Six Things I Learned From Jerry Seinfeld’s Reddit AMA

The night I ended my year long run at the greatest sitcom of all time, I scoured the internet like a jaded old man for anything that could make me feel like I was watching a new episode. This led me, of course, to the Seinfeld subreddit where I ran into an informative “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) Jerry Seinfeld did back in January. Some questions had to do with Jerry’s personal life or Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, but the bulk of them were about Seinfeld. In keeping with the internet’s affinity for numbered lists, I’d like to offer six things I learned from Jerry’s AMA.

1. Jerry as comedian but straight man to his friends absurdity is genius

Jerry as the straight man

Jerry may not always function as a typical straight man, but his antics are often tempered in comparison to his three closest friends. A man who makes people laugh for a living but takes a back seat to his friend’s comedy is not only ironic, it’s brilliant. This seems like an obvious obvious thing looking back, yet, as Jerry said, “Very few people have every remarked on this,” and I was not able to articulate it until I read this. My friend often describes Jerry as “the glue that holds the show together.” This is true in many respects but especially from the standpoint of comedy.

2. Seinfeld was not a “show about nothing.” 

“…The show about nothing was just a joke in an episode many years later, and Larry and I to this day are surprised that it caught on as a way that people describe the show because to us it’s the opposite of that.”

show about nothingWhenever I told someone I was watching Seinfeld straight through, it was not uncommon for them to mention it being a “show about nothing.” I didn’t understand why until I reached season four when Jerry and George decide to pitch “Jerry,” their “show about nothing” to NBC. At first I thought they were responding to criticism about the show. When I learned that wasn’t true, I struggled to apply that phrase to Seinfeld as it seemed so many people had. At the bare minimum, we have to admit that something happens in each episode, and while there may not always be much of a plot, there is certainly substance. Most of this substance has to do with hilarity of relationships and social customs. Although they are often stretched into a caricature, we can all resonate with, for example, interacting with a low talker or close talker. I propose that from now on we make it a goal to refer to Seinfeld as “a show about something.”

(Just to be clear, this is what Seinfeld would look like if it was about nothing:)

3. Kramer’s “look away, I’m hideous” scene was funniest to Jerry in the moment

“…if you think Kramer is funny on TV, imagine his real face six inches from your nose, how funny that is. You can’t imagine. It’s impossible not to laugh. So I would.”

Jerry laughingJerry often attempts to bottle up his laughter, but the resulting grins aren’t fooling anybody. It seems he had a particularly difficult time with Kramer’s “look away, I’m hideous” scene. Watch the outtakes, and then the full scene, where Jerry half snickers the whole time and turns away from the camera to conceal his laughter at the end:

4. Jerry was happy with the finale

finale

I was glad to read that Jerry was happy with the finale, and I more or less agree with him. The only other way I could think to end it would be for Jerry to close the door to his apartment after all the characters walked out. I had no issue with the ending as they did and thought it was great that so many of the supporting characters got to come back for the finale. I also enjoyed Jerry and George repeating the opening dialog from the first episode.

5. Newman was Jerry’s favorite supporting character 

Newman arch enemy

It doesn’t bother me that the show never explains why Jerry and Newman are at odds or his often villainous demeanor for that matter. I never thought of Newman as Jerry’s arch enemy, but I love that he celebrates that.

6. Superman is not in every episode.

superman

We can officially catalog this as urban legend and all stop talking about it.

 

Hold the 90s! An Urgent Plea on Behalf of Those in Northern Iraq

Yazidis flee from ISIS toward the Syrian border. Image via Al Jazeera

              Yazidis flee from ISIS toward the Syrian border. Image via Al Jazeera

It has been difficult for me to blog over the past six weeks. Aside from spending some time in the northern Michigan woods and attending my sister’s wedding, I have been closely following the situation in Israel and Gaza since three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed two months ago. So far 1,960 Gazans have been killed and nearly 10,000 wounded. 67 Israelis have been killed by Hamas (3 civilians, 64 soldiers). These statistics do not take into account the three Israelis who were kidnapped and killed, the Palestinian who was burned alive in what appears to be a revenge killing by Ultra Orthodox Jews, and those killed by IDF forces in the West Bank. I lived in Jerusalem for a year, during which time I  traveled all over the country and the West Bank. I would have loved to make it to Gaza, but it is difficult to get in without special permission. My heart is in that Land its people, and I have friends on both sides of the wall. The fighting died down recently with two 72 hour ceasefires, but apparently neither side was able to come to an agreement. As I understand it, the fighting is set to resume again soon. Rest assured, I understand the situation is far more complicated than just throwing out numbers, but they are nonetheless devastating.

