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If you’ve never taken a basic philosophy course, you may never have encountered the principle of Occam’s Razor. William of Ockham’s idea can be summarized by the phrase “Plurality should not be posited without necessity” or in other words, “simpler explanations are, other things being equal, generally better than more complex ones.” [source]
Occam’s razor: the simplest explanation is usually the best.
This can be applied to all areas of life. Consider this example:
Jane goes to get a beer from the fridge. When she opens it, she discovers there aren’t any beers left. She could swear there had been some left from the week before. She can choose from an array of options to explain why there is no more beer left:
Obviously some of these reasons are more probable than others and therefore are better explanations for Jane. The simpler explanations (the first two) are the most elegant solutions.
This also applies to more complex scenarios. For instance, John might justify his own financial or relational misfortune by constructing elaborate imaginary forces working against him. Maybe the simple truth is that John sucks, and stuff doesn’t work out because he won’t do what it takes to get a handle on his life. Boom! Sliced! Occam’s razor is here to simplify your world.
Humor is the affectionate communication of insight.
Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.
Comedy has to be based on truth. You take the truth and you put a little curlicue at the end.
I think comedy is about empathy. I can’t laugh with people I don’t like.
Ever notice how the people you laugh with the most tend to be the people you have the most in common with? Our sense of humor stems from how we view the world– our values, beliefs, assumptions, culture… pretty much everything. It’s also a lens through which we see that world. When we laugh, we acknowledge the same perspective on an issue or observation. Humor can bond us together.
Because there are so many different kinds of people, not everyone finds the same things funny. The more personally specific a joke is, the narrower its appeal. But how rewarding is it when we encounter someone else who finds the same obscure thing amusing? That’s basically the definition of an inside joke. Think of all the inside jokes you have with your siblings and closest friends. For me it’s one of the most rewarding kinds of personal connection. I know that when I reference Jiggy Nye, Merrylegs or Ken V., there’s only a handful of people in this world who will know what I’m talking about, and that makes it special.
But beyond the concept of inside jokes which stem from overlapping experience, when people find the same thing funny (for the same reasons) it means that everyone involved has the same framework of perceptions/evaluations/knowledge about the world (or at least finds them reasonable and/or relatable). Consider the Ricky Gervais quote from above. If comedy is about empathy, that necessarily means comedy is about “the ability to understand and share feelings with another.” The common ground is necessary for the joke to appeal to a group. This is why some people are offended by certain jokes: because they don’t agree with the principles behind it, they can’t allow themselves to empathize with the humorist’s perspective, ergo they don’t find it funny. Because of this, sense of humor can be an excellent barometer of how much you have in common with another person.
Consider a scene from season five of 30 Rock. Surprised to hear Liz plans on breaking up with her longterm boyfriend Carol, Jack exclaims, “You two seemed so happy. The other day I saw you in the lobby laughing together..” to which she explains, “A guy on crutches bit it in the revolving door and he was so scared…” The primary characteristic of Liz and Carol’s relationship is that they’re extremely similar, hence why they laugh at the same things even if it is a bit cruel.
This leads me to my next topic: a dark sense of humor. I know I have it, and most of the company I keep has it. Some of the best comedians have it, too. But unfortunately I see a lot of people confuse this brand of comedy with just being negative. If a sense of humor is a manifestation of a person’s worldview, then a dark sense of humor which confronts the undeniable and abundant darkness in the world is the most in touch with reality. According to the most reliable source on the internet, Wikipedia, black humor is an offshoot of “gallows humor.” Gallows humor is defined as:
…the type of humor that still manages to be funny in the face of, and in response to, a perfectly hopeless situation. It arises from stressful, traumatic, or life-threatening situations, often in circumstances such that death is perceived as impending and unavoidable. (source)
Thus, it seems that a dark sense of humor follows from the acknowledgment and acceptance of the uncontrollable things in life i.e. our own mortality. Personally I think that’s beautiful, and I’ll be laughing at my own decaying body all the way to the grave.
Black humor is also a great genre of film/TV. For excellent examples, see stuff by the Coen brothers, Wes Anderson, Tarantino, Simon Pegg/Nick Frost collaborations, I ❤ Huckabees, Beetlejuice, Trainspotting, Dr. Strangelove, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Little Miss Sunshine, and lotsmore.
This past year Dr. Dog played Stubb’s and it was a helluva good time. They’re coming back around this spring, so in anticipation of what will no doubt be a great show, here are some live photos I took last time.
Understanding another person’s music taste is a great way to get to know them, but a while ago I had a conversation with a young man who only listed legends like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, and Joplin as his favorite artists. I realized you can’t actually tell much about someone based on these bands because pretty much everyone likes them. Most people (self included) list universally-considered “greats” among their favorites as a reflection of their own taste, but these artists are already so revered that it would be more abnormal to not like them. Therefore, I hypothesize that you can tell more about a person based on the unpopular music they like.
