Cardinal Glick meets his Invisible Avenger in the Sky

While I was away at Sesame Place, dodging water rides, thunderstorms and heaps of unhealthy American food, George Carlin died. Maybe it was fitting that I spent 2 days in a place that he would have abhorred and loved at the same time. After all, he did narrate the Thomas The Tank Engine videos and was wildly considered a very gentle person.

It should come as no surprise that the Trackball regards the man who portrayed Cardinal Glick in Kevin Smith's Dogma (the character who replaced the crucifix with the thumbs-up Buddy Christ) as a demigod. George Carlin was the truth, wrapped in humor. As a teen in the late 1980s, Carlin was already a god to me when I was old enough to see his material. He was controversial and funny. But he also seemed like a cool guy who would be fun to hang with and watch humanity pass by, if only for the commentary. Yes, I did see his short-lived Fox sitcom and Jersey Girl.

His observational humor was eye-opening. He had a way of taking human reality and revealing its absurdities in ways that I had never thought of before. And he always stuck with the truth, the way he saw it, even if it offended, fell flat or was ignored. In a way, he made you face the truth, no matter how uncomfortable (like his characterizing of belief in a god as believing in having your own personal invisible avenger in the sky) and his gentleness and his humor helped you get comfy with it.

His naughty humor was liberating. They're just words, he pointed out, but it was clear he loved language and words in particular. He was as much a poet of the stand-up world and television world as he was a performer. He just snagged the Twain Prize for American Humor, and when I saw the bio pieces on him I thought it was because he was due to receive it, not because it was an obit. Shit.

Kevin Smith and Jerry Seinfeld, who could be considered the descendants of naughty Carlin and observational Carlin, have both written tributes to him which you should read. The best I can say is that the Twain of our time has passed and will be sorely missed by this fan.

The truth about neckties

I just finished Scott Westerfeld's excellent YA novel "So Yesterday" which tackles who decides what is cool and fashionable in the teenage worlds of sneakers and clothing. Inside is a bit of a history of the necktie that posits that neckties came about because of the Little Ice Age. Everyone in Europe wore scarves all the time because it was freezing so bad the Vikings died out in Greenland. Neckties have been popular for centuries since then but they have no reason or purpose to exist. The bowtie and cravat have already fallen, but the necktie, with it's oversized shirt collar, continues to survive. You know I hate hollow traditions like that.

Combine this with a conversation I had with a geo-physicist on my bus one day about silly-easy things we could do to help the environment. She mentioned over-air conditioning DC to account for winter business wear that we insist on wearing in the summer. Like long-sleeved shirts, neckties and suit jackets.

Today was a triple digit day in DC, and schools and houses across the area had their AC conk out due to overwork. It may be time to rethink cinching our necks tight under a thick collar that likely has a t-shirt underneath. Even though the necktie culture is well entrenched. Even though the short-sleeve dress shirt is outdated. Even though the hip substitute for a tie is a sport jacket, which is decidedly less cool in the summer. Even though most office climate decisions are made by bosses, who are likely jacketed and tied and sweating men. Even though it makes younger workers look older, more serious and older workers look younger (imagine your boss in a t-shirt and shorts as opposed to a figure slimming navy blue suit and tie). Even though being formally dressed in DC is code for seriousness, as those in the most expensive ties and suits make the most unserious claims.

In one sense, wearing a necktie has desensitized people to seeing a sharp dressed man. What used to be reserved for super-formal occasions (Bond, James Bond) is now boring. And not wearing a necktie looks cool, hip, at least in DC. I'm impressed five times more often by the shirt and jacket hipster than the sharp, neato tie. Supposedly the ever encroaching biz-casual has threatened the neck tie, but that's a neckwear apocalypse that never quite seems to arrive.

Maybe I'm exposing some misplaced West Coast roots, but I think a t-shirt with a sport jacket and uncreased pants should be fine for anyone in a geek job. Yeah, the oversized collars, on shirts so transparent you have to wear an undershirt, probably have to go as well. Save the ties for the prom, the wedding, the funeral, the big presentation/occasion. We need a new idea of business wear that complements the changing environment. I don't know what that is.

As for me, I may try to limit the routine necktie wearing (does anyone care where I work if I wear a tie?) and keeping the AC off this summer in my office. The truth is that I can't escape the necktie entirely, and don't mind them that much, but it's time to usher those things into oblivion.

Balticon wrap-up and Indy review

A good time was had by all the Trackballs at Balticon 42. The little trackballs bonded with friends of mine quite a bit and Dr. Trackball bought some jewelry and didn't seem horrified by the huge amounts of geekery. I got to do a lot of hanging out with cool people and hit and missed on good and bad panels.

The whole weekend was capped off by seeing Indiana Jones. My mini-review (with spoilers): good movie, the only wrong note in the whole thing was the space alien storyline. Readers of this blog know that I am not a fan of the alien crutch. I blame George Lucas, who insisted on mimicking 1950s alien films even though Spielberg and Ford objected for almost two decades, because they knew it wasn't appropriate for Indiana Jones. What do space aliens have to do with archeology? But to get a movie done, they had to cave. At the end there were two movies going on: Spielberg and Ford's story about Indy and his family, and Lucas' about aliens.

It would have been much better if it had been Indy versus the Soviets to find the Fountain of Youth (ironic, and have Indy refuse it's powers) or some other South American religious/mythical artifact. Tie it in with the Cold War fights in that part of the world (heck, set it in Cuba, two years before the revolution and have Indy run into Fidel). Ah, but they had to let George insist on his bad story idea. There's a whole odd dynamic between Lucas and Spielberg in which Steven bows to George, despite being the much better storyteller and possibly filmmaker.