During the lull in Gaza , I started paying closer attention to what was happening in Iraq after seeing some disturbing photos and articles on my Facebook feed. After a few days of heartbreaking research, I began looking for ways to help the religious minorities suffering as a result of ISIS’s campaign of brutality.

Add in my full time job, and needless to say, it has been difficult for me to take my 90s exploration seriously in recent weeks. I do plan on continuing and have some fun things planned (hip hop exploration, 90s Halloween movies, a Festivus celebration, etc.), but when I have an understand of a situation where there is great humanitarian need and I have the platform to raise awareness, support, and money, to help, I feel obligated to take advantage of it. I prepared a Facebook post with all the information in it I could muster about the crimes ISIS is committing and what we can do to help. The bulk of that post is recorded below. I sincerely hope you will read on and take action to help those who are being massacred and displaced by ISIS.

________________________________

Over the past few days, I have been researching the situation in Iraq, trying to learn what has happened and what I can do to help. I want to offer some of that information here. This will not be not the best explanation of the situation or an exhaustive list of things you can do to help, but it is my best attempt. Please read on if you are interested in understanding and contributing to the humanitarian crisis going on in Iraq. If there is any misinformation here, or if you have any additional information that would be helpful, do not hesitate to contact me or comment below.

First of all, what is going on in Iraq?

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, ISIS, or IS for short) has recetly advanced into northern Iraq from Syria, taking over areas of land inhabited by Christians and other religious minority groups (here is a good article that plots the advance on maps for the geographically challenged). IS is a radical Sunni Muslim terrorist group that wants to set up an Islamic State ruled by Sharia Law. They even announced a Caliphate (a successor to Mohammed who rules in religious and military capacity) at the end of June of this year. They used to be an offshoot of al-Qaeda, but IS’s tactics are so savage and barbaric, that al-Qaeda actually broke ties with them (which sounds insane). People are saying we have not seen an evil like this on our planet since Nazi Germany or Genghis Khan. We are talking about mass executions, entire families being shot in the face, crucifixions, rapes, children being cut in half or decapitated, and people being burned alive. One person even cites an instance where IS decapitated children and set their heads on poles inside a park. There is a report of 1,500 people being massacred in a day. This is brutality beyond what we can imagine, and IS does not shy away from boasting about it on social media. It has been called “genocide” by President Obama and religious leaders and a “crime against humanity” by the UN Secretary General.

To learn more about IS, watch this video and read this article. Here’s the Wiki for good measure. Additionally, Vice recently released a five part mini-documentary on ISIS filmed inside Syria and Iraq.

When IS recently took control of Mosul, which is ancient Nineveh and the second largest city in Iraq, they gave an ultimatum to all the city’s Christians: death, conversion, or taxation. IS also marked the homes of Christians with the Arabic letter nun (ن), which stands for Nasrani, or Nazarine (one of two words that means “Christian” in Arabic. The other is Mesiahi, or “Messiahite”). This identified the homes of Iraqi Christians and put them at risk if they did not comply with IS’s demands. Many of them fled for their lives and have become refugees; some converted to stay; others paid the tax and were killed anyway. Many who fled were robbed by IS at checkpoints along the way. IS has recently taken control of Qaraqosh, a largely Christian town in Eastern Iraq, as well , and 50,000 Christians have fled for their lives.

Additionally, IS has destroyed ancient churches in Mosul, including an 1,800 year old building (although this is disputed here) and the traditional tomb of the Prophet Jonah. Other churches have been converted to mosques, and all the crosses were removed from the city. For the first time in 1,600 years, there is no mass being celebrated in Mosul.

Because Western Christians have been accused of suddenly caring about this humanitarian issue in the Middle East only because it involves other Christians, let me also say that IS is massacring and displacing other minority groups in northern Iraq as well, such as Shiite Muslims, Turkmen, Yazidis, and Shabak. I will not explain each group here, but in brief, the difference between Shiite and Sunni Muslims has to do with who each group believed should succeed the Prophet Muhammad (for more, here are a couple vids and an article). As I understand it, IS marked Shiite houses the same way it marked Christian houses and is involved in setting off car bombs in Baghdad, which is a Shiite controlled area.

IS is also targeting Yazidis, an ancient religious group that combines elements of Islam, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism. IS considers the Yazidis infidels. Tens of thousands of Yazidis have fled IS, some into Kurdish areas and others to the top of Mt. Sinjar. Earlier this week, thousands were trapped on Mt. Sinjar without food or water. IS had surrounded base of the mountain, so it was impossible for them to escape without being killed. Here is raw footage of a helicopter rescuing Yazidis there and firsthand accounts of what happened here. In this video, a Yazidi woman in Iraqi Parliament pleads for the government to intervene on behalf of her people. Please watch the whole thing, and listen to the desperation in her voice.

