Thursday, September 21, 2006

This is what I think.

I think a class in Ethics should be taught in public school. I hear the same thing over and over again from parents whom I talk to about schools. And that is that the reason they don’t send their kids to public school is because that they don’t teach "morality." I’m not sure this is true, frankly. I mean, I was taught about God wanting us to behave this way and that, and if we didn't... what would happen. And, it wasn't going to be pretty! I'm not sure that's ethics. I think that's more in the scaring children category.

But I do think that there should be a class called "Ethics" and it should be taught from first grade. There is a lot to teach about ethics without getting into religion: trustworthiness, responsibility, family, and lot of ambiguous and complicated situations that could be debated and talked about. There is enough shared agreement over certain behavior that this could be taught. When the public schools refuse to teach ethics, they reinforce the idea that morality and religiosity are synonymous. And that is untrue.

Here’s the other thing I think: Religion should also be taught from first grade on in public school. When people say they don’t want the Bible in schools, I say the opposite. The Bible should be in schools. Along with the Koran and all the other major religious texts. Children should learn about religion. Just look around us, religion is a major force in the world. It’s a mistake to think that ignoring it is the right way to go.

The instructor/teacher should teach about religion, not indoctrinate children. If the teacher is a member of a certain religion, he or she may spend ten percent more time on that particular religion. He or she must not speculate on the veracity of any one religion. They must simply teach about the different religious beliefs. (See? I can already make up rules!)

I know this all may seem statement-of-the-obvious, but to me this is fundamental knowledge that each child deserves to know about. Last night another parent told me that public school was no good for them because those schools don’t teach “how to be good.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but on my daily dog-walk today, I ranted in my head about it.

Today I got to interview a scientist at Caltech (see, I spelled it right this time!) who is working on the special glasses that allow some types of blind people see some objects and the future of that research. I spoke to him yesterday as well, but today it was much more in depth. I mostly just sat in the background and listened to him hold a model of an eyeball and talk about the retinal implants that are possible. It was really fun. It actually takes my breath away that these types of technology are being developed.

Also, I spent some time talking to a person at the Paramount Theater in Seattle (where I did a show with Ira Glass last May) about doing “Letting Go Of God” on December 26th there. It seems possible. It might even be fun. It might even be successful! I will keep you posted…
I am bleary eyed. I am so tired. But I wanted to post something. I had an amazing day shooting for this PBS documentary. I got to interview a couple of scientists who are working on implanting electrodes in blind people to help them see along with these special cool glasses. I got to talk to a blind woman about what it was like to see things with those same glasses. It's wild, like the glasses are literally hooked into her brain. I also got to talk to another Cal Tech scientist who is doing a lot of work to change the whole paradigm of how cancer is treated, and the early clinical trials are promising. It's exciting. And I got to talk to this same scientist’s wife about her own battle with cancer. (From which she has recovered.) It was an awesome day. OH! And I got to eat lunch in the Atheneum at Cal Tech and the food was fantastic. And Mulan is about to lose her front tooth and it makes me simultaneously sad and excited, she is really growing up. Oh, oh, oh…

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Of course the Pope can only bring himself to say he was sorry… that... people got SO UPSET by his remarks. I laughed so hard when I read his apology. It’s the classic non-apology, no? It’s the big fuck you apology.

“I’m sorry you are too stupid to be unable to interpret my real meaning.”

“I’m so sorry you’re not smart.”

“I’m so sorry you don’t agree with me.”

"I'm so sorry you don't see things the way I do."

That kind of apology. Where the person issuing it believes that merely using the word, “sorry” means that they have apologized. My experience with this type of apology is that later, when you let an exasperated expression graze your brow, the apologizer shouts, “What?!!? I apologized, didn’t I?” I don’t know how someone can even issue an apology like that one without laughing while they are doing it. It’s so embarrassing! It’s so transparent! It’s sooooo fake.

On the other hand, why shouldn’t the Pope make snotty remarks about the Muslims? My only complaint is that he didn’t quote the Bible too.

This is from the AP report of his initial speech:
"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," the pope said. "He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'"

How about, “I come not to bring peace, but a sword”? Jesus said that. Or how about when Jesus tells us a story about how he is like a King who wants those who are not willing to be subjected to his rule to be slaughtered before him while he watches? I would say that would qualify as violent and evil. In any case, it all amuses me. I am amazed that Ratzinger would accuse Mulsims of spreading their faith by the “sword” when that same means of spreading “faith” is a long and dear tradition of the Catholics, in particular.

