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George Carlin has passed away, expired (like a magazine subscription). It happened in the hospital so they called it a terminal episode. The insurance company will refer to it as negative patient care outcome. FUCK, he’s dead.

I admire(d) George Carlin so much, although I do not share his style, particularly his enthusiastic use of shocking language (even as it became more banal than shocking), but if there’s any time to say OH SHIT, this is it. I’ve written about him before.

The thing that was most notable to me when I saw him perform live last September (‘perform live’ – he’d point out both the redundancy and irony in that) was how he had backed away from the Angry Old Man personna in recent years to a more philosophical – the world is screwed but I’m getting through my own life pretty good so fuck ’em – attitude. Note the evolution in this set of pictures.

My defining “Carlin Moment” was when I was in college and Saturday Night Live debuted with him as it’s first Guest Host. He did a few separate monologue bits, including his comparison of Football and Baseball, a bit that included Airport Security, Weird Bacon and Are They Dead Yet?, another that went from Blue Food to Jumbo Shrimp and one of his earliest zings on Religion.

Oddly, the one thing that inspired me the most was his few words on Oxymorons: “The term Jumbo Shrimp has always amazed me. JUMBO shrimp. What is a Jumbo Shrimp? I mean, it’s like Military Intelligence – the words don’t go together, man.” It inspired me to start collecting Oxymorons – I didn’t even know the word, Carlin didn’t use it yet, I just called them Paradoxes – by 1983 I had a list of nearly 500 that I kept tacked to my cublicle wall. In 1999, I fleshed out the list to over 2,000 so I could publish on the Web “2000 Oxymorons for the Year 2000: The OXY2K”. I REALLY apologize for the self-link, the eye-bleeding design of the list and misspelling Millennium. In George’s honor, I should fix that.

But then, it just proved to me that there was more to his skillful use of language than just Seven Words… In retrospect, the Religion bit was also food for thought that took hold much more subtly, hung around my self-conscious and made it really easy to accept that one of my future in-laws, a librarian, had founded an organization for “Evangelical Agnostics”.

I wasn’t all that upset when Bill Hicks died, because Carlin, IMO, did it better and was still around. Now that he’s gone, Lewis Black and Patton Oswalt and all the other comics I can’t remember off the top of my head who are following in George’s footsteps have so much more work to do.

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