It took me about 10 seconds to realize what was so hilarious about this tweet. (I blame that in part to the possible brain trauma of yesterday...) At first, I was going to respond with an quip about politics, but then I suddenly stopped and realized what was so funny about this -- and only then saw the subtle, hard-to-miss reply at the bottom and who it was from that had be bursting out in laughter.
A couple of months ago, I wrote an article about meeting with Al Gore in 2007 when he interviewed me to be the writer for a proposed daily radio commentary show he'd do. (The tale is long, but if you missed it, you can read it here.) The crux of the story though came when I handed over to him some samples of my writing, pieces I'd done for the Huffington Post, and one of them was an article I'd written about Gore himself the year before, after having just seen an early screening of An Inconvenient Truth.
Because of a glitch, I nervously had to sit there as Gore read in front of me what I wrote about him -- all the more nerve-wracking because I'd started the article by apparently bashing him, describing every freaking major slam that had been made against Al Gore. Yes, I then refuted them all in full detail, but only I knew that, not whoever would be reading the piece Including, oh...Al Gore. Who was sitting in front of me.
And there I waited, as he read it. And it was hellish. But when at one point he read out-loud, "Single craziest political performance I've ever heard..." and burst out laughing -- I knew I was home free. (And knew that spoke really well of him.) And when he got to the last line and finished, he looked up at me, paused a moment and then said firmly, "Thank you."
(I did get hired. We recorded five demo shows, and they signed up 250 radio stations and raised a lot of money, but that wasn't enough for the syndicator, Westwood One, and the show didn't go forward, alas.)
I told all about that meeting in the earlier article, but though I mentioned the original Huffington Post article, I didn't include it. And with Al Gore's follow-up to his Oscar-winning documentary now here, An Inconvenient Sequel, I figured this would be as good a time as any to do so now.
May 4, 2006
The Return of Al Gore: Apparently, It is That Easy Being Green
Mention the name of Al Gore for President in 2008, and you’ll have to duck from the hailstorm of responses, most of which are snickering ridicule.
Al Gore may not even be a candidate, as he himself has said – at present. But one snickers at their own peril. Al Gore is a very different man than when the Democratic nominee in 2000, and anyone who hasn’t noticed has not been looking closely, or at all. The jokes may fly, but while people are laughing, they will find that Al Gore has passed them by.
There are three reasons Al Gore gets dismissed: he’s a loser, he’s wooden and he says he invented the Internet.
Oh, life is so difficult when none of our assumptions are true.
The truth begins with one inescapable reality: even at his most-derided worst, Al Gore won the popular vote against George Bush.
That’s what’s known in debate clubs as an impossible fact to deny.
If Al Gore was the Democratic nominee (a huge “if”), there’s no reason to think he would get any fewer votes than he did before. (Especially with no third-party candidate.) That’s an awfully good starting point: that you previously won the popular vote for President of the United States. Even George W. Bush couldn’t say that when he ran for re-election.
In 2000, George Bush was a potent candidate. He was seen as a uniter. Compassionate. His namesake father was a former President of the United States. And Al Gore still received more popular votes.
And at his boring worst, that’s Al Gore’s starting point. Winning the most votes.
Ah, yes, that boring thing. Grab a chair and catch up with reality.
On May 26, 2004, Gore delivered a speech at NYU that blasted the Iraq War, and even called for the resignations of those behind it. (This was two years before the current parade of generals.) It was so fiery that conservative pundits didn’t know what to make of it until they could unite on their talking points.
“Gore's speech is the single craziest political performance of my lifetime…” – New York Post columnist John Podhoretz
“He's really nuts.” – Fox News host Sean Hannity.
“It looks as if Al Gore has gone off his lithium again.” – Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer
Hardly the description of someone wooden. These are the sounds of conservative cowboys hiding the women-folk and circling the wagons at the terror of a free-speaking voice rising against them.
And what did Gore thunder?
“George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility. Instead, he has brought us humiliation in the eyes of the world. He promised to ‘restore honor and integrity to the White House.’ Instead, he has brought deep dishonor to our country and built a durable reputation as the most dishonest president since Richard Nixon.”
