Thursday, March 4, 2010

Casey's Razor

My co-workers and I had a lengthy discussion about How High. For those who never saw it or never cared to, this 2001 comedy starring Method Man and Redman is a modern classic and will go down in history as a central pillar of modern thought. There's an outside chance it may ultimately become the philosophical foundation of some glorious futuristic utopia, like the music of Wyld Stallyns. Method and Red have a lot to teach us, though they never really got around to those lessons in their short-lived Fox series Method and Red. Maybe they didn't have enough time. Method and Red have a lot to teach us, but "Method and Red" has nothing to teach us. See? Conjugation is important. And that's a lesson.

The discussion at work centered around the film's intellectual honesty. My argument? In some movies (Fight Club, Memento, Horton Hears a Who) you'll notice some glaring plot holes and inconsistencies--things that just aren't ever explained. Everything in How High is explained, and this is a movie with some pretty surreal moments. But like I said, there's a twisted logic behind everything. The premise of the movie is that Method Man's dead friend Ivory appears as a ghost and helps him cheat on his college exams (the venerable Testing for Higher Credentials exam, or THC) and get into Harvard. Pretty absurd, right? WRONG. See, Method Man used his dead friend's ashes as a fertilizer for growing marijuana plants. He then smoked the weed, and his friend appeared! As Ivory himself says, "This is what happens when you smoke your boy!" So there you go. It's not silly. It's just what happens when you smoke your boy.

In another scene, Redman's character rows in a double skull against Yale. During the race, an image of his mother appears in the sky and berates him for his lifestyle, achievements and weed smoking. At first blush, this is silly. You don't hallucinate on marijuana. Is Redman's conscience getting to him? That would be out of character! The answer is actually very simple: spectators on the river banks can be heard exclaiming things like "Who's that giant woman in the sky?" "She's huge!" This is not a hallucination or an aspect of Redman's conscience. Her image is actually there, up in the sky yelling at her wayward son. It's just that simple.

The brilliance of this logical construction really affected me. This movie has been a huge part of my life for so long, yet I never appreciated the simple beauty of its logic. At first I wanted to dub it an extension of Occam's Razor: the principle that states, essentially, that the best answer to a question is the simplest. Whichever explanation involves the fewest actors and conditions is most likely correct; or should be assumed so. But that's not enough, because the conventional rules of logic don't always apply in the philosophical pressure cooker that is How High. I needed a modified principle, and after some thought I hit upon it: Casey's Razor.

Mark Casey was a guy I knew back in high school. He was one of the dumbest people on the planet. He sat behind me in junior-year Chemistry, and cheated off me for nearly every exam. How'd he pull this off? I helped him. I wrote what answers I could on a slip of scrap paper and handed them back. Why did I do this? Because he might have been the dumbest motherfucker alive. I think I mentioned that. This fellow pulled nothing but Ds in Chemistry, and that was after I started giving him the answers. For reference, I was getting As with those same answers. What would have happened had I turned down his requests for help? Would his grade have been expressed as a negative number? I felt so bad for the guy that I agreed to help him.

So along we went, one exam after another, all the illicit help in the world just barely enough to push him up to a D (it's a passing grade!) It was mystifying and honestly kind of impressive: Mark Casey exhibited such monumental stupidity that it actually altered the rules by which our universe functioned. In retrospect, it's a good thing we weren't in Physics together because he may have just defied gravity and floated away. It was as though some kind of singularity had formed in his uniquely dense grey matter, and the space-time around him was permanently altered. See the diagram at right, illustrating Mark Casey's impact on general relativity.

Casey's Razor states, fundamentally, that in a dilemma the stupidest answer tends to be the correct one. It is a highly useful axiom in situations where large amounts of ambient dumbassery are found. How did Redman see his mother in the sky? She was actually there! I bet everyone could see her! BAM. How did the ghost of Ivory appear to propel Silas and Jamal (Method and Red, respectively) into the highest echelons of academia? That's just what happens when you smoke your boy. And how did Mark Casey manage to fail Chemistry exams despite receiving the answers to the questions? Because he's just that fuckin' dumb. It's almost beautiful in its simplicity.

To what other facets of life can this principle be applied, besides this one movie that I love for no good reason? Hold on, let me take a step back: that is a lie. There are dozens of reasons to love the movie, all of them writ large in gold script like the tablets Joseph Smith received from the Methanol Angel in the woods of frontier America.

We'll start again. How else can this principle be applied? How about traffic? For one example, Californian drivers lose their minds when it's raining. Traffic grinds to a halt, dozens of accidents pop up all over the major roadways and people start weaving in and out of lanes with even more frequency and fewer turn signals than usual. The simplest answer, via Occam? These people aren't used to rain. I don't buy this, because it's been raining all Winter and nobody ever improves. The best answer, via Casey? The rain is a scalding and corrosive fluid that falls from blighted skies onto our God-forsaken planet in an attempt to kill us all. When you look at things that way, no wonder people get freaked out! It makes perfect sense, applies the principles of idiocy to a situation (Highway 101 at rush hour) exploding with idiots and answers the question to my satisfaction.

So there you have it: Casey's Razor. It's almost scary to think that the most profound advancement in Western thought wouldn't have happened if I'd never watched this particular stoner comedy starring members of the Wu-Tang Clan. Through no coincidence at all, smoking weed was Mark's favorite pastime. The guy became a Marine, oddly enough: a profession where you are really not allowed to smoke weed. I hope he still has all his assorted body parts. Happy trails, Mark! Please don't beat me up.

1 comment:

  1. To cap it all off, his facebook profile picture is a photo of Barack Obama and Osama bin Ladin, the caption being "what's the difference?"