Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sarah Silverman and "white" comedy: reactions

Last Thursday I reflected on this site about the Netflix entry on the quirky Stuff White People Like blog. At the time I also mentioned another entry on the list about Sarah Silverman as an example of white people's taste in humor.

With its new season now airing on Comedy Central, I have begun watching her The Sarah Silverman Program. While her character strikes me as quirky, free-spirited and light hearted, I do not get most of her humor. Perhaps it is a generational thing, perhaps it is a background cultural thing. Her program is set in suburban California (near as I can tell), while I grew up almost entirely in small town/rural Idaho. In general, my observation for some time is that the things Californians see as comedic/hilarious Idahoans don't, and vice versa.

Then there is the generational factor. I was born during the 1950's. Thus I was a young, impressionable youth during American comedy's golden era, when comedy actually was funny and quotable without bleeps, or a lingo translations list. Where Gen X and Gen Y relate to contemporary comics and comedy programs exclusively, I still recall the classic work of such grand masters as Abbott & Costello, Jack Benny, Bergin & McCarthy, Burns & Abbott, and Fibber McGee & Molly. I must admit that much of contemporary stand-up comedy leaves me going "huh?"

As a result I am not certain about how I classify Sarah Silverman's current program. There is an undercurrent of drama woven into the comedy. Thus, to me, it is not a pure comedy, and it is not a pure drama either. Even so, I still enjoy it and plan to keep watching.

Still, to return to the premise of the entry: can types of comedy people enjoy be accurately categorized racially? Granted, there are comics that draw predominantly African-American audiences. In my eyes, that is a good thing for every racial group and every nationality needs its stress relief outlets. However, there are cross-over comedians and comedic actors who appeal to a far broader, mixed racial audience. Eddy Murphy comes to mind in this regard. I am white, and still Eddy Murphy's movies always crack me up because of his knack for perfect timing of comments, etc. For that matter, I question whether it even makes sense to try to categorize comedy as "white comedy", "African-American comdey", etc.

Along this same line, two final examples that may help disprove the validity of comedy/humor classification along racial (or any other) lines come from American TV programs. One now regarded as a classic comedy is the sit-com Sanford & Son, which revolved around Fred Sanford, an African-American junk dealer and his long-suffering son. This is one of the best comedies ever produced because it addressed a braod variety of stereotypes, both positive and negative, in a light hearted manner. I have enjoyed it throughly since it first aired decades ago. Personally, I feel it would have been far less funny had all of the characters been white, even though most of the stereotypes would have been the same.

The other counter example (in my mind) is the new program Chocolate News on Comedy Central. This is a deliberately tongue-in-cheek African American spoof of network news magazine programs. Its deft weaving of factual information into the background of rather outrageous claims strikes me as hilarious and definitely worth watching. The fact that it is African-American themes and produced, in my opinion, adds to its enjoyable charm.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"White People Like Netflix?" Say Wha???

A little while ago I stumbled onto a satirical blog primarily composed of Stuff White People Like ( Its author has compiled a list of 110 plus things that supposedly are liked by all white people, suggesting that other raced don't. Whether this is completely true or not probably cannot be definitively proved, nor should it be.

To me, this delightfully weird -- and very popular -- blog is a spoof of all of the "Top 10" lists floating around. While claiming to be scientific, the entries have a very definite toungue-in-cheek nature to them. All of the items on the list have attracted lengthy strings of reader comments, many of which attract comments on their own.

While I cannot attest to the rightness or wrongness of every item on the list, two I see as worthy of a response.

#39 on the list is Netflix, the DVD rental by mail business in the US. This item has attracted over 300 comments since its appearance in January of this year, including some posted today. Obviously, there are people who love Netflix (I fall in that category), those who don't, and some who basically are saying "What's the big deal, anyway?"

I have been a Netflix member since December 2006. Since then, I have rented over 200 DVDs from them. Almost without exception, the replacement disks arrive in my mailbox exactly two days after the disks I am returning go in the mail.

Some of the comments I read came from people who experienced delivery problems, etc. I wonder how many of those people actually read their e-mail? (In order to sign on as a Netflix customer, an active e-mail address is required.) This is a Netflix strength that they don't promote enough: Netflix does not leave its members in the dark about things we need to know.

