George Carlin passed away yesterday. This makes me sad. Carlin was a comedic and linguistic genius as well as a defender–or perhaps practitioner is a better word — of free speech. Probably best known for his bit on the seven dirty words, Carlin shocked, but did not need to shock, to be funny.
His mind was brilliantly attuned to the absurdities of life, and his gift for language and physical humor allowed him to reflect those absurdities back to us in a way that both challenged and tickled our sensibilities.
George Carlin touched me. Literally. In college I was with a group that brought him to Rutgers for a performance . Before the show began I was charged with guarding his dressing room. The door opened and I felt a tap on my shoulder.
“Yes Mr. Carlin”, I replied.
“Where’s the rest room?”
“Right down the hall to the left, Mr. Carlin.”
As “brush with greatness” stories go, perhaps this doesn’t make the top 10, but I was touched by his gentle manner and the way he called me buddy. I remember a lot of his material that night, but one of my favorite bits was his take on license plates:
- New Hampshire’s license plates say ‘Live Free … or DIE!!’ I don’t think I want to live in a state that actually mentions death right on their license plates. At the other end of the spectrum is Idaho’s license plates – they say ‘Famous Potatoes.’ I don’t know, I think that somewhere between ‘Famous Potatoes’ and ‘Live Free or Die’ the truth lies. And I think it’s closer to ‘Famous Potatoes.’
Goodbye Mr Carlin, and thanks for all the laughs.
The bloggers at Library Garden have a little listerv on the side that we use to stay in touch with each other, and this week we found ourselves questioning whether or not we’re old. This was prompted by an experience Amy had at the reference desk, and I’ll let her blog about that if she chooses.
I was reminded of an old SNL monologue by Billy Crystal where he recounts his young daughter saying to him, “Daddy, is it true that Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?” To which he replies in the coughing, raspy voice of an old man, ” Let me tell you about a little band known as THE BEATLES.”
In an effort to help Amy feel a bit younger, I posed these questions on the listserv and suggested that if she could answer ‘no’ to ten of them, she’s decidedly not old. At her suggestion, I’m sharing them here. Enjoy! And a most pleasant weekend to all!
- Did you ever have a black and white TV? One with knobs (no buttons, no remote)
- Did you ever NOT have a microwave oven?
- Did you ever have a car with a “choke”?
- When you were growing up were you limited to 12 channels?
- Do you remember when people used to smoke on planes?
- And in stores?
- And at work?
- And in bed?
- Do remember when the FDA tried to ban saccharine?
- Do you remember when laetrile was going to cure cancer?
- Have you ever known a world without:
- digital cameras?
- compact discs?
- Do you remember when Polaroid was state of the art?
- Do you remember when tape recorder meant reel-to-reel?
- Did you ever take a tube out of your TV and bring it down to the local hardware store to test it on a big machine to see if it needed replacing?
- Did a teacher ever make you run things off on a mimeograph?
- Do you even know what a mimeograph is?
- Did you ever wear parachute pants?
- Do you remember when PONG was the most cutting edge video game and you thought your head would explode from the joy of playing it?
- Did you ever have a commodore Vic 20? (and thought your head would explode, etc…)
- Do you remember when we didn’t own our own phones; we rented them from Bell Atlantic?
- Do remember when the flip phone first came out and you thought your head would explode from the joy of flipping it open?
- Do you remember stores giving away green stamps?
- Do you remember shopping at Two Guys? at Korvettes?
- Do you remember when Exxon was Esso?
- Do you remember when gas was .55 cents/gallon and people were freaked out about how expensive it was getting?
- Do you remember waiting on long lines to gas, and you had to go on an “odd” day or an “even” day.
- Do you remember when Iran and Iraq were our friends?
- Do you remember listening to Bobby Sherman on 8-track?
- Do you remember twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheesepicklesonions- onasesameseedbun (and can you sing it?)
- Do you remember when the coffee stirrers at McDonalds had little spoons on the end?
- Do you remember when McDonalds discontinued them?
- Do you remember WHY McDonalds discontinued them? (snort, snort)
- Do you remember Hamilton Jordan at studio 54 (see a theme here?)
- Do you remember ABSCAM?
- Do you remember ME shirts (talking about McDonalds)?
- Do you remember when Pet Rocks were the rage?
- Do you remember Squirmels?
- Do you remember When Evel Knievel jumped the Snake River Canyon? (well, he tried anyway)
- Do you remember that George Hamilton movie where he played Evel Kneivel??
- Do you remember beer commercials with the “ya doesn’t have to call me johnson” guy? (and did you know he’s the guy taking tickets at the theater in the Seinfeld episode, “The Opera”?
- Do you remember Aste Spumante commercials?
Listen: “Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”
Listen: “A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”
Thanks Mr. Vonnegut. Thanks for giving me, “If this isn’t nice, what is.” and farting/tap-dancing aliens and ice-nine and Bokononism and grandfalloons. Thanks for karasses and duprasses and tralfalmadorians. Thanks for Kilgore Trout and Dwayne Hoover. Thanks for Billy Pilgrim. Thanks for Eliot Rosewater and Wanda June. Thanks for your honesty. Thanks for your humor. Thanks for your humanity.
Busy, busy, busy…
So it goes…