FiresignTheater old truck 1500

philando’s first law of resistance

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.

 


FOOTNOTES:

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 …

 

The Fire­sign The­ater - I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus (1971) (Com­plete Album)

If you have nothing to do for the next forty min­utes, click the arrow and sit back: “Wait a minute. Rolling, take 1 …”

 

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“Aw, she’s no fun. She fell right over.”