Friday, March 20, 2009

Tesla, Dead Dogs, Mike Daisey, and a Boardwalk-Park Place Sweep

Sometimes there are hidden advantages to living in a town where Nikola Tesla performed the bulk of his research - cameo movie appearances, strange cultists on street corners (who left after the local Tesla museum went bankrupt), and now, an appearance by storyteller Mike Daisey. Daisey is a former Microsoft exec and connector of arcane theories that entances everyone who sees him. His new piece, Monopoly!, covers the secret history of the board game, Tesla's work on large-scale electromagnetic fields, and the history of the Tesla-Edison fights that led to far too much animal abuse. Just got a ticket to see Daisey's extemporaneous rambling next Friday.

I've always appreciated storytellers more than standup comics. In the late 1980s, I saw Spalding Gray give a live performance of The Terrors of Pleasure, then saw the movie version of Swimming to Cambodia. Solo monologists can mix humor and terror in a way few standups can, while comic theater groups like Firesign Theatre can reach depths of story-telling only approached by traditionalist theatre venues.

Gray's live monologue explained the Reagan era I had just lived through, in some eerie and intuitive way. When he committed suicide in 2004, I wore my little Spalding Gray button for days on end. I get the feeling that Daisey's piece on Tesla and Disney and Monopoly will connect the dots in a way only approached by Clarissa Explains It All or One Great Big Conspiracy.

A Daisey user's guide to the 21st century would be useful right about now. Market cornering of the Broadway Park Place blue does not seem to do much good in these days of AIG givebacks, but neither does owning all the utilities. Should I follow the advice of Stephen Colbert and Jeanne Moos and bring out the pitchforks and torches? It certainly would feel good to pillory a bunch of big shots. On the other hand, that might be as useless as killing dogs (or elephants) on stage to prove the relative safety of alternating or direct current. Maybe Mike can speak to the role of vengeance, nationalization, capitalist monopolies, and unseen global electromagnetic fields.

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