Someone in the Office of Sheriff, in Monroe County, New York, has a good sense of humor. And if you're from the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies generation, you will get a good laugh. In other news, Warner Bros. just announced that it's developing an animated Wile E.
I see so many urban coyotes this is even funnier to me.
My wife and I recently got married and decided that neither of us would change our last names. Some people disagree with this approach, commonly critiquing with "what will you do with your children's last names?? How will they know they're a family?!" My solution: the blockchain
Among the things that endeared him to his public was his comic use of language in his films; his characters (all of which were really variations of the main "Cantinflas" persona but cast in different social roles and circumstances) would strike up a normal conversation and then complicate it to the point where no one understood what they were talking about. The Cantinflas character was particularly adept at obfuscating the conversation when he owed somebody money, was courting an attractive young woman, or was trying to talk his way out of trouble with authorities, whom he managed to humiliate without their even being able to tell. This manner of talking became known as Cantinflear, and it became common parlance for Spanish speakers to say "¡estás cantinfleando!" (loosely translated as you're pulling a "Cantinflas!" or you're "Cantinflassing!") whenever someone became hard to understand in conversation.
Similar to doubletalk, technobabble, and other varieties of speech.
In the political turmoil of mid-1990s Britain, a brilliant young comic named Harry Enfield set out to satirize the ideology and politics of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. His parodies became famous. He wrote and performed a vicious sendup of the typical Thatcherite nouveau riche buffoon. People loved it. And what happened? Exactly the opposite of what Enfield hoped would happen. In an age dominated by political comedy, “The Satire Paradox” asks whether laughter and social protest are friends or foes.
An interesting dissection of satire and the effects it does (or doesn’t) have on society. Sadly, a lot of the best biting satire doesn’t have the effect that many of us would like it to have. How can we subtly change this to create more desirous effects? I’d like to delve more deeply into the paper he references.1 [pdf]
Live performance of British comedian Ricky Gervais filmed in London's Eventim Apollo.
I watched this in pieces over the last two evenings and finished of the tail end at lunch today.
I’ve often thought of Gervais simply as a crass entertainer, but there are so many interesting new dimensions which come out in “Humanity”, they give me newfound respect for who he is and what he’s doing now. This is far more complex than just simple comedy, he’s doing something much more significant with this particular performance.
I also haven’t laughed this hard in quite a while. Tears, literally tears. Perhaps most interesting is that he’s got a much wider range of emotions which he’s playing off of here than just the humorous.
Gervais has some really interesting philosophy hiding in here among the dark humor. He has an interesting take on comedy and what it does and doesn’t target. The bit at the end on social media was particularly interesting. His take on “The Commons” is quite solid and is something I don’t suspect many could expound upon so eloquently.
During the portion in which he talks about his favorite Twitter response ever, he looked down at his phone to quote the tweet. I was reminded of some of the comedy greats I’ve seen at clubs late at night reading out of their beat up notebooks to try out new material. For a moment I thought, “perhaps Gervais is trying out some new material live here.” If it’s the case, then he was genius, though I suspect now that it was just a useful prop to add to the narrative of the joke. Either way, just brilliant. I wonder when we’ll see comics at clubs reading off of phones instead of the old spiral bounds? I wonder if it’ll play an better than the index card or notebook?
His closer with the story about his mum’s death and the wonderful prank on the poor vicar put a wonderfully fine point on the entire piece. It is humanity indeed. If there were a god, I’m sure he’d bless Ricky Gervais.
It happens to all of us: you unsubscribe from an unwanted marketing email, and a few days later another message from the same company pops up in your inbox. Comedian James Veitch turned this frustration into whimsy when a local supermarket refused to take no for an answer. Hijinks ensued.
Suspicious emails: unclaimed insurance bonds, diamond-encrusted safe deposit boxes, close friends marooned in a foreign country. They pop up in our inboxes, and standard procedure is to delete on sight. But what happens when you reply? Follow along as writer and comedian James Veitch narrates a hilarious, months-long exchange with a spammer who offered to cut him in on a hot deal.
Docteur Jerry et Mister Love ❤️⚗️👓🎬 I found this original French one sheet 47" X 63“ after the move. Will have to get it mounted and framed for the office. #nuttyprofessor #jerrylewis #science #love #comedy #france
Patten has offered travel tips, Netflix recommendations and a typical "text if you need anything." He gives a world leader the same kind of vaguely interested messages that you'd quickly send to appease your parents.
