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Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
But I'll get around to seeing it via Netflix eventually, despite it getting a lot of bad, or at best, mixed, reviews. Lots of movies I like get bad reviews. There are a lot of stupid critics, and fewer smart and good ones, and, then, of course, only some share a fair percentage of my taste. So the bad reviews don't bother me much; maybe I'll agree, maybe I'll disagree, but I'll never know until I see for myself (one of my general philosophies of life).
I loved him when he was doing stand-up, I've liked his talk-show appearances, and I really liked Lost In America and Defending Your Life, in particular (though I've not seen the former in years; must get around to seeing it again some time). Oh, and I quite liked his old Saturday Night Live shorts. His sort of deadpan, I'm-not-going-to-hit-you-over-the-head-to-tell-you-when-it's-funny style is a style of comedy that cracks me up, just as the Coen Brothers do, or Wes Anderson does.
All of which is throat-clearing to getting around to some quotes and a link to this recent interview:
DRE: This film was originally going to be distributed by Sony, what happened with that?
Brooks: They wasted five months of our lives actually. The film was financed by Steve Bing and he had a deal with Sony. Sony was excited about it and they picked TriStar as the division that they thought could best handle it. Then after the movie was finished I went over there and showed them the scene in the beginning with Fred Thompson and the other government people. Then I told them the rest of the story and the title. Everyone felt excited after that meeting. I didn't feel as excited as the others because when I told them the title one of the big shots in the meeting made a joke that was weird to me like, “Oh good title. I guess we're going to have to put in extra phone lines to take these calls.” When studios say anything like that there's never anything good about it. They never make jokes that turn out good. If a studio sees a rough cut and says, “Yeah, that scene was a little long.” That scene is never going to get into the movie. That's the way that they let you know something. So I said in the parking lot to Steve, “I'm worried about that comment” and he told me “Don't worry. This is great.” So they proceeded and they made posters. They made a trailer. They said that we were going to go to the Toronto Film Festival and they claimed the release date of October 7th. Then after that Newsweek story came out about the Koran being abused in Guantanamo Bay I got a call on Monday morning from Steve and he said, “Bad news they don't want that title.” I said “Ok. Didn't I say this five months ago?” and he told me I was right. He said they want to call it Looking for Comedy if that’s ok with me. I told him “No, that's not okay with me. There's nothing to that. We can't do it.”
I had a conversation with the head of the movie company and he told me that he just felt that times had changed and I said, “But what do you mean? Times changed after 9/11. It's not any different from this. Abu Ghraib was worse than this and that was a year ago. It's always changing and that's why we're making the movie.” He just said that he was concerned about it and then I saw one of the trailers that they made and it was like “Bill and Ted Go to India.” It explained nothing about the movie. “A comedian is on his way to be funny.” On his way where? Where are we going? My feeling is and I don't have any proof of this, but as much as I understand how very big companies work there are many people in a company that big that aren't really involved in the day to day movie business. They have Sony Corporation which is in a tremendous amount of businesses and the movies that they make are meaningless to some people until one afternoon when they have nothing to do and they're like, “Let’s see what's coming up. What is this? Sarah, what's that word?” “Muslim.” “Are you sure? Get Charlie on the phone.” I just think that someone said, “What? Are you crazy? Get rid of that.” Especially since I'm not someone who's guaranteeing an audience. I'm not Peter Jackson. They're not going to have a long discussion of like, "Well, are we going to have to take some flack, but make half a billion dollars? We'll take the half billion.” I just think that I couldn't win that argument. So I was upset because October was now gone. Toronto was gone, but on the positive side I never would've gone to the Dubai International Film Festival if it hadn’t happened. That turned out to be like the coolest thing. It's one of those experiences where you're certain where one thing is going to happen, but something else happens entirely. I think I'll remember that long after anything else about this whole movie because it was so wild and unusual.
DRE: But you had to know that things like this would happen.
Brooks: I did know but we could've had that meeting back in February. What normally happens is that you go back to your house and there's a call that says, “Look, they love you. This isn't going to work out.” No one had the guts to say that then. That would have left a whole summer for Warner Independent to prepare instead of it all happening in July. They're a small studio and they had Good Night and Good Luck and Paradise Now. They don't have a lot of employees.
DRE: How did you decide to do this film?
Brooks: After September 11th I sat in my house for a year and was scared. All that was happening was that we were told the next one was coming tomorrow or next weekend or maybe Monday. I was in this little movie called My First Mister that opened in Rockefeller Center right near where the Anthrax scare was. I was like “Oh, that's going to be great. That's what you want. Tell them that there's anthrax in the theater.” That entire year was a panic for everyone. The second year the attacks were going to come on the holidays. Be careful on July 4th. I wouldn't go to Time Square on New Year's Eve. The third year we weren’t sure if it’s going to come. But they kept telling that this is never going to go away. That this isn’t like other wars because other wars have conclusions. I thought that this was insane. Are we going to hide until we're killed? So you want to get back to a normalcy even if there is some impending doom. In my mind to be able to deal with it is in a motion picture comedy. That's what normalcy is and there have been no comedies on this. It's interesting that if you look at all the pictures that have risen to the top at the end of 2005 virtually all of them are set in the past. It's like that's how people are dealing with things. Munich, Brokeback Mountain, Good Night and Good Luck, Memoirs of a Geisha and Squid and the Whale are all movies set in the past. So one way to deal with it is to not even talk about a world after 9/11. Then the comedies that have been made that deal in the supposed present are generally these teenage sex comedies that never talk about the world. I just wanted to be able to stand up and say, “I'm acknowledging the new world here and maybe we can get a few laughs for 98 minutes and then we'll go on.” By the way if ten years from now, which according to them we're still going to be in this, if there are 100 comedies it'll be a better place.
