Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond

Image result for andy kaufman wrestling

Netflix Original

Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond



When I watch something where an actor is playing an insane character, I wonder to myself: is the actor truly crazy? Did he start off sane and lose his mind for the role?

The craziest TV character I can think of is Claire Danes’s Carrie Mathison in “Homeland.” When she’s not completely devoted to her dangerous job, she goes home and becomes an immediate danger to herself with booze and pills.

It is possible that Claire Danes is simply a terrific actress who can turn it on and off at will. But I’ll bet no one who watched “Homeland” has ever taken a chance and allowed Ms. Danes to babysit their children.

When it comes to entertainers acting insane, Andy Kaufman is the all-time champion. Kaufman became a celebrity in the late 70s with his goofy appearances on Saturday Night Live and his lovable immigrant character on the sitcom “Taxi.”

For his own artistic vision and amusement, Andy Kaufman decided to take the love America had for him and turn it into hate.

When he would appear on a talk show, Kaufman would come out wearing a one-piece wresting unitard. He would stand in the middle of a makeshift wresting ring and go on a chauvinist rant. Finally, a woman in the audience would become so furious that she was eager to wrestle him.

Andy Kaufman would pin the woman, dance around proudly, hold a golden belt above his head, and gloat that he was the World Intergender Wrestling Champion.

Was he a brave performance artist or was he actually insane? No one knows. But I assure you no one ever allowed Mr. Kaufman to babysit their children.

Most people found Andy Kaufman’s antics weird and troubling. Jim Carrey thought he was amazing.
In 1999, at the height of his popularity, Carrey successfully lobbied to win the role of Andy Kaufman in the biopic “Man in the Moon.”

And Jim Carrey didn’t play Andy Kaufman, he became him. For four months, Carrey remained in character, day and night. Half of the documentary “Jim and Andy” shows us behind the scenes video of Jim Carrey – as Andy Kaufman – causing mischief and making life uncomfortable for everyone around him.

But the star of this film isn’t crazy 1999 Jim Carrey: it’s super crazy 2017 Jim Carrey.

Bearded, haggard, and soft-spoken, Jim Carrey looks and sounds like a homeless New Age poet.

Sometimes he’s smart, sometimes he’s wise, often he’s off in space. It’s as if he’s having a conversation at the psychiatrist’s office but he wrongly thinks he’s the doctor.

Carrey describes the liberating experience of getting to live outside himself and be a jerk for a whole summer. Then he describes the horror and confusion of leaving the character and not remembering who Jim Carrey is.

“Jim and Andy” powerfully underscores the message that becoming a celebrity is a terrible disaster for your identity, self-worth, and happiness.


There is no way of knowing whether becoming a Method Actor and being Andy Kaufman broke Jim Carrey’s brain or if he was messed up already.

All I know is, no one is hiring Jim Carrey to babysit their kids. Man, I wouldn’t even trust him to come over and feed my cats for a weekend.


Second Hand Smoke and the Power of Collective Brainwashing

Image result for second hand smoke

Second Hand Smoke and the Power of Collective Brainwashing


We have an ugly habit of judging people of the past as dumber, simpler, or more gullible than us.

We look, for example, at people of the 17th Century who burned witches and we shake our heads. “How could they be so worked up about a threat that doesn’t even exist?” we ask ourselves.

We are in no position to judge. Humanity has a problem. I call it Collective Brainwashing.

I have seen this happen in my own lifetime.


Let me take you back to a simpler time in the United States: 1990.

The war on smoking had been raging for a generation. And the anti-smoking crowd was on a roll. Almost every restaurant in the country had a No Smoking Section. Most airplanes had banned smoking. Even baseball and football stadiums were beginning to go smoke free.

Smokers had become a clear minority. Only half of the American people had ever smoked regularly. And half of them had since quit.

These were huge victories. But the anti-smoking crusaders were not satisfied.

It was right around 1990 that the focus of the anti-smoking movement changed from informing Americans about the real dangers of smoking to demonizing smokers.