Not tremendously hilarious, but worth a good little laugh.
You know Borat. You know Bruno. You know Ali G. But you probably don’t know much about Sacha Baron Cohen. The man himself sits down with Marc in the garage to talk about what goes into bringing such rich comedic characters to life, why he was drawn to comedy in the first place, and what’s next, with his new movie The Brothers Grimsby on the horizon.
I haven’t heard or seen any extended interviews with Sacha Baron Cohen. While this one goes a bit overboard on some of the making of his antics and films, there is some great personal background about how he got into comedy. Interestingly, he gets into an extended conversation about the theory of bouffon and clowning. It would have been nice if they detoured into 16th century commedia dell’arte, but you can’t have everything now can you?
In Entanglement, you'll meet a woman with Mirror Touch Synesthesia who can physically feel what she sees others feeling. And an exploration of the ways in which all of us are connected — more literally than you might realize. The hour will start with physics and end with a conversation with comedian Maria Bamford and her mother. They discuss what it's like to be entangled through impersonation.
I can think of a few specific quirks I’ve got that touch tangentially on mirror synethesia. This story and some of the research behind it is truly fascinating. Particularly interesting are the ideas of the contagion of emotion. It would be interesting to take some complexity and network theory and add some mathematical models to see how this might look. In particular the recent political protests in the U.S. might make great models. This also makes me wonder where Donald Trump sits on this emotional empathy spectrum, if at all.
One of the more interesting take-aways: the thoughts and emotions of those around you can affect you far more than you imagine.
Four episodes in and this podcast is still impossibly awesome. I don’t know if I’ve had so many thought changing ideas since I read David Christian’s book Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History.  The sad problem is that I’m listening to them at a far faster pace than they could ever continue to produce them.
D. Christian, Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History. Univ of California Press, 2004.
How Donald Trump is leveraging an old Vaudeville trick to heavily contest the presidential election
A Problem with Transcripts
In the past few weeks, I’ve seen dozens of news outlets publish multi-paragraph excerpts of speeches from Donald Trump and have been appalled that I was unable to read them in any coherent way. I could not honestly follow or discern any coherent thought or argument in the majority of them. I was a bit shocked because in listening to him, he often sounds like he has some kind of point, though he seems to be spouting variations on one of ten one-liners he’s been using for over a year now. There’s apparently a flaw in our primal reptilian brains that seems to be tricking us into thinking that there’s some sort of substance in his speech when there honestly is none. I’m going to have to spend some time reading more on linguistics and cognitive neuroscience. Maybe Stephen Pinker knows of an answer?
The situation got worse this week as I turned to news sources for fact-checking of the recent presidential debate. While it’s nice to have web-based annotation tools like Genius and Hypothes.is to mark up these debates, it becomes another thing altogether to understand the meaning of what’s being said in order to actually attempt to annotate it. I’ve included some links so that readers can attempt the exercise for themselves.
Recent transcripts (some with highlights/annotations):
It’s been a while since Americans were broadly exposed to actual doubletalk. For the most part our national experience with it has been a passing curiosity highlighted by comedians.
n. (NORTH AMERICAN)
a deliberately unintelligible form of speech in which inappropriate, invented or nonsense syllables are combined with actual words. This type of speech is commonly used to give the appearance of knowledge and thereby confuse, amuse, or entertain the speaker’s audience.
another term for doublespeak
see also n. doubletalk 
Since the days of vaudeville (and likely before), comedians have used doubletalk to great effect on stage, in film, and on television. Some comedians who have historically used the technique as part of their acts include Al Kelly, Cliff Nazarro, Danny Kaye, Gary Owens, Irwin Corey, Jackie Gleason, Sid Caesar, Stanley Unwin, and Reggie Watts. I’m including some short video clips below as examples.
A well-known, but foreshortened, form of it was used by Dana Carvey in his Saturday Night Live performances caricaturizing George H.W. Bush by using a few standard catch phrases with pablum in between: “Not gonna do it…”, “Wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture”, and “Thousand Points of Light…”. These snippets in combination with some creative hand gestures (pointing, lacing fingers together), along with a voice melding of Mr. Rogers and John Wayne were the simple constructs that largely transformed a diminutive comedian convincingly into a president.