We all have a few albums that, despite lingering forever in our iTunes catalogue, we won’t play around other people (or maybe just around those who know us best). Whether weird, obscure or “uncool,” it’s in these songs where personality forms. The act of holding onto them despite not sharing says, “I know most people don’t value this, but I do.” When there’s no prestige associated with liking something (like how it’s cool to be into bands from the 70’s), you can be sure someone is a fan purely because they enjoy it and not because they think they’re supposed to like something since everyone else does. So what do your guilty pleasures say about you?
Some things in this world go together so well it’s a wonder they were ever considered separately. One of these timeless couplings is a personal favorite: Cats and the Internet.
Corollary to the rising popularity of the internet has been the rising popularity of public cat fanaticism. I argue that this is because the internet has allowed the mass proliferation of positive portrayals of cats. Prior to this phenomenon, cats in pop culture were treated with neutral and often negative attitudes. In mainstream cartoons, cats have historically been manipulators, troublemakers, sneaks, and bullies who pray on innocent birds and mice and cause harm to nobel canines (see: Lady & The Tramp, Sylvester, Tom & Jerry, etc.).
Now cats are all over the place, and internet culture thrives on cats. It’s practically a hipster thing now. Just see any of the following gems:
How can we explain this sudden shift in popularity? Consider the difference between “cat people” and “dog people.” Generally speaking, and this is definitely generalizing like a mofo, cat people (and cats for that matter) are associated with introverted qualities, while dogs and dog people are more extraverted [source]. While neither is superior, it is much easier to get friendly with extraverted types than the introverts who require more time and personal interaction to become comfortable with. Therefore, it’s easier to quickly and positively evaluate dogs/dog people than cats/cat people. But because of the internet (via silly videos and adorable memes), people have seen a side of cats they may not have known otherwise.
Do I sound like I’m full of shit? Well, psychology research on the effects of the Internet have shown that it does help shy, inhibited children socialize more effectively, so there is substance to an argument proclaiming the positive effects of the internet on socially retarded people/animals. Boom. [source]
Most of the time when you hear someone explain why they don’t like cats, their list has one or more of the following reasons: “they’re mean,” “they don’t do what they’re told,” or “had a bad experience.” To be fair, the exact same descriptors could be used about people. Luckily we know that cats, like people, can also be playful, loyal, and even consoling:
So, as a cat person and a socially retarded person (the line is blurry), I’d like to thank the internet on behalf of cats for boosting their social acceptance.
Whitby, UK is home to my favorite postcard [pictured below]. The seaside town, located on the eastern coast of North Yorkshire, is mostly known for two things: Dracula and Captain Cook’s whaling endeavors. I’m not normally one for freezing rain, but for some reason I found the cold sea spray quite refreshing that day. It didn’t even deter me from a triple serving of delicious Yorkshire ice cream. Read more of this post
Last July I visited a small town north of Dublin called Malahide. We were only there for a few hours, but it was beautiful. Here are some of my photos from the trip.
5. Sewer Shark
You probably don’t remember this trash heap because Sega CD was not the international sensation manufacturer’s had hoped it would be. This first person shooter takes you on a futuristic journey beneath the streets in one endless tube. Your job is to blast various crawly creatures inbetween unreasonably long cut-scenes. I don’t think I ever got past the first two levels. To be honest, this game was garbage but I still count it as a “favorite” just because of how hard we forced ourselves to enjoy it.
4. Day of the Tentacle
Back in the 90’s, CD-ROM games were all the rage (or at least that’s the generalization I’m making based on my own experience). LucasArts was one of the most prolific creators of computer games, many of which could have made this list. However, I chose Day of the Tentacle for it’s emphasis on investigation/creative problem solving, as well as it’s twisted animation and age-inappropriate humor.
This little action adventure game was chalk full of imaginary beasts, hidden features, and wacky sound effects. And it was addicting to boot. Luckily it’s still available and you can even get it on your iPhone now. Hint: I recommend starting with an intelligence or magic-based character.
This classic PlayStation platformer stars macho space explorer Blasto, voiced by the legendary Phil Hartman, on a quest to save the galaxy (and some hot babes in the processes). The game is worth playing for Hartman’s comments alone, but it also doesn’t hurt that the gameplay is an engaging mix of puzzles and action set in fantastical environments.
1. Starship Titanic
An adventure game that takes place in a futuristic luxury spaceship created by Douglas Adams and voiced by various Monty Python cast members that allows you to get sassy with robots? Yes.
Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Now, I can’t say that definitively since I haven’t been everywhere, but I feel pretty confident that it ranks at the top (especially among relatively accessible places), plus it’s a personal favorite. I was lucky to live there as a child, but back then I was too stupid to handle a DSLR so I had to return on vacation. Here are a few photos from my most recent trip.
Most of these are on/near Oahu’s North Shore.