But how on earth do you demonize regular, hard-working, law-abiding Americans? You claim that second hand smoke is deadly.


Passive smoking kills 600,000 a year, including 165,000 children

Second Hand Smoke Is MORE Dangerous Than Smoking!

Around 1990, quotes like these began appearing in Western newspapers.

Within a generation, Collective Brainwashing had taken hold; propaganda had evolved into accepted truth.

The anti-smoking propagandists were counting on the fact that younger people listen to the television more than their parents. And they were right.

Older folks like us who lived before 1990 know that second hand smoke isn’t deadly. We all knew non-smokers who worked in smoke-filled offices and restaurants in the 70s and 80s. None of them contracted lung cancer. We all knew non-smokers who lived in smoke-filled houses in the 70s and 80s. None of them developed emphysema. Of course they didn’t.

The truth never mattered to the propagandists. Their goal was to demonize and defeat smokers. And they did a splendid job. Smokers went from a cool, hip minority to a dangerous, hated threat.

(For the record, I am not diminishing the suffering of people who are allergic to cigarette smoke. For them, a smoke-filled room is an immediate buzzkill. I am saying, however, that there is a clear line between second hand smoke ruining one’s night and ending one’s life. The anti-smoking crusaders crossed that line in 1990 and never looked back).


I am not angry at the anti-smoking crusaders. I internalized their propaganda and I’m a better man for it.

I happily smoked for most of my adult life. I never considered quitting. Then, about five years ago, I just stopped. I’m so glad that I did.

I will never smoke a cigarette again. I used to look at smokers as the cool people living in the moment. Now I look at them as oddities. The Smoking Court outside the bar looks like a sad living museum – with actors performing scenes from the 20th Century.


We have been completely brainwashed. We are little different than the gullible fools of the 17th Century.

We have the exact same chance of being killed by second hand smoke as we have of being cursed by a witch. But we are willing to let smokers be treated like criminals, shivering out in the cold while we sip our drinks in comfort.

In the end, the problem isn’t that the propagandists brainwashed us to turn on smokers. The problem is we don’t know which vulnerable minority group they are going to make us turn on next.






 Oklahoma City

 Image result for terrorists are not cowards

Oklahoma City


          When the media talks about a terrorist, they are supposed to say that he is a brainwashed coward. Yup. According to the talking heads on CNN and Fox, every terrorist is the same: cowardly and crazy.

          I don’t know why it is against the rules of society to be honest about terrorism.

          The truth is that some terrorists are not cowards. They put themselves at risk to be arrested, killed, and/or damned to further a cause that they sincerely believe in.

          The truth is that some terrorists have a well-thought out system of beliefs that they share with a lot of people. It’s just that most people who share those beliefs aren’t willing to kill.

          “Oklahoma City” is a thought-provoking documentary about an American terrorist and gun lover – Timothy McVeigh – who murdered a bunch of people for reasons that are not crazy.

          Director Barak Goodman does an amazing job of showing us the four things that motivated the Oklahoma City bomber.

1.     Operation Desert Shield

What better place for a young gun lover than the US Army? Timothy McVeigh was a proud, happy soldier until he was sent to Middle East.

McVeigh thought that killing enemy soldiers would be thrilling. Instead – he recounts from prison years later – he felt like the Arab men he was murdering were just like him. And it made him sick. McVeigh began to realize that Uncle Sam is a bully.

At least the government wasn’t bullying Americans back home…

2.     Ruby Ridge

In the 80s, Randy Weaver decided to move his family as far away from society as he could. He was living on the top of a mountain in northern Idaho with no electricity or plumbing. It is hard to be less of a menace to society than Mr. Weaver. The Feds had a different idea.

          When Randy Weaver missed a court date in 1992 for weapons charges, the ATF and the FBI moved in. Before the standoff was over, US Marshals had killed Weaver’s wife, his 14 year old son, and his dog.

3.     Waco

Christian minister/cult leader David Koresh and his followers were living apart from society, in an isolated compound outside of Waco, Texas. Their crime was not bothering or hurting any outsiders; it was buying weapons illegally.