DRE: Will audiences pick up on everything you’re talking about?
Brooks: I never ask myself those questions. If I did I wouldn't be talking to you today because I would've retired when I was 30. My whole life, you have to understand, is dealing with people. Back in the 1960’s I was in the cast of Dean Martin Presents the Golddiggers and Greg Garrison was the producer. He allowed me to do the kind of comedy that I did, but he felt that it was necessary to give me a lecture like a child before it all started. He took me into his office and said, “I just want to tell you something. You're going to have a very tough career because you're up here and the audience is down here and if I were you I would adjust for that.” He looked at me and my answer was, “I don't know what you're talking about.” Then he said, “I just wanted to check. Go do what you do.” He was trying to see if I would rework my act. That's all people do, underestimate the audience. I can't think like that.
And all this is why I like Albert Brooks. And still will, even if his new movie stinks (although I'm inclined to think that the odds are pretty high that lots of critics simply don't get him; but, hey, I won't know until I see it; lots of critics who say they like Brooks say they didn't like this one).
I'm cutting other interesting stuff, like his comments on Woody Allen, but have to also include this:
DRE: But you did get to recreate some of your old act in this film.
Brooks: Oh God no. My act is better than that. By the way, I wrote that improv bit for the movie. I never really did that onstage. Danny and Dave I used to do all the time. I wouldn’t know what to do if I really had to do standup in India. Now I think that I've scared myself of ever doing it.
I saw some blog comments angrily declaring that Brooks was being ignorant of the Muslim world, or somesuch, since it wasn't a majority Muslim country; I noted that it nonetheless held either the second or third largest Muslim population in the world. In any case, I found the following unsurprising, but amusing:
Brooks: India and Pakistan were always part of the plot because I had a number of issues to deal with. First you need some jeopardy when they give you this assignment because Americans don't readily go to Pakistan. As it's explained in the movie, in India Hindus are the majority in the population, but what makes India interesting is that their minority population of 150 million Muslims makes it the second largest Muslim population in the world. But I couldn't go to any of the countries in the Middle East that would provide jeopardy for the movie. There is no Saudi Arabian Film Commission that's welcoming people. When the President of Iran says that they want to wipe Israel off the map on Wednesday, Thursday he's not saying, “However, let the Jew filmmaker come in and we'll give him free access.” I can't get into Syria. Where I would be able to film is Morocco where Syriana filmed but it is not interesting for this movie. You go there and it is too touristy. Even Egypt is full of people from Florida looking at the pyramids. Many of the countries in the Middle East aren't inviting a person like me in and I don't think there are any American films that are getting in there. There are news crews that can shoot in Iraq, but to get a movie made you need the kind of cooperation that the government can't even get when they talk to them. I don't know how film unions are then going to speak to each other.
DRE: Were your jokes funny in India?
Brooks: What's funny is that as the crew warmed up to me I found that the butt of the Hindus’ jokes are the Sikhs. There was one joke that I didn't understand “Two Sikhs played a chess game, yes? The simply did not play” [laughs]. Then we had a Sikh driver who was telling me Muslim jokes. “ So it seems to me that everywhere on the planet someone is talking about someone else. As I say in the movie Polish jokes work everywhere.
DRE: How about Palestinian jokes?
Brooks: I heard one the other day. These two Jewish men travel the subway everyday for years and years and read the Jewish Press every morning. Then one morning one of them is reading an Arabic newspaper and the other one says, “What's a matter with you? Why are you reading that paper? Have you lost your mind?” He said, “No. To tell you the truth all I read in the Jewish Press is that Israel has been blown up and that the Jews aren't allowed to enter and that life is terrible. In this paper it says we own all the banks, we own the media. Life is much better in this paper.”
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I saw the movie and thought it was pretty funny - even had some thigh-slapping moments. The scene with the stoned Pakistani comedians was the best, I think.
The Palestinian joke that Brooks tells, however, is an old chestnut - first told (as far as I have heard) about Jews in Germany reading the Nazi paper. When they read the Jewish paper they get so depressed about all the horrible things that are happening to Jews - whereas in the Nazi paper they read all about how Jews control the world, etc.
"The Palestinian joke that Brooks tells, however, is an old chestnut - first told (as far as I have heard) about Jews in Germany reading the Nazi paper."
Yeah, come to think of it, I do recall seeing it in that context before; no wonder it sounded familiar; thanks for the reminder, and for the micro-movie-review.
I tend to suspect that a lot of people who saw the Brooks film don't get the deadpan nature of his humor (though, as I said, I can't know until I see it).
I'm almost finished watching The Life Aquatic, With Steve Zissou, and I've seen a zillion reviewers and other folks say how unfunny they thought it was. Now, a) it's as much a story about characters, and a sensibility, as it is a "comedy," and b) I find it hilariously funny.
I'm a bit cynically inclined to think that there are some folks for whom if a movie doesn't have fart jokes and the visual equivalent of a laugh track, it's not funny. Though, of course, humor is a completely individual thing, and if you don't find something funny, you just don't.
As a further digressive, more specific, comment on The Life Aquatic, either characters like the semi-hysteric Klausie, and elements such as the emphasis on "the good paper stock," and Wes Anderson's general approach to dramatizion being somewhat akin, in certain aspects, to parodying a bad elementary school play, cracks one up, or it does not. Me, it does. I recognize that most people, it will not.
Ditto Albert Brooks. Ditto Raising Arizona. And so on.
Me, I don't find The Three Stooges, or Benny Hill, funny, though many do. On the other hand, it's hardly as if I don't like vulgar, low, humor, since I love South Park. But I think that's smart, low, vulgar humor. Not that it matters what I think of what I find funny. I just find it funny.