These are not the cold, diplomatic words of today’s wary politician. This blistering outrage is what Gore’s been saying now for years, far ahead of most other Democrats.
That leaves but the matter of Al Gore, inventor of the Internet. “During my service in the United States Congress,” Gore said to Wolf Blitzer on CNN, “I took the initiative in creating the Internet.”
That’s it. And the men who are considered inventors of the Internet, Dr. Vinton Cerf and Dr. Robert Kahn, agree!
“…As the two people who designed the basic architecture and the core protocols that make the Internet work,,” they wrote, “we would like to acknowledge VP Gore's contributions as a Congressman, Senator and as Vice President. No other elected official, to our knowledge, has made a greater contribution over a longer period of time.”
Well, how about that?
Winner, impassioned, and he helped create the Internet. Go figure.
And now, Al Gore has been given a really big platform. Movie star.
A new documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” was one of the hits of the Sundance Film Festival. At heart, this is a filmed version of the richly-involving multimedia presentation Gore gives on global warning, but much more. It’s a wonderfully-crafted look at Gore and his life traveling around the world, dragging his own luggage through airports.
Gore has given the presentation over 1,000 times by his estimate, and his passion is visceral, along with his knowledge and concern. What one sees is an engrossing event that is at times terrifying, always fascinating and occasionally hilarious. The film (for which Huffington Post contributor Laurie David is one of the producers) flies by. That’s 100 minutes of watching Al Gore talk and being riveted. Admit it: those are two concepts you previously would never have dreamed of ever seeing in the same sentence. Unless perhaps if it continued – “…to the floor with bolts.”
And that’s the point.
Whether or not Al Gore runs for President again; in fact, whether or not he should, make no mistake: there is substance here. And passion. And outspokenness. And now he’s got an 80-foot high soapbox.
A trillion-ton iceberg (about the size of Delaware) just broke off from Antarctica. This is the largest in recorded history.
No word yet if there is any comment from the White House. However, there are several possibilities which reports suggest they may be working on -- 1) the initial rift occurred during the Obama Administration, 2) it is a China hoax, 3) this can't be related to Global Warming since ice is cold, 4) just like the U.S. broke off from the Paris Accord, icebergs break off land masses, it happens, 4) our hearts and prayers go out to Antarctica which lost such a close land mass, and 5) Fake News.
Another possibility. The president was not informed of this beforehand and had no awareness of the situation until it was reported. But it is a quality iceberg. And being made of ice, the president is impressed how transparent it is.
It's so great to see EPA head Scott Pruitt (R-OK Oil Industry) relying on a conservative columnist about Climate Change rather than...oh, 99% of all SCIENTISTS in the entire world. I was going to say, "It explains a lot," but actually it explains all.
Pruitt also said, with apparent sweet innocence, rather than disingenuous sarcasm, that he doesn't “know what it means to deny the climate." He went on to say that “People have called me a climate skeptic or climate denier, I would say that they were climate exaggerators.”
In case Mr. Pruitt was wondering, that is what it means to deny the climate." Pretty much exactly.
Mike Pence says he doesn't know why people think Climate Change is a "Paramount issue." It's turns out he got the movie studio wrong. The problem with Climate Change is it's Universal.
And to be fair, when he said that Climate Change was an issue of the "left," I believe Mr. Pence has been misinterpreted and what he meant was "Everyone in the world who's left."
Syria, Nicaragua and the United States. Finally, something Trump is able to make "America First" by his standards. Or lack thereof.
Someone I knew was very pointed and eloquent about his anger towards reports that Trump would likely pull out of the Paris Accords, going on at length about how he was trying to convince what he called his "Republican and/or still-Trump-supporting friends" about why this was so disastrous to world climate.
Not shockingly, I agreed with all he said but explained that there's actually another reason to be against pulling out of the Paris Accord which might resonate even more with his Republican and/or still-Trump-supporting friends than icky science, research and facts, because it on a far-more prosaic level. I heard it discussed by a Congressman earlier today, and it's very basic --
By pulling out of the Paris Accords (if we do...), the United States loses the moral leadership on Climate Change. And this is a massively growing industry for the entire world. As such it will be other countries -- including China which has already begun a major investment in the field -- who take the leadership in developing alternative energy solutions. There will be no special reason for other countries to look to the United States for technology in what is clearly a growing international industry. That means lost jobs and lost leadership in the next big technology.
