.

The conductor’s voice came over the PA: “No bikes are allowed on MUNI.”

She shouted, “I don’t have any money. Take me to Haight Street.”

The conductor reiterated: “No bikes are allowed on MUNI.”

An old lady said, “Haight Street’s only three blocks away.”

Another old lady said, “You can make it, a strong young thing like you.”

The wizened young teen shouted: “Come on, man, give me a break.”

A middle-aged guy said, “You’re holding us up.”

The wizened young teen snatched up her bike and got off the train.

“You’re all OLD,” she said.

As the train pulled away, she yelled, “Faggots!”

More people, angry for mysterious reasons.
This Thursday, Philosophy Talk, a radio program to which I contribute (streaming audio found at, traveled to Sacramento. We were part of a lecture series sponsored by the Stanford Alumni Association.

Unlike most recordings, which are broadcast live at KALW here in San Francisco, this one was taped in front of a live audience – Stanford alums all. (The hosts of the program, John Perry and Ken Taylor, are professors of philosophy at Stanford, which also helps underwrite the program.)

Now, the premise of Philosophy Talk is that topics are discussed from a philosophical point of view. In other words, solutions to problems are not necessarily sought. Generally, the show is about the framing of questions. It’s actually quite refreshing.

Anyway, this program concerned the Environment and Public Policy, and the guest was Terry Tamminen, cabinet secretary for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency.

My function on the show is, loosely, that of Andy Rooney on 60 MINUTES. I do little bios of philosophers, some odd sideways aspect of the topic under discussion, a general overview of what philosophers through the ages have said about a topic, and like that. This time, however, I was not only doing that, I was also “warming up the crowd.” Shades of Ed McMahon!

The show itself went pretty well, but in retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best idea to have a political figure as a guest (my opinion). Political figures always have some kind of agenda, and rarely engage wholly in an objective debate.

Still, he spoke well, a few sparks flew, and it’s always nice to see adults have a civil, intelligent discussion about important topics.

But after the show, a woman came up to me – she looked to be in her early sixties – and said, “We’re all college graduates. How dare you tell us how to vote!”

See, the program encourages audience members to call in with comments and questions. In this case, the show was live, so audience members approached microphones with their questions. She was referring (I think) to one question, which was about three somewhat controversial propositions Governor Schwarzenegger has been advocating, and asking Mr. Tamminen how we should vote on those from an environmental point of view.

The angry woman (Her voice was actually trembling! There were tears forming in her eyes!) not only thought the question was insulting, she thought that we’d planted him in the audience to ask it.

Now, it is true that we had some questions prepared, in case nobody went to the microphones - to prime the pump, as it were - but that question was not one of them. As a matter of fact, though questions similar to ones we had prepared were asked, I believe the audience members came up with them on their own.

Her anger was puzzling. It was obvious - to me anyway - that the questioner in question didn’t really want an answer, he was just making an obscure dig at Schwarzenegger.

Then she went on a rant about how students weren’t learning anything, that teachers and schools were infested with political correctness, and we should do a show about that.

I agreed with her (which I do), and said that education was being degraded by both sides of the political spectrum. (Intelligent design, anyone?)

She finally walked away, leaving me to wonder - why was she complaining to me? I was just the opening act.

Then another guy came up to me, also incredibly angry (His eyes were twitching!), and told me that environmental problems could be easily fixed through atomic and hydrogen-based energy. He told me that South Africa had recently introduced a new form of atomic energy (which I’d heard about) based on pellets. He said that he was an engineer, and that people who were afraid of atomic energy were being ridiculous. Why didn’t this program propose and advocate this elegant solution to the world’s energy problems?

I pointed out to him that the hosts were philosophers, not engineers. I also pointed out that people were afraid of atomic energy because of Chernobyl, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Three Mile Island, and the Cold War. He might be right, I tried to soothe him, but again, most people are not engineers, and they are ruled by their fears and hopes, not reason. (I know that’s true of me, anyway.)

He walked away, still pissed. He left me wondering, again, why come to me with your gripes? It’s like going to the guy selling popcorn to complain about the quality of Hollywood movies.

Driving back to San Francisco, however, talking about these people with Ben Manilla, the producer of the show, I concluded that there are people in this world who do not see what they see. When they look at the world, they see it through a prism of what they believe they ought to be seeing. When those visions collide, anger ensues. They are trapped in a movie of their own devising, trapped in their own heads.

The war at home.
Wishful thinking is often attributed to the left in the U.S. That the left are utopian dreamers, and do not deal with the world as it is. That’s certainly true. (The “Free Mumia” crowd is guilty of this. I mean, come on, the guy was found at the crime scene, with his own gun, beside a dead cop shot in the back. I don’t believe in the death penalty, and sure, give the guy another trial, if that will make you happy, but he sure as hell seems guilty to me.)

But this neo-con crowd have taken wishful thinking to a whole new level. “Scooter” Libby (the way I see it) was so incensed by Joseph Wilson’s editorial in the New York Times, that he personally did everything he could to out his wife. ANYTHING to undercut Wilson’s words.

Truth doesn’t matter to these people. They’re Leo Straussians. They are the philosopher kings who think they can manipulate reality so it will conform to the movie they’re watching in their heads. They believe they not only have the right to do that, they have a moral obligation to be lying bastards.

I’ve been a liberal a long time – hated Nixon, hated Reagan, etc. But these people are different. They’re scary. They may be insane. And we’re all living in the world they’re unsuccessfully trying to make.

In other news....
From Reuters, Professor Chris French, who surveyed 19 self-proclaimed alien abductees, says: "Maybe what we're dealing with here is false memories, and not that people are actually being abducted and taken aboard spaceships."

You think?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Part of the problem with the "Free Mumia" crowd -- and similar activist groups -- is they become myopic. There are a lot of people who have genuiunely been wrongly imprisoned and have good cases, but they focus on this one guy who doesn't have a good case, simply because he's eloquent and it gives them activist chic to associate themselves with him.

11:19 PM  
Blogger BonzoGal said...

It was so much fun seeing the Ducks' show in Berkeley last week- another tour would be fab!

9:07 AM  

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