Doubletalk also has a more “educated” sibling known as technobabble. Engineers are sure to recall a famous (and still very humorous) example of both doubletalk and technobabble in the famed description of the Turboencabulator. (See also, the short videos below.)
Doubletalk comedy examples
Al Kelly on Ernie Kovaks
Rockwell Turbo Encabulator Version 2
And of course doubletalk and technobabble have closely related cousins named doublespeak and politicobabble. These are far more dangerous than the others because they move over the line of comedy into seriousness and are used by people who make decisions effecting hundreds of thousands to millions, if not billions, of people on the planet. I’m sure an archeo-linguist might be able to discern where exactly politicobabble emerged and managed to evolve into a non-comedic form of speech which people manage to take far more seriously than its close ancestors. One surely suspects some heavy influence from George Orwell’s corpus of work:
While politicobabble is nothing new, I did find a very elucidating passage from the 1992 U.S. Presidential Election cycle which seems to be a major part of the Trump campaign playbook:
In the continuation of the article, Jacobs goes on to give a variety of examples of the term as well as a “translation” guide for some of the common politicobabble words from that particular election. I’ll leave it to the capable hands of others (perhaps in the comments, below?) to come up with the translation guide for our current political climate.
The interesting evolutionary change I’ll note for the current election cycle is that Trump hasn’t delved into any depth on any of his themes to offend anyone significantly enough. This has allowed him to stay with the dozen or so themes he started out using and therefore hasn’t needed to change them as in campaigns of old.
Filling in the Blanks
These forms of pseudo-speech area all meant to fool us into thinking that something of substance is being discussed and that a conversation is happening, when in fact, nothing is really being communicated at all. Most of the intended meaning and reaction to such speech seems to stem from the demeanor of the speaker as well as, in some part, to the reaction of the surrounding interlocutor and audience. In reading Donald Trump transcripts, an entirely different meaning (or lack thereof) is more quickly realized as the surrounding elements which prop up the narrative have been completely stripped away. In a transcript version, gone is the hypnotizing element of the crowd which is vehemently sure that the emperor is truly wearing clothes.
In many of these transcripts, in fact, I find so little is being said that the listener is actually being forced to piece together the larger story in their head. Being forced to fill in the blanks in this way leaves too much of the communication up to the listener who isn’t necessarily engaged at a high level. Without more detail or context to understand what is being communicated, the listener is far more likely to fill in the blanks to fit a story that doesn’t create any cognitive dissonance for themselves — in part because Trump is usually smiling and welcoming towards his adoring audiences.
One will surely recall that Trump even wanted Secretary Clinton to be happy during the debate when he said, “Now, in all fairness to Secretary Clinton — yes, is that OK? Good. I want you to be very happy. It’s very important to me.” (This question also doubles as an example of a standard psychological sales tactic of attempting to get the purchaser to start by saying ‘yes’ as a means to keep them saying yes while moving them towards making a purchase.)
His method of communicating by leaving large holes in his meaning reminds me of the way our brain smooths out information as indicated in this old internet meme:
I cdn’uolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg: the phaonmneel pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to a rseearch taem at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Scuh a cdonition is arpppoiatrely cllaed typoglycemia.
I’m also reminded of the biases and heuristics research carried out in part (and the remainder cited) by Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow in which he discusses the mechanics of how system 1 and system 2 work in our brains. Is Trump taking advantage of the deficits of language processing in our brains in something akin to system 1 biases to win large blocks of votes? Is he creating a virtual real-time Choose-Your-Own-Adventure to subvert the laziness of the electorate? Kahneman would suggest the the combination of what Trump does say and what he doesn’t leaves it up to every individual listener to create their own story. Their system 1 is going to default to the easiest and most palatable one available to them: a happy story that fits their own worldview and is likely to encourage them to support Trump.
Ten Word Answers
As an information theorist, I know all too well that there must be a ‘linguistic Shannon limit’ to the amount of semantic meaning one can compress into a single word.  One is ultimately forced to attempt to form sentences to convey more meaning. But usually the less politicians say, the less trouble they can get into — a lesson hard won through generations of political fighting.
