I START THE DAY with my usual mug of coffee and while there’s usually too much on my mind, today it’s simple: I can’t get the song “Australia” from the Kinks’ album ARTHUR out of my mind. My head bobs up and down and my body sways to the rhythm and melody and the delightful if goofy lyrics as the song goes ’round my head.
I hop into the car to run some errands, turn on the radio and fiddle with the dial. Amazingly, I find a station playing a program of ’60s rock and keep the station tuned in. And, lo and behold, the second song they play is Victoria, also from the Kink’s ARTHUR album. 1
And I think to myself, “Now ain’t that a coincidence?”
And ain’t that a phrase we’ve all heard before?
And often it ain’t even a question, but a statement or an exclamation.
And it’s often used incorrectly: many people say coincidence when they mean serendipitous.
For my money, ARTHUR is the Kinks’ masterpiece and arguably the best album of 1969, a year chockablock full of great albums!
A remarkable concurrence
Merriam-Webster defines coincidence as an “occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection.” Wikipedia, of course, gives a lengthier explanation:
“A coincidence is a remarkable concurrence [or simultaneous occurrence] of events or circumstances that have no apparent causal connection with one another. The perception of remarkable coincidences may lead to supernatural, occult, or paranormal claims.
Or it may lead to belief in fatalism, which is a doctrine that events will happen in the exact manner of a predetermined plan. From a statistical perspective, coincidences are inevitable and often less remarkable than they may appear intuitively.”
As Wiki points out, many coincidences are far more statistically probable then the events involved would seem, especially to those unfamiliar with probability. Consequently, “mere” coincidences—and each day is filled with them if one takes the time to notice—are often attributed to causes outside the realm of the explainable or even believable—that is, to supernatural or paranormal sources.
The two fingers behind Natalie’s back indicates that this is the second in a line movie in the new Charlie’s Angels franchise, the third due in 2019.
Merriam-Webster defines serendipity as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.” Similarly, Wikipedia calls it “an unplanned, fortuitous discovery.”
The word has a delightful origin: apparently Horace Walpole coined it in 1754 to explain his unexpectedly finding something:
“I once read a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their Highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.”
Referring to serendipitous events, Isaac Asimov observed that “The most exciting phrase to hear in science—the one that heralds new discoveries—is not Eureka! but That’s funny.”
A serendipitous occurrence is not the same as a coincidence.
One of these dudes is a bodhisattva-wannabe surfer who thinks he’s hot stuff, one is a rookie FBI agent who thinks he’s hot stuff, and three are bank-robbers who think they’re hot stuff. Guess who’s who!
There ain’t no coincidences
In an article titled “There Are No Coincidences” on the Psychology Today site, Dr. Bernard D. Beitman points to several belief systems/patterns and how they interpret coincidences:
“Many believe that Fate or Mystery, or the Universe or God causes coincidences. Their faith in something Greater provides them with a cause. Since God causes them, the cause is known. Therefore, there are no coincidences.
Statistically-oriented people believe that . . . in large populations any weird event is likely to happen. This is a long way of saying that coincidences are mostly random. Because statisticians know that randomness explains them, coincidences are nothing but strange yet expectable events that we remember because they are surprising to us.
Those who believe in Mystery are more likely to believe that coincidences contain messages for them personally. . . . Some of those in the random camp can find some coincidences personally compelling and useful.
Coincidences are real.
Saying that there are no coincidences stops inquiry.”
To which I say Bravo!
There were many articles I could have selected to use as an authoritative source here, but I chose the good doctor because he includes in his observations:
“Mystery plays a role because our minds cannot grasp the multiple stirrings hidden behind the veil of our ignorance. Here lies some of the beauty in the study of coincidences. They make us wonder.”
To which I say Amen.
Mr. Zogs went all out with the double-entendre: “Quick Humps,” “Extra Soft,” “Cold To Cool,” and “Best For Your Stick” make the product sound like something every home-porn producer should have on hand.
Sex wax and ex-presidents
Two nights ago, we watched a couple of movies back-to-back, starting with Point Break (1991) that stars Keanu Reeves as a fledging FBI agent assigned to an older agent (Gary Busey) to investigate a series of bank robberies by the Ex-Presidents, a quartet wearing rubber masks of Jonson, Nixon, Carter, and Reagan. I’d pulled it from the library at someone’s recommendation. 2
The two FBI agents determine that the bank robbers are surfers and Reeves goes undercover as a novice surfer, where he finds the bad guys, led by Patrick Swayze.
