I hate April Fool's Day. Is there a worse "holiday" -- if that's what it is -- on the calendar?
I also object to the term "April Fool's joke." A joke is a much more generous thing than what happens on 4/1. A joke is something I tell to make you laugh. I want to amuse you and make you happy. Your laughter is then my reward. Imagine that Stephen Wright or Chris Rock or Bob Saget had an act that consisted of misleading the audience for the private amusement of the comedian himself. How long do you think that person would last in show business? A joke that the audience is meant to take seriously is, in fact, the exact opposite of a joke. It's an anti-joke.
I began my day yesterday with a 7 a.m. medical appointment. The receptionist said: "You have to play an April Fool's joke on him. I've been trying since we got here."
"This is my first time here," I said. "It seems like I'd be getting off on the wrong foot if I did that.""
Later in the day I read a science article about a recently discovered obscure sub-species of penguin that can fly. Very interesting! I started to consider talking about this on my radio show, and then I realized, of course, that there are no flying penguins. Ha-ha.
A couple of hours later, I read an item about formerly imporisoned ex-Gov. John G. Rowland mulling a run for Congress in the Connecticut fifth district. Geez! The guy has no shame. Gotta talk about that on the radio. No, wait. It's a "joke."
Driving home in the evening, I caught most of an NPR Marketplace report on a economic stimulus program in which actual consumer merchandise is purchased and shipped to targeted areas based on need. Seemed like kind of a dopey idea, and, indeed, there came the voice of former TresSec Robert Reich saying it was kind of a dopey idea. At the end of the piece, host Kai Ryssdal said: "Relax. Check your calendars."
These jokes are, among other things, a badly inflated currency. The Onion does them 24/7. So does God. In a year when Eliot Spitzer turned out to be making whoopie with Robb Report prostitutes, we're supposed to know that certain things could not possibly be true? The fact that Waterbury hired Rowland to handle economic development and that the Courant endorsed this idea is, in fact, crazier than the fake news item about his considering a run for Congress.
I like playfulness. I like subversive humor. But I like the audience to be in on the joke. Yesterday, I had a radio show caller who wanted to talk to me about knee replacements. She said she worked at a center that did them. "Not one of the chains, I hope," I said. "I herar KFKR is not that good."
"Kentucky Fried Knee Replacements?"
I repeated the joke, at which point it started to seem a little limp. But it reallywas meant to be a joke, not an April Fool's deception. I wasn't trying to deceive her. Just make her laugh.
Michael V. Hayden always looks to me more like a character actor playing a general or CIA chief than like the actual item.
There may even be somebody specific he reminds me of, but I can't come any closer than the wonderful John Fielder, the voice of Piglet, the nervous Mr. Peterson (patient of Bob Newhart) and - my favorite -- Woody on "Buffalo Bill." Can anyone do better than that?
Today, he trottted out the term Af-Pak to describe the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, home to terrorists and ducks. Af-Pak!
UPDATE: (h/t Joe O) Hayden might be a hybrid of Kurtwood Smith and Rainn Wilson.
Here's something we've talked about on the radio. Have you noticed the way young people -- for reasons having nothing to do with saving minutes or money -- kind of hate to talk on the phone and will only txt or email or IM one another? What do you think that is? Is spoken phone conversation a declining style?
If you're only going to test the officers who have black DNA, how are you going to know which officers to test? The ones with dark skin? The ones who self-identify as black?
One of the amusing forms of fall-out from the growing "genetic ancestral testing" industry is the surprise factor. It occasionally turns out that "white guys" like Colin McEnroe and Mike Huckabee have as much "black DNA" as Henry Louis Gates and Chris Tucker. (The former are fanciful examples. The latter two are not. They are prominent African Americans whose genetic tests revealed much heavier European ancestry than they had suspected.)
We have to back up a little bit more. Is there such a thing as black DNA? Yes and no. As far as I can tell, when we talk about racial genetic differences, we're talking about a tiny group of gene markers that show up as a result of populations being clustered in certain geographical areas after the human race emerged from East Africa. So that when you say "white DNA," what you really mean is "genetic markers that tended to concentrate in the portion of the human race that wound up in Europe for many thousands of years."
There's no way to tell, by eyeballing somebody, what his genetic composition is, and the only thing less reliable than eyeballing would be self-identification. Race is a much more fluid concept that we like to think.
My point is: there's no way to test only the ""black state troopers" until you've tested all the state troopers, so that you know who, genetically, is black.
I know at least one geneticist reads this blog, so maybe I'll stand corrected.