I’m reminded of a scene from The West Wing television series. In season 4, episode 6 which aired on October 30, 2002 on NBC, Game On had a poignant moment (video clip below) which is germane to our subject: 
Moderator: Governor Ritchie, many economists have stated that the tax cut, which is the centrepiece of your economic agenda, could actually harm the economy. Is now really the time to cut taxes? Governor Ritchie, R-FL: You bet it is. We need to cut taxes for one reason – the American people know how to spend their money better than the federal government does. Moderator: Mr. President, your rebuttal. President Bartlet: There it is…
That’s the 10 word answer my staff’s been looking for for 2 weeks. There it is.
10 word answers can kill you in political campaigns — they’re the tip of the sword.
Here’s my question: What are the next 10 words of your answer?
“Your taxes are too high?” So are mine…
Give me the next 10 words: How are we going to do it?
Give me 10 after that — I’ll drop out of the race right now.
Every once in a while — every once in a while, there’s a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts. Other than that there aren’t very many un-nuanced moments in leading a country that’s way too big for 10 words.
I’m the President of the United States, not the president of the people who agree with me. And by the way, if the left has a problem with that, they should vote for somebody else.
As someone who studies information theory and complexity theory and even delves into sub-topics like complexity and economics, I can agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment. Though again, here I can also see the massive gaps between system 1 and 2 that force us to want to simplify things down to such a base level that we don’t have to do the work to puzzle them out.
(And yes, that is Jennifer Anniston’s father playing the moderator.)
One can’t but wonder why Mr. Trump doesn’t seem to have ever gone past the first ten words? Is it because he isn’t capable? interested? Or does he instinctively know better? It would seem that he’s been doing business by using the uncertainty inherent in his speech for decades, but always operating by using what he meant (or thought he wanted to mean) than what the other party heard and thought they understood. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Idiocracy or Something Worse?
In our increasingly specialized world, people eventually have to give in and quit doing some tasks that everyone used to do for themselves. Yesterday I saw a lifeworn woman in her 70s pushing a wheeled wire basket with a 5 gallon container of water from the store to her home. As she shuffled along, I contemplated Thracian people from fourth century BCE doing the same thing except they likely carried amphorae possibly with a yoke and without the benefit of the $10 manufactured custom shopping cart. 20,000 years before that people were still carrying their own water, but possibly without even the benefit of earthenware containers. Things in human history have changed very slowly for the most part, but as we continually sub-specialize further and further, we need to remember that we can’t give up one of the primary functions that makes us human: the ability to think deeply and analytically for ourselves.
I suspect that far too many people are too wrapped up in their own lives and problems to listen to more than the ten word answers our politicians are advertising to us. We need to remember to ask for the next ten words and the ten after that.
Otherwise there are two extreme possible outcomes:
We’re either at the beginning of what Mike Judge would term Idiocracy. 
Here, one is tempted to quote George Santayana’s famous line (from The Life of Reason, 1905), “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” However, I far prefer the following as more apropos to our present national situation:
If Cliff Navarro comes back to run for president, I hope no one falls for his joke just because he wasn’t laughing as he acted it out. If his instructions for fixing the wagon (America) are any indication, the voters who are listening and making the repairs will be in severe pain.
Let's get one thing straight: the Chris Aldrich on VH1's upcoming new season of "Dating Naked: Playing for Keeps" is NOT me -- first of all, I'm way better looking.
ver the past couple of months leading up to to the launch of VH1’s new season of “Dating Naked: Playing for Keeps” , I’ve been entertained by friends who have seen little snippets and notices about the show and wondering why and how I got involved in front of the camera. Honestly, it’s mostly been the why question. Ego-bruisingly, only one so far has wanted to know if they could get the “unblurred” cut of the show.
Let’s get one thing straight: the Chris Aldrich on VH1’s Dating Naked is NOT me — first of all, I’m way better looking.
Fortunately as we’re getting closer, there’s now “artwork” to support the fact that it’s not me.
Once the show launches on the 22nd, I almost can’t wait to see what happens to the Google ranking for my searches on my name. I’m sure I’ll have some further entertainment in relation to my twitter account @chrisaldrich and other parts of my social media presence. I’m almost tempted to make a few changes in the bio sections to increase the ambiguity and cause some trouble.
I’m reminded of Wes Moore’s book “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates“, unfortunately I’m not quite sure that my writing a book about my experience with “The Other Chris Aldrich” would be so uplifting or inspiring to others. I’d also be more worried that I’d have to change the subtitle to “One name, One Fate.”