FIRESIGN THEATRE’S FIRST FOUR ALBUMS make up a small body of work that stand as some sort of achievement in recording. They combined various forms of humor (from the lamest puns and sophomoric in-jokes to the subtlest of witticisms and allusions that take many, many listenings to appreciate) with political, social, and cultural satire.
Along the way, they created several gems that have use outside of their alternative reality, such as Fudd’s First Law of Opposition.
But the albums were equally remarkable as technological achievements: the alternative reality in which each took place was created by production and engineering feats never duplicated. And each reality was easily entered by any listener!
Fudd’s First Law of Opposition: If you push something hard enough, it will fall over.
Perhaps what really set their work apart was their ability to bring to bear what might be called Sixties Psychedelic Foolishness: a combination of the humorous insight into the world—and especially’s man’s antics in that world—that is part and parcel of the complete psychedelic experience. With a nod to the role of the Fool in Tarot cards. But that’s another story!
Their 1971 album I THINK WE’RE ALL BOZOS ON THIS BUS is their most overtly science fiction-based album (it takes place in a Bizarro-like future) political album (a computerized Nixon is part of the alternative reality)
In this work we are introduced to a scientific principle that our teachers forgot to teach us but is profound, basic, and immediately understood. It is Fudd’s First Law of Opposition:
“If you push something hard enough, it will fall over.” 1
On their fourth album (Columbia C-30737), Firesign Theatre take on the age-old conundrum of ‘What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?’ With Fudd’s Law, they come down squarely on the side of the irresistible force. 2
Broken windows theory
Fudd’s First law was brought to mind when I read “What Rudy Giuliani Did For New York Would Make America More Unsafe” by Terrance Heath (Campaign for America’s Future on July 19, 2016). The article notes Giuliani’s statements (bragging, actually) at the Republican National Convention (July 18, 2016) and applies it to the ongoing War on Crime being carried on by police departments around the country. 3
Regarding the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy implemented under Giulianii, Heath noted, “Out of four million stop-and-frisk searches in ten years, only one in ten resulted in criminal charges.”
While there it is likely that a few serious bad guys were found this way, the system is 90% inefficient. Most of us would consider a success rate of 10% to be an abysmal failure.
Hell’s Belles, even in baseball—where you can make millions of dollars a year while failing to get a hit in 75% of your at-bats—a .100 batting average is so far below the Mendoza Line as to be more pitied than laughed at. In the most practical terms, stop-and-frisk is a waste of taxpayer’s money.
“During that era, it was difficult to find black or Latino young men who hadn’t been stopped multiple times under the policy, the same way that Philando Castile was pulled over more than 49 times for minor infractions over thirteen years—an average of once every three months!—before he was shot and killed by a police officer.” (Heath)
Reread that paragraph of Mr. Heath’s and imagine a world in which every time you got behind the wheel of a car you risked being pulled over by an armed officer for any or reason at all.
Eventually, the odds catch up with you. Which leads me to creating Philando’s First Law of Resistance: If you’re pulled over often enough, they will find a reason to shoot you.
FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is a publicity photo taken by Columbia Records in 1971. It was apparently a part of the promotional campaign for I THINK WE’RE ALL BOZOS ON THIS BUS. I cropped and darkened the photo to make it a more effective backdrop for the white print of this article’s title. From left: Peter Bergman, Phil Austin, David Ossman. and Philip Proctor.
1 Proposed by Sir Sydney Fudd after accidentally knocking his wife down a flight of stairs. (Everything)
2 This question apparently has several informal names, including the ‘irresistible force paradox’ and the ‘unstoppable force paradox.’ According to Wikipedia, it’s also known as the religion-challenging ‘omnipotence paradox’: “Can God create a stone so heavy that even God is not strong enough to lift it?”
3 More a War on Blacks than anything else …
If you have nothing to do for the next forty minutes, click the arrow and sit back: “Wait a minute. Rolling, take 1 …”