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    Problems in Logic

    You have probably noticed that, in many episodes of “Star Trek,” Mr. Spock will sometimes say to Commander Shatner, “That’s not logical.” More often than not, he says this to the angry doctor-guy because almost everything “Bones” has ever said or done is “not logical.” During a lull in my sophomore English class years ago, our professor informed us that the Star Fleet doctor is usually wrong because he works from raw emotion, and they call him “Bones” because he feels ideas in his bones, rather than using pure logic, as Spock does.

    So when we chose teammates that year for our debate club, I formed a group call Star Fleet, and wouldn’t you know it, during the finals we faced off with the Romulans. Any time one of those guys from the other team would attempt to make a point, I would simply raise my left eyebrow, turn to the moderator, and say, “Fascinating, Captain.” Everyone in the room knew that I had nailed those bastards, because my simple comment implied that the Romulans were not being logical, or more to the point, had their heads up their asses. It’s a phrase that everyone who appreciates logic instantly understands.

    Granted, now and then Spock would describe something as “fascinating,” and yet he wasn’t being ironic or trying to piss off Bones. We don’t really know what Spock meant in those cases, because he was the inscrutable Vulcan. In fact, all Vulcans are inscrutable; how else does one explain the haircut? In any event, Spock inspires all of us to use logic, and this is as good a time as any to offer some tips, because people usually struggle with deductions and get everything wrong.

    To begin with, I’m not referring to those lame logic puzzles that have a series of statements that you determine are true or false just to solve some murder mystery. They have nothing to do with classic deductive reasoning, and they don’t work anyway, because all statements in a murder mystery are false. Watch “Columbo” or Death On the Nile or Gosford Park. Rich people always have something to lie about, even if they haven’t killed anyone yet. What I’m talking about is this sort of thing:

    All cats are gray.

    I’m gray.

    Therefore, I’m a cat.

    You can see the problem with that deduction right away: I’m not gray! I’m sort of a peachy, flesh color. The point here is that people not accustomed to rigorous deduction can reach all sorts of false conclusions. That’s dangerous, because a good con artist could have you thinking that he really is a cat, or any other kind of creature.

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    Here’s another example of faulty logic:

    All women are liars.

    Carol is a woman.

    Therefore Carol is a liar.

    Actually, that’s a terrible example of faulty logic, because it’s an absolutely flawless deduction based on solid research. Let’s try another:

    My girlfriend Carol goes to school on Wednesdays.

    Tomorrow is Wednesday.

    Therefore my girlfriend will go to school tomorrow.

    Apart from the fact that semesters eventually end, another huge flaw in this reasoning is that my girlfriend merely said that “school” was what she was doing on Wednesdays. When she claimed that she couldn’t remember her instructor’s name, I simply replied, “Fascinating, Captain.”

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    Another way to remain consistently logical is to learn the difference between inverse and converse. The converse of “All Vulcans are inscrutable beings” is “all inscrutable beings are Vulcans.” Avoid this pitfall. Think about it; if a certain being is all that damn inscrutable, we can’t know if it’s a Vulcan or not. It could be tricking us.

    As for inverse, think of it as the opposite. For example, the other day we were talking about how it’s a good thing that “Star Trek” is available on DVD, and in a witty moment I said to my friend “And as you know, good is the opposite of bad.” My friend replied, “Well, no, I don’t know that good is the opposite of bad. Seems like the opposite of bad would be ‘not bad.’”

    “Fascinating,” I parried. “But wouldn’t ‘not bad’ be the negation of bad?”

    We went on like that for several hours, until my friend decided to have the opposite of a debate and left the room. Actually, his departure instigated the negation of a debate, as the opposite of a debate is an agreement-fest, not unlike the conversations we have when any of the district managers are in town for our sales meetings.

    Perhaps good is not the opposite of bad anymore than cat is the opposite of dog. Rather than being the inverse, maybe cat is the reverse of dog, but there again, the reverse of dog is either “God” or “a dog walking backwards.” I don’t even know how we could verify that.

    You can see how logic is a troubling affair. As some of the ancient Zen masters often pointed out, we drive on a parkway and park in a driveway. Yet there is no “converse” gear on our vehicles, merely a reverse. I’m told that the new Hummer has an inverse gear that somehow alters liability in the event of a collision, but that gets us into the “all car salesman are liars—all sales are final” conditional statements that are notoriously difficult to deduce.

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    Nonetheless, it still feels like bad is the opposite of good, just as it feels like all car salesmen are liars. But that’s working with intuition, which is what Bones and many women use to sort out the world. Your ex-wife may “feel” like you’ve been driving past the old house during the wee hours, but until her investigator provides some surveillance evidence, there’s no logical deduction there. Of course, it’s only human to rely on intuition, and as illogical as it sounds, all women are human. Vulcan chicks, on the other hand, always use logic, which may explain why they are so hot.

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  2. Bob Gruen began seriously shooting recording artists in 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival. An uncanny knack for being in the right place at a crucial moment (“I’ve always been lucky that way,” he says) led to all kinds of opportunities, and one photo session usually led to another, bigger opportunity. By 1973 Gruen was John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s personal photographer. He was shooting bands on a regular basis at the now legendary venues in New York, capturing the scenes at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s, and even earlier at “The Kitchen” at the Mercer Arts Center, where Gruen took an interest in a flamboyant outfit called The New York Dolls.

