Monday, April 23, 2012

Vanity Cards Are Not in Vain

I watched an episode of The Big Bang Theory, an enjoyable sitcom, when I noticed something odd passing by in a second on the credits. You see it above. A subliminal message, perhaps? I had to investigate.

I learned on the Internet that this is no secret, but it was news to me. The very successful TV writer and producer Chuck Lorre puts in what he calls Vanity Cards at the end of every TV sitcom episode he produces. It started already in 1995.

In these messages he reflects on all kinds of aspects of life, show business, or whatever comes to his mind. It's charming – and it shows his commitment to his creative urge. Surely, the man has plenty to do as it is, and makes enough money to sit back by the pool and drink Madeira from the beginning of the previous century.

But he got this idea, and he can't help himself. It has created a cult of sorts, and sometimes there's noise in the Hollywood corridors. Charlie Sheen called one of these Vanity Cards evidence in his conflict with Lorre about Two and a Half Men. In other instances, Lorre has been accused of blatantly supporting Obama (and that's sure to aggravate the bosses of any business). So, of course his Vanity Cards have been censored more than once.

Here's one example of that, which I picked up from Chuck Lorre's own website. It's both cute and accurate, so of course it makes every social predator crazy:

Forgive me a moment of political reflection, but I'd like to take this opportunity to discuss something that's been on my mind for a very long time. I've always understood the Republican Party to have, as its central platform, the idea that human beings should never be dominated by a monolithic government which tells them how to live their lives. I like that. It feels like a fundamental truth, and I can't imagine any right-minded person finding fault with it. I've also noticed that there are many in the Grand Old Party who insist on telling people exactly how they should live. For example: Alcohol, yes. Pot, no. Straight marriage, yes. Gay marriage, no. Jesus, yes. Others prophets, no. The death penalty, yes. Abortion, no. Capitalism, yes (by force if need be). Collectivism, hell no! Added to this is an inclination to find anyone who chooses these other paths to be deeply repugnant. All of which causes me to wonder, is there a middle ground? In fact, are there big political gains awaiting those of a conservative bent if they can figure out a way to celebrate individual freedom while simultaneously tolerating diversity of opinion and lifestyle? With that in mind, I humbly propose the following slogan designed to both embrace this paradox and ignite the general electorate in the coming presidential campaign.
He illustrated it with the image above. I find his reasoning flawless, and what's more important: humorous. I think I'd like the guy, if we ever meet. It's obvious to me that he writes from an inner necessity, what someone called a burning wound on the soul. Every writer should.

And he's got a neat track record, too. Two and a Half Men (which I wrote about here and The Big Bang Theory, just to mention two. They're skilled and innovative examples of sitcom when it shines – for a while. It's an art where durability is neither possible nor desirable.

I would have spent a night catching up on his Vanity Cards, if I didn't already on the fourth episode of the Big Bang Theory fifth season that I examined come across this one:

Enough said, except for a couple of missing lines on the poem:
But when some people anyway talk
decency takes a leap.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chinese Divination

The last few months I've been busy producing new websites, on the theme of ancient methods of divination. One of the oldest is the Chinese classic I Ching (The Book of Change), with its 64 hexagrams and their accompanying texts giving clues to the future. Try it out – you'll be surprised.

I found a splendid script on the Internet, so I could make an actual online version of the I Ching, where you can try it out without needing any additional equipment than your computer or your smartphone. Here it is:

There, you also find links to additional information about the I Ching – its background, hexagrams and trigrams, basic principles, and so on.

I Ching is a Chinese classic (also spelled Yi jing) dating back to at least 1,000 BC. It consists of 64 chapters, each devoted to one of the 64 hexagrams. These are made up of six lines that are either solid or split in two, symbolizing yin and yang, the ancient polarities of Chinese cosmology, well-known worldwide through the circular image enclosed here.

Each hexagram represents a concept that becomes the answer to the question asked in divination. There's an explanatory text to each. Also, additional statements are made when one of the lines is marked. It may sound complicated, but it's quite easy once you try it.

What's particular about the I Ching is that its divination is done by words: the name of the hexagram as well as the words of the accompanying text. We are creatures of words, so they tend to tell us a lot. Already the name of the hexagram usually gives an enlightening clue to the question at hand. And more often than not, the text is so accurate to the situation it's eerie.

I urge you to try it out. You'll not be disappointed. At the very least, it gives you a chance to contemplate your question in a new light. And please come back to this blog if you feel like commenting the experience.