And how did the agents come up with the theory of surfers as robbers? Because a small amount of Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax (“the best for your stick”) was found at the scene of the last heist.
I tried surfing once, back in 1973. The dude who let me on his board used Sex Wax then, when it was still new. I don’t think I’d heard the term used since. 3
Since I’d picked the first movie, Berni chose the second: Charlie’s Angels – Full Throttle (2003) stars Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu as the current incarnation of the plucky threesome, with Demi Moore as a former angel. They too have a crime to solve, a murder, and they too decide the bad guy is a surfer.
How? The perpetrator left behind a credit card that was used to break into the victim’s home. On the card was a taste of pineapple Sex Wax!
Whoa! I hadn’t heard of Sex Wax in years and here I was hearing it twice, in one night, in back-to-back movies.
And, like one of Dr. Beitman’s statistically-oriented people, I thought, “Ain’t that a coincidence!”
The design of this poster makes it look like the movie should be some sort of pseudo-psychedelic pseudo-documentary from the ’70s.
Dodson and Dodson
Last night, we had two more movies to watch: the first one was Kill The Messenger (2104). Starring Gary Renner and Rosemarie DeWitt, it’s the story of journalist Gary Webb’s investigation into the source of the explosion crack cocaine in the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles. His research leads him to believe the CIA was aware if not active in transporting the coke from Central America into the States.
One of Webb’s first obstacles to overcome is federal prosecutor Russell Dodson, who appears to be in the know on the CIA’s involvement and doing his best to keep others in the dark.
Good movie but we may never know exactly what the CIA knew: merely observers, merely complicit, or directing the whole thing, including Webb’s death.
That movie was my selection for the evening. Berni followed with one of her faves, Constantine (2005), this time with Keanu Reeves playing a cynical wiseacre who battles half-breed demons from Hell trying to establish a beachhead on Earth. I had tried to watch this movie before, but always had a difficult time with its over-the-top, comic-book plot and feel and with Reeves, an actor who I have long suspected of lacking much talent. 4
Then Rachel Weisz showed up as a cop—Detective Angela Dodson.
Two Dodsons in two movies in one night after two Sex Waxes in two movies the night before.
And like one of those examples of Dr. Beitman’s non-statistically-oriented who believe in mystery and that coincidences contain messages, I thought, “Does this mean something? Is the Universe trying to tell me something?”
And then I reverted to type and thought, “Ain’t that a coincidence!”
I selected this German poster because it was graphically much more interesting than the American poster.
I’m a not always a believer
If you engaged me in conversation or argument, you might hear me say, “I don’t believe in coincidences,” but that’s when one such contrivance is used as the basis for an argument for something that otherwise appears to be rather improbable without the contrivance.
But let’s leave that for another time.
FEATURED IMAGE: A rather self-consciously ‘look-who-tough-we-look’ photo to promote the Charlie’s Angels movies, with Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz, and Drew Barrymore. In their entry on this movie, Wikipedia dubs them a “captivating crime-fighting trio,”apparently without irony. Easily dismissed as so much fluff—especially if you grew up with the original and dismissed it as so much fluff—the two recent movies so far are cheekily enjoyable, well, fluff.
Finally, and I hope obviously, all the quotes in large, grey typeface are lyrics from the song Australia, written by Raymond Douglas Davies. All the songs for the album ARTHUR—whose parenthetic sub-title is “The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire”—were written as the soundtrack to a 1969 British television special that was never produced.
1 Victoria spent eight weeks on the Cash Box Top 100, peaking at #54 (pooping out at #62 on the Billboard Hot 100). While this would have been a horrendous placing for the group during the two years of the British Invasion (1964-1965), it was, in fact, the first side they had placed on Billboard’s survey in more than three years!
2 In a completely unrelated conversation this past Saturday, Mr Reeves’s name came up: my coffeemate Jon pronounced it ‘kee-noo’ and I said, “Hm, I always say ‘kee-an-noo’,” with the second syllable being hard. So we looked it up and it’s ‘kee-ah-noo,’ with the second syllable being soft
3 It was at the Jersey shore. I was just hanging out, watching. A guy I’d never met tried to teach me. I kept falling off. Fortunately, my instructor made sure that I kept hitting water when I landed.
4 If it matters, despite his continued presence in films and popularity with many film-goers, I wasn’t convinced that Mr Reeves was more than just another pretty face until he popped up completely out of character as a charming—and very enlightened—doctor in Something’s Gotta Give. As I watched him hold his own in the presence of Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, and Frances McDormand, I thought, “Who’d a thunk . . .”