The Court Jesters Speak the Truth


So, when did Penn and Teller become more than just magicians? It is truly remarkable how these individuals have parlayed their irreverent act showing how magic tricks are done into a career of examining the fundamentals of bullshit, be it magical, political or any other.

You need to look at this video, which I warn you is thirty minutes long and contains a lot of adult language, but is an absolutely fascinating takedown of the incompetence that is surrounding the redevelopment of the Ground Zero site and the 9-11 memorial. They do not hold their fire for anybody.

As someone who has an interest in architecture, the moment that got me in this video is the laughable process involved in designing the Freedom Tower, and the final design which renders it “bombproof” (they should have lingered on that shot; the first ten or so floors of this glass tower are going to be the epitome of Soviet chic). As an urban planner, I couldn’t help but groan at seeing how the process got out of control. History shows that you ignore the public at your peril, even though planners are far too prone to forget that.

This show is about as far away from Penn and Teller’s magical act that they could go, and they are remarkably good at it, even while retaining their character personas. I am reminded of the court jester in King Lear who was the one individual after Cordelia to tell Lear to his face that he was acting like an idiot, except that Penn and Teller aren’t being nearly as nuanced. So, I have to ask: where can I find some more of their remarkable show?

Many, many thanks to Ghost of a Flea for this link, who has his own observation:

This is all important stuff. But the observation that will stick with me from Penn and Teller is simple: After disaster, people keep doing what they do. Just more so. Except in the case of these two comedians, apparently. Why it should take them to sum up the mess in Lower Manhattan is beyond me but this is a far better example of “speaking truth to power” than most.

I don’t know why Governor Pataki thinks he has a shot at the 2008 Republican nomination; if Guiliani runs, the nomination is his in a cakewalk, even though crisis management is not leadership.

A Bit of Guerilla Marketing

My publicist at Dundurn, Dan Wagstaff, is also an artist, and he put his skills to work on a marketing idea that I find to be quite charming.

In his words:

The idea behind it is that Rosemary is lost and her family have put up “missing” posters. I need to edit the text because it is too small, and I think I need to add some more useful information (isbn etc), but I think it looks pretty good. I thought you could make it available for download from the website and we can leave them in bookstores and libraries etc. Take a look and tell me what you think — I would value your input. I hope you like the sketch of Rosemary…

I do. It’s not exactly how I picture her, but I’m intentionally vague on her description because I find that what the readers fill in for themselves is more effective than any concrete description I can supply. You can see a jpeg of the poster here (here’s a PDF version of this poster) and you can see a two-page pdf flyer here. I think the idea is absolutely charming!

If you would like to print some of these out and leave them at bookstores and libraries, please feel free to do so. Just don’t violate any littering or postering bylaws on my account, okay?

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