Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Philosophical Problems, Dark Matter, and Impersonation

Three more today.

pm asks,

Are there any genuinely philosophical problems? If so, what are they?
Sure there are. The first two that come to mind is, "Are there any genuinely philosophical questions?" and "If so, what are they?" Others include meta-ethical concerns, questions about the interpretation of physical theories, the nature of justice and beauty, and unpacking presuppositions beneath all our beliefs. Also, what exactly is they pay me for? Still not sure about that one.

Philo asks,
What do you think dark matter will turn out to be?
The idea here is that with the exception of astronomical objects very close by, the only things we can see are those that glow and they tend to be big and heavy. But we know from the way the universe is behaving that there has to be a whole bunch of stuff out there, stuff we can't see, but know from its gravitational effects must be there. The question is what is it?

The answer of course, is heck if I know, but my guess is that it will end up either being very boring or very exciting. It will either simply be dust, light molecules floating around or something that we never envisioned that makes up most of the universe and forces us to radically revise our image of reality.

R.A. Porter asks,
Is there no way to do impersonations of politicians with "standard" midwest/newsreader American accents in an interesting and funny way? Or is it just that the writers and performers on SNL lack the creativity needed to make Obama, McCain, or Biden funny? Is a distinctive voice, accent, or speaking style necessary for a truly funny impersonation?
Impersonations have three parts: the voice, the body, and the script. Impersonations are living caricatures, you need to take mannerisms, phrasings, cadence, accent, something notable that identifies the person and blow it up or at least bring it out and model it well. If one is vanilla enough that there are not the things to focus upon, to make the viewer say to him/herself, "Oh my God, that is so him/her," then you've got to do it with the jokes.

That said, SNL is a different case. Good impressions of these folks could be done, but I think that if you look at the way young comics come up there is much less focus on impersonations. It's always been a specialty, but most comedians did some impression work. My sense is that this is not a skill that many young comedians now need to develop and so when you get an ensemble of young talent, you will have performers with a lot of talent, but less in the impression category.