Koresh’s followers fought off an ATF raid and killed four federal agents. The government responded by busting in with tanks and tear gas. On April 19, 1993, Koresh’s compound caught fire. 76 people were killed.

4.     The Brady Bill

Looking back, The Brady Bill was little more than a rare, minor legislative loss by the NRA.

To already angry Timothy McVeigh, it was the final straw. First, the government had forced him to murder Arabs for no reason. Then, Uncle Sam had killed a bunch of gun owners who were minding their own business. Now, it seemed , US Marshals were probably going to bust down HIS door and take his guns.

On April 19, 1995 (the anniversary of Waco), Timothy McVeigh detonated a homemade bomb on the bottom floor of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.

Timothy McVeigh was proud and unapologetic. He was executed by lethal injection in 2001.

The Oklahoma City bomber’s intentions were as clear as his actions were monstrous. McVeigh was inspired by….White Supremacy!

Wait! What? In the final act, director Barak Goodman throws us an absurd, politically-motivated curve ball. His conclusion is that Timothy McVeigh was a natural culmination of the White Power movement. Never mind that McVeigh never attended a White Power meeting and, based on prison interviews, wasn’t concerned about race at all.

Fortunately for us and unfortunately for Mr. Goodman, he accidentally told the truth for most of his film. The truth is that Timothy McVeigh was furious about Federal overreach and Washington’s willingness to kill whomever it pleases – here and abroad.

I don’t know why the truth about terrorism is so hard to stomach. The truth is that some terrorists are rational people with reasonable anger over legitimate issues. The only difference is: they think it is right to kill for their beliefs while we know it is evil.

American Experience: The Big Burn

Image result for vermont forest

American Experience: The Big Burn



We need to Save the Trees!

Deforestation has ravaged our once great forests. The dwindling tree population is choking the oxygen-starved atmosphere.

Sorry, environmentalists: I’m being sarcastic. Every word of that last paragraph is false.

First, a solid majority of new atmospheric oxygen is produced by water-dwelling pytoplankton. If you love trees and walks through the forest, that is perfect understandable. Scientifically speaking, however, we don’t need trees to survive.

Second, North America has way more trees than it had at the turn of the 20th Century. Right here in Central Vermont, deer sightings used to make the newspaper. Hubbard Park was a big, treeless field.

What happened? Did Conservationist save the day? Nope: the automobile was invented.

In the 19th Century, millions of acres of arable land were used for fields to feed horses. As horses were replaced by Model Ts, those fields became forests. Tree-Huggers should pause to hug a Ford Focus; it did more to save the trees than the US Forest Service.

Indeed, “The Big Burn” shows that the US Forest Service has been misguided from the very beginning.

In 1905, The US Forest Service was founded by patrician Progressives who valued idealism more than common sense, and trees more than people.

The fledgling Federal agency sent intrepid young men far and wide. US Forest Rangers even found their way to the remote Bitterroot region of Western Montana and Northern Idaho. When Rangers told the hearty locals that they were no longer allowed to use the vast forest for clearcutting and strip-mining, they were furious.

As the PBS documentary “The Big Burn” reluctantly admits, the Forest Service’s rules that chose trees over people ended up being a disaster for both trees and people.


The summer of 1910 was bone dry in the Bitterroot. When a heat-lightning storm ignited a dry patch of trees, the largest fire in the history of the Hemisphere began.

Despite its remote location, America quickly recognized the size and the seriousness of the blaze. Women and children were bustled out; Federal Troops rushed in.

Desperate men aboard the last train out of town were forced off their cars at gunpoint. Uncle Sam needed them to fight the fire, the soldiers said.

But those men were just being sent to their deaths. There was no fighting The Big Burn. By the time the blaze burned itself out, a layer of soot coated the ground as far away as Iceland. Ships in the Pacific Ocean couldn’t navigate because the air was so thick with smoke.