The way it works is this: say I send a disk back on Monday. It normally arrives at the nearest distribution center early on Tuesday morning. As soon as it has been processed by Netflix Receiving, an automated e-mail message is sent to my in box confirming its receipt. Then, later that same day, when its replacement disk is ready to go into the mail, a second e-mail message is automatically sent, announcing which DVD is coming, and when they expect it to arrive. On occasion, the next disk isn't immediately available locally. Rather than make me wait for it to show up locally, Netflix forwards the shipment order on to whichever distribution center has it in stock. Then, they send an e-mail apprising me of this fact, including where it will be coming from, and their estimate of when it should arrive. I have had this happen a few times, and, regardless of the extra distance it has to travel, every time, the disk has arrived on the day they estimated.

Still, this tongue-in-cheek, all-in-good-fun look at Netflix leaves me with one question: how do other races feel about Netflix?

As to the other item on the list that I can comment on (#52, Sarah Silverman) I will blog about after the latest installment of her show later tonight on Comedy Central.)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Verbal Predators: Nuisance or Threat?

This personally reflective post arises out of a chain of comments posted at A. E. Brain, an excellent blog out of Australia. Its author is a sister male to female TS. This past week an anonymous commenter has been posting a series of virteolic comments that can be seen as verbal attacks on the entire TS community.

This series of comments -- and the first one in particular -- got me to reflecting on the point at which being argumentative crosses a line and becomes verbal predatory behavior. To the best of my knowledge, the psych and legal communities have yet to recognize such behavior as a separate issue. Still, in the sense I am discussing it here, a verbal predator is one who uses written or spoken comments to repeatedly attack another person (or a group of people sharing a common characteristic) for the sole purpose of tearing them down in some way.

In my younger years, I have been around more than a few such individuals. One common characteristic I noticed is that such people cannot be reasoned with or engaged in rational discourse. Such people, in my observation-based opinion, feel small, unappreciated, powerless and maligned in some way by society. These people give the impression that they see tearing down the haves in some way as the only way they can feel good about themselves. So they attack with their words. An out of control ego, which causes the individual to see himself as more important and powerful than he actually is, also fuels such behavior.

Such misguided individuals appear to be completely oblivious to the chaos their verbal jousting causes. For some, unfortunately, they are aware of their effect on others, and simply do not care.

It appears to me that these people specialize in leading the unrelenting attacks on the entire GLBT coommunity by extremist Christian Fundamentalists, particularly in the US. (Come to think about it, these are the same people still railing againt abortion as well.) When these individuals' excess verbiage is stripped away, it becomes clear that they are arguing on subjects about which they understand very little and know even less.

Such prople are potential threats to progress in the securing of civil and legal rights for transsexuals world wide. Through being excessively vocal, they provide a rallying point for others who oppose the extension of these rights. Unfortunately, American politicians paradoxically tend to give their unsupported rants far more credence than the well-researched and presented, factually accurate information we can provide.

While this blog is set to allow unmoderated comments from anyone, even prople signing themselves "Anonymous," I do hope that comment posters will identify themselves by a first name (at least.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Every Blog Needs an Icebreaker

Hello, blog-reading world!

This post is my personal introduction to the blogosphere from the perspective of a blog host. My blog's title is meant to indicate that this blog will, over time, explore a wide ranging varitey of topics drawn from current affairs, social sciences, science, the humanities broadly defined and whatever else tweaks my interest.

I encourage others to respond to these posts as you feel inspired. All comments are welcome as long as flaming is kept to a minimum. There is value in negative feedback alongside positive for in their juxtaposition arises well-reasoned discourse. Indeed, as time goes by, I will do everything in my power to respond to any questions submitted to me in a timely manner, with only one exception. Any question that contains either questionable or vulgar language, or can be seen as a hate-derived attack will be ignored.

This exception will be enforced by me in part to preserve the integrity-rooted value of this blog and in part to ensure absolute adherence to this site's content policies. I have read their complete statement and, in my opinion, are brilliant in their clarity and fairness.