Boy, sometimes timing really is everything.
The clock just passed midnight to Wednesday as I post this, but I began writing it late Tuesday night. So that means it was just this morning that I wrote about a wonderful GE commercial that uses a renowned scientist, Millie Dresselhaus -- the first woman to win the National Medal of Science in Engineering -- as its centerpiece. The point of the ad being what if we treated scientists like we do other celebrities. It's an absolutely lovely spot that has the real Millie Dresselhaus, a gray-haired, hunched, sweet-looking elderly lady, seen in all manner of celebrity settings -- covered on the news eating lunch, stopped for autographs, on t-shirts, walking slowly on stage to cheering crowds and more.
It turns out that Millie Dresselhaus passed away the day before, at the age of 86.
I discovered this by accident. I have a friend who's on the writing staff of a talk show, and I was sending him a note to suggest that they book Millie Dresselhaus as a guest. I wanted to check first to see her age, so that I could include it in my note. When I saw it listed as Monday, I did a double-take and quadruple-checked to make sure I was looking at the right line or that wrong information wasn't included in the wrong space. Unfortunately, it was all accurate.
I'm sorry to learn about it. But I'm so glad that the TV ad had already begun to air and brought her some national notoriety while she was still here to see it.
If you haven't seen the ad yet, do scroll down to yesterday morning's first posting and check it out.
It's not every day when someone wins a Nobel Prize for Chemistry, and when meeting the press to talk about it, they get off a political joke. Actually, other than my friend Dr. Greg Van Buskirk, I'm not aware of any chemist who makes jokes at any time, period. Though I suspect there are a few. (Though not up to Dr. Buzz's level...) But at your Nobel Prize coming-out party? Just not your every day occurrence.
When the Nobel Prize-winner is a professor at the beloved Northwestern University, it's all the better. And deserving of getting written about here. The good fellow's name is Dr. Fraser Stoddart. (Born in Scotland, for those keeping a scorecard. Though a resident of the U.S. for the past 20 years.)
Okay, it's not a particularly good joke -- certainly not up to the Van Buskirk Standard for Chemists -- but when it comes to chemists and humor, you takes what you can get. And in fairness, it's more a jab than a joke.
Anyway, the winner of the Nobel Prize, in addition to getting a very nice medal and certificate and place in history, receives an award of approximately $933,000. The eminent Professor Stoddart (from Northwestern, did I mention that?) will share this amount with the two other equally-eminent chemists on his team. When asked about this vast sum of money, Nobel Prize-winner Stoddart said --
"I am not very smart. The IRS will run off with a third of it." And then, just to make sure that those in attendance got that he was making a dig at Donald Trump, added -- "Did you all get that? I'm not very smart," which news reports said brought about laughter and applause.
Okay, most stand-up comics don't tend to double-check with the audience that they got the point of their jokes. But then, most stand-ups don't develop the world's smallest molecular machines which have the potential to be used for the treatment of cancer, as well as in robotics and prosethetics.
For the record, again to add to your scorecard, the other two chemistry recipients were Jean-Pierre Sauvage of France and Bernard Feringa of the Netherlands. There is no report of them making political jokes at the event, or jokes of any kind. Though there is a rumor that one of them said, "We leave that sort of thing to Dr. Van Buskirk, whose work in this area we admire greatly -- as well as his efforts in chemistry."
Booking agents are looking into the possibility of teaming up Dr. Stoddart and Dr. Van Buskirk in hopes of them hitting the road to perform in night clubs across the country. All the while, during the day, making the world better through science.
This is doubly wonderful. First, the other day, Jimmy Kimmel went all "science" on his viewers, and made a long, very pointed commentary about Climate Change, though made it entertaining. Including some ridiculing words in regards to Sarah Palin, the former half-term Republican governor of Alaska. In fairness to Kimmel, the ridiculing words weren't his, but film clips of Ms. Palin herself talking.
And second, he then introduced a video to hopefully make the point even more emphatically. It too was very pointed, though wonderfully entertaining.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, and is a regular columnist for the Huffington Post and the Writers Guild of America. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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