WAIT a minute! Maybe that's what he was saying. We use the sword to make people convert and we did it before you Muslims did it, nah, nah, nah, nah!!!!

In the newspaper reports I read, the Pope said that his Cardinal Secretary Of State issued a statement explaining the true meaning of his words. I couldn’t find this statement anywhere. Also, the Pope said that his quotation did not reflect his personal thought. Then… why did he say it? There would be no reason to quote this unless it were his personal thoughts. The entire speech makes it clear that the quote parallels his personal thoughts.

For the record, I also enjoyed that the Pope stressed that the text he was quoting from was “medieval,” in his apology. Somehow suggesting that it was old and dusty and not modern. When the entire Catholic Church rests on texts that are old and dusty and even older than medieval! It read like he was saying, “That old quote? Why that’s OLD. I mean, come on. I don’t think that way, that’s not my personal thought.”

I actually am enjoying the stew he’s made of himself in this regard. I also love the Bush issued a statement saying he thought the Pope was "sincere." Ah... yeah. He sincerely wishes people wouldn't be offended by his remarks. Also, it's classic for me that Bush finds truth in "sincerity." Isn't that his whole way of divining what is real? By the sincerity of the speaker? Forget about actual truth, it's what someone feels that matters. It reminds me of when people email me and say, "People don't die for something that isn't true." As if the sincerity of the belief on the part of the dying person somehow makes it more true. AGH!!!!!!! All this makes me so angry and so giddy at the same time! Oh joy, how will this play out tomorrow I wonder. Did you notice that the Pope's "diary" showing he was not sympathetic with the Nazi's was released right... now? As if to say, "Jews, you still like me, right?"

Okay, for the record, I absolutely loved “The Girl With The Pearl Earring.” I was not surprised that women wrote the novel and screenplay. I was riveted. Many of my friends found it slow and unbearable. I would watch it again in a heartbeat.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Saturday night, Los Angeles. Mulan has her friend Coco over for a sleepover. This is what we’ve planned: Fish sticks, cauliflower, or as we call it, “Cauli-Pop” (roasted cauliflower that looks like popcorn) and just so we can learn to be sophisticated: berry juice in plastic wine glasses. For your information, the berry juice is Dole, 100% juice, berry blend, expiration: Oct. 15, 2006. A fine 100% juice berry blend if you ask me. Then, we are going to watch “The Sound Of Music” – Mulan and I just got the DVD at Rocket Video where I was told that I owed many, many dollars in late fees from several months ago when I rented “Shampoo.” It slipped behind the TV and I forgot about it. And then found it two months later. And dropped it in the drop-in box and never went in. Ooops. (Turns out that that showing of “Shampoo” cost me $40. Oh Netflix, here I come!) We also bought microwave popcorn at Rocket Video, so during the screening, actual popcorn will be served, not just the yucky must-be-eaten-or-no-movie cauliflower version. Mulan is interested in seeing this movie because I am always singing, “How do you solve a problem like Mulan?” and now, it’s source will be revealed. While we were at Rocket, we ran into my dear friend Lynn Stewart, who I met at the Groundlings a thousand years ago and who, every time I see her, feel deep gladness that I live in Los Angeles where the chances of running into her are infinitely greater than if I lived in Spokane. Lynn was Miss Yvonne on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, “the most beautiful woman in puppetland.” Lynn’s rewatching Sopranos episodes. But for us: “The Sound Of Music,” and “The Girl With The Pearl Earring.” I am kidding myself if I think I’ll have time to watch Girl With before the movies are due on Monday.

So, I sign off on the blue-line for my book on Monday and that means that the CD/book (my 102 page transcript of the show) will be in my hands by Oct. 6th, in time for me to drive to San Francisco for the Freedom From Religion Foundation conference. Why has this taken so long, you may ask? I’m not exactly sure. I just… took a long time. A long time deciding on which performance was right. A long time deciding whether to include a transcript and then what it should look like and then I made a lot of mistakes that had to be redone. And anyway… It’s finally basically finished. It may be finished just as the interest in it has abated. Or… not. We will see. If you want more information about the time of the release for the CD/book (yeah, that’s how I’m referring to it now) please visit my website and click on the balloon that says CD.

And speaking of balloons, they are going away! Yes, the whole website is being revamped in the next couple of weeks. To get ready for the official release date of the CD/book which, by the way is OCTOBER 25TH.