    That period is part of a well-known music history now, but in 1976 it was a brand new idea to haunt the smoky clubs until the wee hours for shots of The Ramones, Blondie, The Talking Heads, Television, and The Dead Boys—often but not always in the service of scene ‘zines CREEM and Rock Scene. At the same time, Gruen was making real money at the stadium shows, getting shots of Led Zeppelin, The Who, Mick Jagger, or a band that turned out to be Gruen’s cash cow, The Bay City Rollers.

    It was no small thing to be shooting covers for CREEM magazine when KISS, Iggy Pop, The Sex Pistols, and The Clash were just becoming the talk of the towns. It was also no small amount of luck to have huckster Malcolm McLaren doing advance work in England by telling Billy Idol, Joe Strummer, or any punk rocker who would listen that the photographer “was friends with John Lennon,” and could get them on the cover of CREEM or Rock Scene. By the time Gruen was in London, a kind of red carpet had been laid out for him in a rebellious realm where red carpets were held in low regard.

    That kind of rock-and-roll history inevitably led to iconic images: Led Zeppelin posing before their private jumbo jet; Tina Turner swirling in a blur of strobe lights; Sid Vicious shirtless and covered in blood while lamely attempting to play that low-slung bass guitar; John Lennon wearing that sleeveless New York City T-shirt.

    photos: Bob Gruen

     
  3. The 1954 Chrysler Windsor Deluxe Town & Country was available in blue.
    Jesus, was it ever available in blue.
    The chrome in the bumpers and hubcaps, on today’s market, would fetch a sum equal to the GDP of Mauritania (U.S. dollars).

    image: Plan 59

     
  4. Have you seen the stars tonight?
    Would you like to go up for a stroll and keep me company?

    Did you know
    We could go?
    We are free.
    Any place
    You can think of
    We can be.
    Have you seen the stars tonight?

    from “Have You Seen the Stars Tonite?” Paul Kantner and David Crosby

     
  5. Here’s Peggy Lee laying down a track for Walt Disney’s Lady and the Tramp. Now and then the Disney machine was cool in spite of itself, although, after the early 1960s, such a thing was almost unheard of. But all that aside, who doesn’t dig those Siamese cats?

     
  6. RIP Tommy Ramone

    They were losers enjoying, suffering, and capitalizing on a sustained adolescence, crafting a crude but marvelous music embraced by several thousand other losers who knew good rock chords when they heard three of them.

    Remove The Talking Heads from the recording studio, and you get a quartet of art school intellectuals. Give the New York Dolls’ frontman David Johansen a makeover, and you create Buster Poindexter. But take away The Ramones’ guitars and amplifiers, and you have four bona-fide punks. Forget about being there first, The Ramones might be the only true punk band, period.

    Most bands are good for two or three excellent albums; the Ramones made three fine ones, in particular that first gem from 1976. There are 14 songs on The Ramones—a bounty of rock music, one assumes, before learning that few of the songs exceed two minutes; “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement,” at 2:35, is the epic. Each song’s verse-chorus, three-chord structure makes one tune sound much like the others.

    That’s a good thing. Indeed, although there are only three chords, with an occasional fourth, they invariably are the right chords. After all, we don’t continue to chew bubblegum because we think it might taste different the next time.

    Along with providing infectious riffs, their music succinctly conveys the Ramones’ grimly comic adolescent realm, lending alert listeners a punk’s eye view of the world. Side one of The Ramones opens with “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and although the confused imagery of the lyrics (much of which Tommy wrote) makes little sense, whatever is going on certainly sounds like the sort of thing any right-minded teen would want to be involved in.

    That may be the essence of our adolescent years; nothing is required to make sense as long as something is happening.

    A downside of that innate craving appears in “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” which articulates a simple fact that proponents of the war on drugs apparently still fail to grasp: “All the kids wanna sniff some glue. All the kids want something to do.”

    "I wanna …" by the way, was The Ramones’ most frequently occurring lyric trope, employed for it’s goofy charm in most cases, although Tommy Ramone’s best effort, "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend," is a sterling pop number that ought to have been a hit.

    The preoccupations of the glue-sniffing, outcast male adolescent were always the Ramones’ special province: underground comics, street life, mental institutions, violence, freaks, teen romance gone wrong, lobotomies, and Nazis. By intensely focusing—if sometimes only for a minute and 40 seconds—on loneliness, betrayal, boredom, and the troubled psyche, the Ramones more than hinted that the young rebel has a cause. Still, it is often difficult to discern whether the “boys” in this band were bragging or complaining. That each member was pushing thirty-something at the peak of their popularity has nothing to do with it. Their first three albums induced teenagers to revel, not to mention rebel, in their youth.

    The Ramones (at least during the 1970s) also had older listeners wishing they were young again, and legions of pop stars hoping they could rock again. It’s fun to be an angry teenager, but it might be more fun to be a perpetual teenager with a roaring guitar, aka a punk. That may explain why their music sounded so upbeat and thrilling, in spite of the dark preoccupations and sick humor behind it.

    Punk rockers are just teenage outcasts who are going to have their fun or be damned, and if the music sufficiently moves them, the motivations tend to be forgotten. Consider the essential line from the Ramones’ signature track “Blitzkreig Bop” :

    "What they want, I don’t know. They’re all revved up and ready to go”

     
  7. "Fellas, I’m ready to get up and do my plane. I want to get into it, man, you know?”

     
  8. "…she’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl…"

     
  9. Apparently this excellent pharmacy stocks “unusual drugs.” “Most unusual drugs,” as a matter of fact. After that, the free mermaid show is just gravy.

     
  10. Always keep one of these charts poking out from the open pocket of your over-the-shoulder bag while making your way through airport security. The looks on their faces, should your bag be selected for additional scrutiny, is worth whatever you paid for that window seat.