November 26, 2001
IN THE PICTURE ABOVE, the person...er, creature on the left is Scorch, a very silly dragon. The creature...uh, person on
the right is Ronn Lucas, who is probably the best ventriloquist working today. That's a larger field than you might think, because we so rarely
see ventriloquists on TV these days. But there are a lot of them out there working clubs, cruise ships, conventions, etc., and Ronn is at the
tip-top of any list.
Don't believe me? Then go to Las Vegas, where Ronn is currently booked for an open-end engagement at the Rio Suites Hotel.
It's an afternoon show, which means it's reasonably-priced, even if you don't factor in the amount you're not losing in the casino instead of
attending the show. I haven't seen him there yet but I've seen him elsewhere, and it's really one of those shows where you realize you're in
the presence of someone who's doing what they do about as well as it could possibly be done.
Ronn is mentioned in an old column that I just posted to this site — one I wrote in 1996, right after the first time I met
him. But the piece is really about the greatest practitioner of them all, Dr. Paul Winchell. Click here
to read about the both of them.
Government Must Put Safety First, Profit
by Ronald Brownstein, Los Angeles Times
by William Safire, New York Times
Time to Think
by Michael A. Bernstein, Newsday
How to Handle Bin Laden
by William F. Buckley
An Alternate Reality
by Paul Krugman, New York Times
Wait Until Dark
by Frank Rich, New York Times
Big Government Becomes Big Brother
An interview with Nadine Strossen, A.C.L.U.
Let's Not Repeat Past Mistakes
by Molly Ivins, Creators Syndicate
The above links are to articles that the operator of this website believes are interesting and which contribute to the national
debate. He does not necessarily agree with all or any of what they say...and you won't, either.
A NUMBER OF the above columns deal with Bush's "military tribunals" and John Ashcroft's incursions on civil liberties. And
what I find especially notable is that criticisms of both are coming, not from any one fringe but from a pretty wide spectrum of political
opinion. If I'd swapped the credit lines on William Safire's and Paul Krugman's columns, some might not have noticed anything odd...and these
are two guys who seem to otherwise live on different planets.
It has always been frustrating to me to watch every issue break along predictable party lines. I think, for instance, nothing has
wounded the concept of Justice in this country as much as seeing the term "Rule of Law" become a political weapon, to be rabidly enforced against
one's partisan foes and ignored when the guys on your side do wrong. I don't think anyone realistically expected that Mr. Ashcroft would
enforce the laws against threatening abortion doctors the way he'd enforce those against selling marijuana...but I don't think anyone expected his
inconsistencies to be quite so egregious and, in the case of Oregon's assisted suicide laws, so contrary to the spirit of "state's rights" he had
formerly championed. Even staunch conservatives seem reticent to defend him and I suspect that, if he doesn't produce some spectacular results
in hunting down domestic terrorists soon, we'll see the Bush administration dumping the guy.
But maybe not. They're starting to look like they really like the Federal Government controlling everyone's lives and trampling
the law where it's necessary to do this. Whatever happened to conservatives who wanted the government to be smaller and less intrusive?
TO: The London Times
Sir, I hope that I am not the only person in the creative arts who feels great disquiet about the proposals outlined by the Home
Secretary in the Commons today, to introduce legislation to outlaw what has been described as "incitement to religious hatred" (reports, October
16). Having spent a substantial part of my career parodying religious figures from my own Christian background, I am aghast at the notion that
it could, in effect, be made illegal to imply ridicule of a religion or to lampoon religious figures.
Supporters of the proposed legislation would presumably say that neither I, nor any of my colleagues in the comedy world, are its
intended targets, but laws governing highly subjective or moral issues tend to drag a very fine net, and some of the most basic freedoms of speech
and expression can get caught up in it.
I have always believed that there should be no subject about which one cannot make jokes, religion included. Clearly, one is always
constricted by contemporary mores and trends because, after all, what one seeks above all is an appreciative audience. However, how would a
film like Monty Python's Life of Brian, criticised at the time of its release for being anti-Christian, be judged under the proposed
law? Or that excellent joke in Not the Nine O'Clock News all those years ago, showing worshippers in a mosque simultaneously bowing to
the ground with the voiceover: "And the search goes on for the Ayatollah Khomeini's contact lens"? Not respectful, but comedy takes no
prisoners. However, in period and in context it was extremely funny and I believe that it is the reaction of the audience that should decide the
appropriateness of a joke, not the law of the land.
For telling a good and incisive religious joke, you should be praised. For telling a bad one, you should be ridiculed and
reviled. The idea that you could be prosecuted for the telling of either is quite fantastic.
SEAN WALSH runs a very good website devoted to Jack Kirby's Fourth World series (about which more can be read on this site by
clicking here). Sean's is The New Gods Library and you can reach it by clicking here. If you do and you root around in his Interviews section, you'll find a brief Q-and-A with Yours
Truly about those wonderful, intriguing comics.
WHILE WE'RE near the topic: My good buddy Daniel Will-Harris is a brilliant writer of computer books, designer of websites and
connoisseur of fonts. His website (www.will-harris.com) is filled with info on those
topics but also some non-techie topics. A year or three ago, he asked some of his friends to write about the most memorable meal they ever
had. You can go directly to my response by clicking here.
We're waiting for The Game Show Network to rerun the two episodes of Press Your Luck in which an unemployed air conditioning
mechanic named Michael Larsen figured out a way to beat the "wheel" for over $110,000. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen on
TV...watching an entire game show become unglued before my very eyes. The latest out of GSN is that they have the episodes and will soon
announce when they'll air. When I hear, I'll post it in this spot. Stay tuned.
HERE'S A link to that review I mentioned here a few
weeks ago. You know — the one Andy Ihnatko wrote about the DVD of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He has some reservations
about one of my favorite films...and I don't disagree with them but it's still one of my favorite films. Anyway, Andy's review is over on TV Barn, a site you oughta visit often.
Click here to read the previous NEWS FROM ME