This weekend I am spending almost all my time getting ready for some shooting this week and next at Cal Tech and at JPL. I am sort of hosting (we hate the word “host” – we haven’t come up with anything better so far) this two-part show that is going to be on PBS (like, in a year at the earliest) about some of the scientists at Cal Tech and JPL and their amazing may-change-our-life-as-we-know-it work they are doing. And also scientists who are just doing interesting research and we don’t care if it changes our life. So, as you might imagine, this is really a dream job for me. This wonderful person, Mark Mananucci, who is directing and shaping this series, has been researching scientists at Cal Tech and at JPL for months and he is so knowledgeable at this point on what everyone is up to, that in my opinion – he should really be the host (or… whatever the name for that job is…) But for some fluky reason they are still having me be part of this, so I am reading and learning and watching research DVDs. I got to be part of some of the initial interviews and I’ve had such a great time. For example, I got to ride in a robotic car. As a passenger, it seemed like the computer brain had been drinking but was still functional (I’d say two glasses of wine.) In any case, the van (or car) is amazing and thrilling and I realized with a new level of profundity what kind of computations we are all constantly unconsciously making, just to drive a car down the street. And, this is the one thing I’ve learned so far about the life of a scientist: you spend a lot of time waiting for computers to reboot. I mean, like… a lot. Like seriously, you could become a tennis pro if you spent all that time waiting playing tennis. Or a professional cellist.

Which reminds me that I am going to try to play the cello for one teeny part of one song that Jill sings when we do our show together again Oct. 10th. It may be a bust. I have never played a cello. But I have contacted a cellist for instruction. Also, I am thinking about cellos and cellists.

And I am remembering a sketch that Christine Zander and I wrote while I was on SNL where I played a matron trying to seduce the pool boy and my seduction chat was all about Yo Yo Ma to the pool boy's great bewilderment. I think the pool boy was played by... I can't remember. I just remember saying the lines, "You know what a cello is, don't you Johnny? It's a womanly instrument that you straddle with your legs and if you stroke it in just the right way it makes the most beautiful sound." I know Phil Harman played my husband.

And since I'm free-associating I had a dream about Phil Hartman the other night. He was floating in water and so was I.

Sigh. Back to the chillins.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I am back in the game.

Because, you see -- my computer exploded three weeks ago. And now, I have a brand spanking new Mac and I have recovered most of my lost files. I am too tired to post anything. But I will report that I had a root canal today. It took three hours. My tooth has seven roots, which is apparently many more than the norm. A mutation! In my mouth! Even the Endodontist was amazed by the rootyness of my tooth. Assisatants were called in from other rooms just to look at it.

My cds are nearly ready. Everything that could go wrong, has. But let me tell you, it’s going to be so great! The book is 102 pages. It is the text of the whole show. There are two cds. I redid the slip cover and the book and it’s all taken very, very long. But I am truly excited to release this cd/book. I meet with my publicist tomorrow morning about forming a plan. I am really curious how this will do. I have low expectations and high hopes all at the same time.

Right now I am on Vicodin because of the root canal. So I shouldn’t write more. I will write more… tomorrow.

I am going to compile a list of 500 people who definitely want to buy the cd/book through my website and see how that all works in the system before I make it available to the general public. It’s sort of funny, maybe there aren’t 500 people out there who even want to buy it! But that’s what my business manager says I must do to make sure there are no cogs in the system. That’s probably a good idea. I looked at the galleys for the book today (after so many revisions for art, text placement, etc.) and I am so proud of it. I can’t wait for whoever is interested to see it too.

On the religion front: I reread the Epistles of Paul yesterday. I was debating whether I should add quotation marks in the text of my book to distinguish which epistle I was quoting from when I quote Paul. I decided that Paul says so many ridiculous, disgusting, sexist, delusional things that it really didn’t matter. As always, the Bible gets more coherent to me (in my recollection) when I haven’t read it for a while, and then I do and I am amazed again that anyone takes it seriously at all. I was reminded, almost poignantly, of Paul’s enthusiasm and commitment. But we all know lots of examples of enthusiasm and commitment that were dead wrong.

Speaking of dead wrong, I have been re-watching Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” series on DVD with Mulan at night. It’s really so good. And then I was milling through a biography of Sagan’s last night and saw that before he died he made a list of all the scientific things he had gotten dead wrong. To me, it was all very hard to understand types of things, like how close to the speed of light a human could conceivably expect to go – things like that.

Imagine if a Pope did that, though. I mean, just imagine!