On August 7th President Obama authorized air strikes on IS if they began to advance any further east, as well as humanitarian aid to Yazidis trapped on Mt. Sinjar. Two days later, he gave this update on the operation. Here is a video of the aid drops and air strikes. 20,000 Yazidis made it off Mt. Sinjar Sunday with the help of US air strikes, although it is unclear how many remain there. This report notes that the US sent 130 more military personal to Iraq on Tuesday; Australia has begun humanitarian air drops in Iraq; and France announced today that they will begin arming Kurdish forces in their fight against IS.

All in all, we are talking about hundreds of thousands of people who are affected by IS’s advance in Iraq, and their attack on religious minorities is absolutely horrific.

With all that in mind, what can we do to help?

If you’re anything like me, you feel helpless in the wake of this incredible evil, injustice, and suffering. However, there are a few things we can do to get involved.

(1) Change your profile picture to raise awareness. Many have changed their profile pictures to the Arabic Nun in solidarity with Iraqi Christians who had it painted on their houses to identify them. I have received FB messages asking me what this picture means, and that has given me the chance to explain it to others. If you do change your profile picture, you may also explain why on the picture’s description or post an article that explains it.

Arabic-Nazarene

The Arabic letter “nun,” which IS forces are painting on the houses of Christians to identify them. Many are changing their profile pictures to stand in solidarity with them.

(2) Study. Knowledge is power, and learning more about this crisis can not only help bring better understanding but allow us to help in ways that better aid those who are affected. I would also add that for those of us who are American Evangelical Christians who want to support Iraqi Christians, we need to understand that there are very few Protestant Christians in Iraqi. Instead, the Christians IS is targeting are mostly Arab Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians who have very different traditions and faith practices than we do. Consider visiting Catholic or Orthodox churches in your area to learn more about how they worship and why. I’m currently reading this book which gives a simple and helpful summary of Orthodox Theology. Also, we need to be careful of the way we speak about these Christians when this crisis subsides. They are always our brothers and sisters in Christ, whether they are persecuted or not and regardless of how different their faith may appear to us.

(3) Give. I found a number of humanitarian organizations that are doing good work on the ground in Iraq, and I want to highlight a few:

First, there is The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, founded by Canon Andrew White, who is known as “The Vicar of Baghdad.” From what I have learned about Andrew, he is quite an amazing man. He has been in Baghdad for 15 years and refuses to leave the country although he lives under lock down in his church (the only Anglican Church in Iraq) and visits his congregation only when guarded by heavy security. The church runs a clinic that happily serves anyone of any faith or ethnic background. He is also involved in the reconciliation of Sunni and Shiite Muslims, which is an incredible thing. He has appeared on major news outlets and updates regularly on Facebook and Twitter. If all this wasn’t enough, he is battling MS and walks with the help of a cane at 49. Here is a three part video on him.

I would highly recommend giving to his Foundation. You can do so via paypall here.

Second, there is adoptarefugeefamily.org, which works with the Jesuits to aid refugees. You can adopt a family and give once a month support or give a one time donation via paypall to support relief efforts in Mosul here (click on “Donate to Mosul Relief” in the upper right hand corner).

Third, you can help Iraqi Christian refugees by giving to Open Doors, an organization that serves persecuted Christians around the world.

Here are a few more I found: Aid to the Church in Need, Persecution, and Christian Aid.

Here is a Reddit thread that discusses ways to help Christians targeted by IS.

Of course, you can always give through Red Cross or other well known NGOs but I wanted to at least list a few others that may be helpful as well. I apologize that I did not have time to investigate each one as much as I would have liked, so I recommend doing your own research before giving. However, I hope you will give. For us city folk, it would be very easy to forego a few cocktails this weekend and give that money to those who so desperately need it. Others will be able to give more, but we can all give something. Even a little bit helps.

(4) For those who are so inclined, you may sign this petition that urges President Obama to expand humanitarian aid, increase air strikes against ISIS and arm Kurds, Sunni tribesmen, and others fighting ISIS on the ground.

(5) If you are a person of faith, spend time in prayer not only to bring requests on behalf of those suffering but also to increase your own solidarity with them.

(6) Share this post, not because I think it’s the best explanation of this crisis or most exhaustive list of ways to help, but because it will bring awareness and perhaps start conversations that can save lives.

(7) Leverage your social media platforms. Some of you reading this are also bloggers or have a large number of followers on social media platforms. Consider writing something about this issue or sharing an article that explains it. Posting links to charities is also helpful. Even a short blog post, tweet, or an Instagram can make a difference. I understand this may not be what your target audience expects to read, but this issue is more important than web traffic.

