As grim as the news has been of late, give this to Fortuna: At least she has a dark wit.
Why, were it not for the gallows humor that is the GOP, The Daily Show would have perished already. Please, Comedy Central, consider a host (like Larry Whitmore) who has the snarky cynicism of a political insider, not the baffled chuckle of a tourist. For now, though, all Trevor Noah need do is aim his camera at the Republican Party, and it will send in the clowns.
And then there’s the absurdity between the U.S. government and Apple. In investigating the San Bernardino mass slayings, the U.S. District Attorney attempted to crack the encryption code on the shooter’s iPhone. The execs at Apple (a notoriously petulant and uncooperative bunch) responded that their new IOS 8 was so invulnerable that even they can’t hack into the new operational system.
In response, the District Attorney’s Office hustled two bureaucrats on Charlie Rose to castigate the corporation, rightfully doubting the company’s claim of invulnerability (sure does make for a nice ad) and absurdly asking that Apple go back to the more-hackable IOS 7 (has technology ever moved backward?).
But the larger question — one Rose failed to ask — is this: What did the feds think was going to happen? Apple is already under investigation for skirting the US Treasury of more than $64 billion in taxes.
But Washington’s need to sniff the thrones of profitable syndicates, from Smith & Wesson to Pfizer to Bank of America, has fed a creature that’s grown larger than the creator.
One of the nicest things about returning to class is to see chalkboards again.
And erase boards, bulletin boards, Post-It notes — basically any host to the hand-written word. Hell, even the (grammatical) graffiti and light posts doubling as billboards that dot the UCLA campus are a fun read. It’s like a paleolithic Craigslist.
I’ve had memorable experiences with random scribbles. I bought my first Jeep from a bulletin board ad; a scrawled FOR SALE note that had the seller’s phone number vertically tabbed at the bottom, like a papered pianist with a dozen little tattooed fingers. I met the Lost and Found Mouse from a desperate LOST sign wallpapered to telephone poles in my neighborhood.
I almost made millions off a brilliant business plan I launched in Detroit, harnessing the power of scrawls and humor. The only barrier turned out to be that I know shit about business. And it was a stupid idea.
I was an elementary school student and just learning the nuances and of the telephone. When I figured out how to call long distance, I began phoning novelty stores across the country that advertised in Boy’s Life Magazine (which always promised riches selling Grit magazines.
The conversations would go thusly:
“Zakoor Novelty, how may I help you?” “Hi. Do you sell whoopie cushions?” “We sure do.” “What about hand buzzers?” “Yep” “Fake dog poop? Fart Machine? X-Ray specs?” “All of those.” “Cool. Thank you. Bye.”
And so it went. Until the first telephone bill. Dad went ballistic when he saw dozens of daytime phone calls to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago — basically any place that had crap by the cartload. Dad informed me, with no small amount of bluster, that it cost to make a phone call to those places. Ah, I realized; people need to call you. A young Conrad Hilton was born!
I was also learning about dial-a-joke. For just pennies, you could call — any day of the week, any time of the day — to hear a hilarious joke with which to impress your friends.
One day, I huddled with best friend and co-conspirator Danny to launch our start-up. We would plaster every telephone pole near Eight Mile Road to saturate the market. We looked to Mad Magazine and friends for material.
What do you call pizza that’s not yours? Nacho cheese! What do elves learn in school? The Elf-abet! Where do pencils go on vacation? Pencil-vania! How do you make a tissue dance? Put a little boogie in it!
Graphically, we wanted our ad campaign to be unencumbered with much copy, pre-dating wannabe imitators like Apple and Google.
Call Dial a Joke! the ad said simply. Beneath it, my home phone.
And for a few days, business was brisk. At least once a day, we’d get a customer. After school, whenever the phone rang, I’d pick up, offer a brilliant quip, and hang up.
What I didn’t realize was that other people might need the phone, too. Namely, mom and dad. But whenever someone called our house, my parents’ frustrated friends noted, some kid was picking up the line, telling a joke, and hanging up on them.
After the discovery, mom offered me my second piece of business advice: Do that again, and I’ll pop your bottom. She ordered me and Danny to shutter the business, starting with taking down the dozens of signs in our neighborhood urging strangers to call our home. Reluctantly, we did.
But I must have missed one. About a month later, as I flipped through Boy’s Life in my bedroom, I heard mom coming up the stairs.
“Scaawt!” she hollered in an angry North Carolina accent. “It’s that damn daahl a joke!”
Surprised, I walked to my parents bedroom, picked up the phone, and offered one of my classic gut-busters: Why did six hate seven? Because seven eight nine! Click.
It’s been too long since I’ve written you, but not a day’s length since I’ve thought of you.
I can’t imagine you’d tolerate any place without Wifi, but, just in case reception is spotty, a quick update:
I thought of you this weekend, kickoff of the NFL season. Why did we know so much about every sport, regardless of whether we played it? But you would have loved the U.S. Open. Federer is still great. Serena is still great. As good, dare I say, as when we marveled them on those courts in Westwood. Every time I drive down there, I think of your apartment, and how those neighbors must have considered us pervs, the adult men who gathered every Sunday night to giggle at a cartoon.
That, by the way, is still on, too. And dude, I gotta say, Homer is still damn funny. So, uncle: funniest. show. ever.
Maybe that’s why you were on my mind. Sunday nights in fall were always pretty cool: football and Simpsons. And a Futurama should we need further geeking.
Oh, I began the arduous process of applying to be a Big Brother. I need someone to endure my magic. Why not force a child? Hell, they’re already being fed Halloween costumes and candy in August. Seriously. They don’t celebrate it like D.C. did, though, and no one makes a better member of the Village People.
Man, you’d go ape shit over all the Steve Jobs movies. Seriously, at least five this year. This is mythology in the making. You think history ultimately sees him as visionary or PT Barnum? If you see him, tell him the new iphone sucks.
Well, that’s about it. I miss hell out of you, dude. See ya.