The only thing that could have stopped this fire in its tracks was a stretch of barren, treeless land. You know, the kind that you get when you allow people to clear cut a section of forest or build a strip mine.

In the end, the greatest boon to American forests was the invention of the internal combustion engine. And the greatest disaster was made worse by the myopic machinations of the US Forest Service.

We don’t need to Save the Trees. Take a drive down I89 and look around you. They are doing just fine without our help.


An Open Letter to the Nitwits at ESPN

Image result for hank williams jr ready for some football

An Open Letter to the Nitwits at ESPN


Not so long ago, Sports Center was a clip show. Each morning, a couple of sharp-witted gentleman presented highlights of last night’s games. During the clips, the producers played upbeat music and the hosts told the viewers what happened, tossing in a few well-timed quips and catch-phrases.

It was perfect. To me, Sports Center was The News. I had to watch it once a day or else I would be an ill-informed man.

Last month, ESPN laid off one hundred people.

Hey, Sports Center: are you wondering how you went from the center of the sports world to an embarrassing public blood bath? I’ll tell you.


  1. You didn’t focus on the sports that guys care about

I don’t know where the ESPN producers got the impression that sports fans are interested in golf, X-Games, and the WNBA. But, I assure you, we aren’t.

I have had a thousand conversations about sports with guys at work over the years. Exactly zero of them have been about X-Games(, obviously).


  1. You didn’t focus on sports at all

When Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe, the sports media covered the story. That made sense. Since then, though, sports journalists should have stayed the heck out of the personal lives of athletes. Leave that trash to the tabloids.

ESPN has a very different philosophy.

Tiger Woods’s wife went after him with a golf club? I don’t care, ESPN, that’s none of my business. LeBron James flirted with a model on Instagram? I don’t care, ESPN, that’s none of my business.

Aaron Hernandez might have had a jailhouse lover. For shame, ESPN. I don’t care. It is none of my business. That has nothing to do with sports. By covering that story, you have diminished your brand. And probably diminished your chance of passing through the Pearly Gates.


  1. You went out of your way to offend your core audience

At some point early this century, the bigwigs in your company decided that every Conservative working for ESPN needs to be completely silent about his political beliefs or be fired.

That would be a perfectly sensible business decision if ESPN were a non-profit organization dedicated to saving the Striped West Virginia Ground Sloth from extinction by trying to ban fracking.

But you run a sports network and your core audience is American guys. Newsflash, ESPN: we tend to lean Right. Shaming and censoring Conservatives on your network was a bad idea.

It kind of made sense when you pushed Rush Limbaugh out the door for making comments about race on the air. It made less sense when you fired baseball analyst Curt Schilling for his social media post about transgender bathrooms.

As hard as I try, though, I can’t figure out what you were thinking when you fired long-time Monday Night Football theme-song singer Hank Williams Jr. after he made an offhand remark about Obama on Fox & Friends.

Mr. Williams’s job was simply to put on a cowboy hat and sunglasses and sing “Are You Ready For Some Football?” once a week. Did you expect him to pretend to be a Progressive?

It’s hideous decisions like that that cost you your viewership and led to the 100 high-profile layoffs last month. “But it wasn’t our fault,” you plead, “our lower ratings are the result of new internet technology.” Partially perhaps. But that doesn’t explain why I hate your channel. If you run a sport network and guys loathe you, you have messed up.

I am one of the millions of people who pulled the plug on ESPN last year. And I don’t miss it at all.



You Don’t Really Have to Move to Canada

Image result for liberals leaving america

You Don’t Really Have to Move to Canada


Okay, the Presidential election is over and your side didn’t win.

I’m sorry. It’s painful. I know how losing feels. I’m a New York Jets fan.

If you want to be sad because our country elected a childish, unqualified sexist who knows less about geography and history than I do, then go ahead. That’s fair.

If you want to be sad because you think President Trump will outlaw abortion, oppress the LGBT community, and put Spanish-speaking people in internment camps, then go ahead. But be aware that you are being ridiculous. The President has neither the power nor the inclination to do those things.

I predict that President Trump will be unable to accomplish anything significant during his four years in the White House.  However, just by winning, I think that Trump has already changed our country in three significant ways.

  1. Trump Has Made the Democratic Party Liberal Again

Millions of primary voters and the entire Democratic Party leadership chose Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. It’s not because they all love globalization and Goldman Sachs. It’s because they assumed that moderate Clinton was more electable than progressive Sanders. Whoops.

For a generation, the Clinton family has ensured that the Democrats are the party of Wall Street, wealth concentration, and war. Principled Progressives are rightly angry. All the rigged primaries and Super Delegates in the world aren’t going to be enough to stop the Democrat electorate from nominating an actual liberal for President in 2020. We may actually have a two-party system again.

  1. Trump Defeated Big Money

“I turned down a meeting with Charles and David Koch. Much better for them to meet with the puppets of politics. They will do much better!”

-Donald Trump on Twitter (july 30th)

Since the beginning of the primary season, Donald Trump has faced one heavily-funded candidate after another and triumphed over them.

Trump wasn’t David defeating Goliath. He was David defeating all of the Goliaths. Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz. He annihilated the Bush dynasty. And then he annihilated the Clinton dynasty.

Trump’s campaign war chest was half the size of Clinton’s and it was filled mostly with the small donations of private individuals. Sec. Donald Trump defeated Citizens United with his force of will. He proved that fame, charisma, and passion are more powerful than mountains of dirty corporate money.

  1. Trump Humbled the Media

The happiest thing for me about Trump’s triumph was imagining all of the miserable journalists.

Every journalist who does not, in fact, work for Breitbart.com attacked and defamed Donald Trump. They woke up Wednesday morning in shock. The election of Trump proved that voters do not read their propaganda. Or even better: people still read the propaganda but they see right through it.

For the record, I’m not talking about the Liberal Media; I’m talking about the Establishment Media.

National Review, The Weekly Standard, and the Atlantic were every bit as hard on Trump as CNN and Michael Moore. If not harder.

The Establishment Media can no longer pretend that they are respected and believed. That makes me gleefully happy.


I’m not going to convince you to like Donald Trump. And I’m not trying.

I’m just observing that Trump’s election has changed three things, probably for the better.

Candidate Trump was a powerful bringer of change. President Trump is a neophyte moving into a gridlock-paralyzed city where both sides hate him. He’s not going to be able to change anything else. You don’t really have to move to Canada.

The Columbian Exchange

Image result for GMO fanatics meme

[History Book Review]

The Columbian Exchange (1972)

By Alfred W. Crosby Jr.



Thank you to our legislature and to the Vermont Retail Grocers Association for mandating that companies label all foods that contain GMOs.

Thanks to this new practice, we will certainly be saved from the ill-health and certain doom of consuming food products that have been genetically modified by man.

Sorry, natural food aficionados. I am being sarcastic. While I respect the fact that your ethos requires you to believe that everything humans do is inherently unhealthy and destructive, history proves that this is not the truth.

For those readers out there who are on the fence about whether or not GMOs are dangerous, I recommend the short history book “The Columbian Exchange.” It will enlighten you. And save you a lot of money on groceries.

We are all taught that Christopher Columbus discovered the New World in 1492 and began the process of eradicating the native human population and replacing it with people of European and African origin.

But, according to “The Columbian Exchange,” the other exchanges of flora and fauna between the Old World and the New World were even more dramatic.

Before the white man arrived, the largest domesticated animal in the New World was the Llama. Llamas are good for encouraging you to download the Bank of America mobile app. But little else.

European cattle and horses were introduced by Columbus and they promptly conquered the Americas. Huge packs of wild horses made it through Central and North America a heck of a lot faster than the white man. Pueblo and Comanche Indians discovered and tamed the white man’s horses long before they ever saw an actual European.

For every domesticated cow that was turned into cheap steak for Argentines and Brazilians, several more were roaming free and grazing, changing the landscape of South America forever.

By the way: cows, as they exist today, have been selectively bred to be larger and more docile than the first cattle that were domesticated in Asia Minor 10,000 years ago. In a very real way, every cow you see is a GMO.

To nourish themselves, Europeans relied heavily on wheat and, to a lesser extent, barley. The Columbian Exchange brought new high-yield crops like corn and potatoes to the Old World.

Just as there are anti-GMO fanatics today, I’m sure there were some kooks who argued that growing corn and potatoes in Europe is “unnatural” and therefore dangerous. But eventually, of course, the truth won out.

“The Columbian Exchange” features some neat contemporary drawings of corn and potato plants by fascinated 16th Century Europeans. One can’t help but notice that the corn and potatoes of their time were significantly smaller and less bountiful than the ones we see today at Shaw’s.

Industrious humans selectively modified the genes of New World plants to make them more efficient and more palatable to the hungry masses of the Old World. Thanks to GMOs, famine due to crop failure has been almost entirely eradicated.

Farmers selectively alter food plants to increase crop yields and suit our needs and desires. This is not only natural, it is a basic attribute of human civilization. You can only separate GMOs from other foods if you pretend that human history began on the day that Monsanto was incorporated.

You basically have two choices, Vermont: you can either live in paranoid fear of the GMO bogeyman. Or you can read “The Columbian Exchange” and learn that there is nothing particularly scary or dangerous or new about what is on your dinner table. (Except dessert).


Thank You, Police



                           Thank You, Police


          In general, I am not inclined to respect institutions of authority and power.

I think that the entire criminal justice system should overhauled and radically simplified so that judges, lawyers, and prison wardens have less control over our society.

Every criminal case should have exactly one question: are people in the defendant’s community safer and better off without him. If the answer is yes, he should be immediately moved to the new penal colony on the large island of Hawaii.

I think that all prisons need to be closed immediately.  

Prisons aren’t unusual punishment anymore; but they are definitely cruel. No animal more intelligent than a hamster should ever have to live in a cage. “Judge not, lest ye be judged” applies to criminals, too.

If a man is deemed too dangerous to live among us, he should be shipped to the isolated Hawaiian penal colony to make a new life away from polite society. He should be encouraged to work and thrive. We should wish him the best. If his wife wants to move there, too, that’s wonderful.

“No way, max! I want revenge against the guy who stole my wallet,” you say. Of course you do. But, remember, your feelings of wrath are every bit as sinful as the criminal’s greed. Learning to forgive is more productive than sending everyone we don’t like to jail.

Every year that I live and observe the world, I have less respect for courts and prisons.

But I continue to gain respect for the police force.

Courts condemn people who can’t afford the right lawyer. Prisons dehumanize people and turn them into violent animals.

The police have one simple goal: keeping communities orderly and safe. It’s a very wholesome mission. And they are doing an amazing job.

I have lived 40 years. I have gone out to bars at night several hundred times. And I have never gotten into a fight. I have never been harmed. I have never been threatened. I have never felt unsafe. Not once.

CNN tries to make us think that this country is a frightening war zone. But the truth is that most Americans live their entire lives in security and tranquility. The police are so great at keeping the peace that we take them for granted.

Obviously, this column was partially inspired by the furor over the two terrible incidents this month in which police officers killed men for virtually no reason. I offer no defense for those two awful officers.

The police unions, unfortunately, spend way too much of their resources defending bad cops. That should be the exact opposite of their job.

When an officer does something unacceptable, like that cop in Minnesota, the union should eagerly work to get him fired immediately. And they should make sure that the salary from the fired cop is used to increase the pay of the many good cops on the force.

          The goal should be police departments that are a little smaller but filled with honest, honorable officers who are compensated well for the challenging, important job that they do.

          This goal shouldn’t be hard to accomplish. Most police officers are indeed good cops. And they are doing a great job of keeping us safe.

In a world full of authority figures who don’t deserve our respect, the police are the ones who have earned my allegiance and trust and gratitude. Thank you, police.