Thank you for reading this! I hope it is helpful and inspires you to look for ways you can aid those who have been so horrifically affected by IS. Again, if you see a factual error, have any helpful information, or know more ways people can get involved to help, do not hesitate to contact me or comment below. I’m not an expert on any of this, just a dude with a computer.

Chandler ن

Tuesday “News:” 90s Media I Discovered Last Week

Well, I had quite a week of 90s exploration:

1. Independence Day

For all my 90s naïveté, Independence Day is one movie I have loved since childhood and watched almost every July 4th. This year I was fortunate to join the company of two friends who had never seen it before, making the experience all the better. I was glad to see Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum save the planet from aliens again this year:

HT: Seth Putnam, Katie Stipanovich, Anthony Flora

2. The End of Seinfeld

As the credits for Independence Day began to roll, my friends and I discussed what we should do before it was dark enough for fireworks. Somehow we all decided that I must finish Seinfeld. Soon we had plowed through the remaining three episodes, and my year-long run at the greatest sitcom of all time had ended. It was bitter-sweet, the satisfaction of taking a big step toward catching up with my generation but knowing I could never watch a new episode again. In many ways, Seinfeld was the backbone of my 90s exploration, and I don’t think anything else can replace it.

The Seinfeld crew during the final days of shooting. Via huffpostTV.

        The Seinfeld crew during the final days of shooting. Via HuffpostTV.

As for the finale, I’ve heard a lot of people who were disappointed by it. In my ideal ending, the gang walks out of Jerry’s apartment to go see him perform, and he closes the door behind them. The screen fades to black, and a final scene shows a few of his jokes. However, I took no issue with how the finale actually played out. I enjoyed seeing all the minor characters give testimony in court which served something of a tribute to their work in the show.

The last lines of the show are a reference back to its first dialog. During the final scene, Jerry looks across the jail cell to George and makes a comment about the buttons on his shirt. I thought it seemed awkward but must refer to something:

Jerry: See, now, to me that button is in the worst possible spot.

George: Really?

Jerry: Oh yea! The second button is the key button. It literally makes or breaks the shirt. Look at it. It’s too high. It’s in no man’s land.

George: Haven’t we had this conversation before?

Jerry: You think?

George: I think we have.

Jerry: Yea, maybe we have.

Jerry repeats the first line of the show almost word for word, bringing it to an end where it began:

3. National Geographic’s 90s Special

On Sunday night, National Geographic aired the first of the three part special called: The 90s: The Last Great Decade? The first episode, Great Expectations, begins with America’s involvement in the Gulf War and discusses how it, along with public obsession over celebrities like Anna Nicole Smith, and televised trials (Lorena Bobbitt/Jeffery Dahmer/Clarence Thomas) laid the groundwork for reality TV shows like The Real World. The episode also chronicled socio-political events like Bill Clinton’s rise to the presidency and the bombing of the World Trade Center, as well as Microsoft and the beginning of the internet.

“Great Expectations” covered a fair amount of pop culture from Vanilla Ice (who’s hit “Ice Ice Baby” was originally a B-side) to Rosanne. Ironically, during a segment on Nirvana, the special doesn’t play any of their music (perhaps they didn’t get the rights). While the narrator discusses “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” some unknown riff of power chords plays in the background without vocals. It was almost hilarious. Despite that fact, I thought the special was informative and well done, and I plan on watching the last two episodes before the end of the week.

Here are the videos for episodes two (“Friends and Enemies”) and three (“Politically Incorrect”) which aired Monday and Tuesday respectfully. View episode one above.

HT: Adria Lambert

4. Matthew Perry & Jennifer Aniston’s Windows 95 Instructional Video

First of all, stop for a minute and appreciate that this exists: Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston star in a bizarre sitcomish attempt at an instructional video for Windows 95. Their Microsoft adventure lasts for the first half hour before the video dips into more formal instructions for using the new software which you can safely ignore.

The video features the following gems from Jennifer:

“Look Matty, I’m computing!” 

“Taskbar? Is that anything like a Snickers bar? Does that have nougat?” 

“So you mean I can plug and play every printer in the world?” 

“Would you like a side of bacon with the egg on your face?”

And this dialog:

J: “We don’t have any CD’s or flappies.”

M: “I believe those are called floppies.”

J: “That’s what I said.”

M: “No, no, you said flappies.”

J: “I did not!”

But seriously, Windows 95 was revolutionary. Here are some of its new features we now take for granted:

-Creating file names larger than 8.3 characters.
-Plug and play installation for devices.
-Right clicking for “power user features.”
-Drag and drop file moving.
-Loading items onto the taskbar.

Do yourself a favor and carve out a half hour for this 90s gold: