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Cuttin’ to the chase

Thanksgiving came and went, and two apparently unrelated thoughts kept rattling around the empty attic of my mind.

One was JFK assassination conspiracy theories and theorists; the other was The T’giving Tryptophan Snoozefest.

OK, both were related in that they took place in the same season. But was there another connection?

I thought, and thought some more … and then it hit me. How could I have not seen it? Both were perfect ways to explain Occam’s razor.

Occam’s razor is a logic principle which in Latin is, “Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate.” Or in English, “Entities are not to be posited without necessity.” Or more directly, if there are two competing theories, the simpler explanation is to be preferred.

Or to use Don Collins’ favorite acronym, KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

For example, on Facebook, on which I see more advertisements than postings from my friends, there was an ad for a woolen jacket. It was a real beaut in the photo — high end all the way, except in price, a paltry $49.95. Boy Howdy! How could they do that and still make a profit?

Well, if I thought the way the ad wanted me to, it’s because the jacket was made in the Third World by the finest craftsmen, working for peanuts. So given the reduced costs in labor and materials, they could turn out a first-rate jacket for a fraction of its American equivalent.

If, on the other hand, I was to apply Occam’s razor, I’d conclude the jacket was made of thin recycled wool, banged out in minutes in a sweatshop. So first, the jacket wouldn’t look like the one in the photo, because the photo was hijacked from another company’s catalog. And second, whatever it looked like when you took it out of the box, after wearing it for a month or so, given the crappy material and workmanship, it — and you — would look like something the cat drug in.

OK, so much for our logic lesson. Now on to the Nitty Gritty.

Conspiracies — pro and con

First, the JFK assassination.

Before the ink was dry on the Warren Commission Report, conspiracy books sprouted like ‘shrooms on cowflops. Like a lot of my contemporaries, I not only read a whole bunch of them but believed them as well. Or at least I believed them for a long while, till eventually dismissing them all — thanks to Occam’s razor.

There were two reasons for my dismissal.

One was while all the conspiracy groupies agreed there had to be some sinister organization behind the assassination, they couldn’t agree who, exactly, that organization was. Maybe it was anti-Castro Cubans, for JFK’s mishandling of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Or perhaps it was pro-Castro Cubans, for the Bay of Pigs in the first place. If you didn’t like either of those two, howz about the Russians, for JFK showing them up in the Cuban Missile Crisis? No? Well, there’s always LBJ, for wanting to be president himself. Then again, it could be the mafia. For after helping JFK win the election (with the influence in labor unions), they figured they’d be left in peace … but Attorney General Bobby Kennedy had other ideas.

Or … or … or …?

After all the conjecture, I decided it was the Campfire Girls.

So after almost 60 years of tireless investigation by probably millions of people, no solid proof of any organization’s involvement has come to light. Which a conspiracist would attribute to the brilliant deviousness of the conspirators, but which I’d say is due to a simpler fact: There was no conspiracy in the first place.

The second reason I’ve dismissed the conspiracy theories is why they ever came to exist: that a total incompetent like Lee Harvey Oswald could never have pulled it off by himself. Thus it had to be a conspiracy.

Of course, this not only flies in the face of reason but of reality as well.

Let’s get real: History is full of incompetent lone nut assassins. In fact, I’d bet more assassins have been solitary screw-ups than healthily integrated personalities. A relative sample includes Charles Guiteau, Leon Czolgosz, Mark David Chapman and, lest we forget, Jack Ruby. Less successful but no less maladjusted and solo would-be assassins are John Hinkley, Squeaky Fromme, Arthur Bremer and Sarah Jane Moore. And those are only homegrown 20th-century ones.

The sad truth is one lunatic with one firearm can raise, and HAS raised all sorts of hell — up to and including successful assassinations aplenty.

Tryppin’ out

On a more pleasant note, let’s talk about The T’giving Tryptophan Snoozefest.

It’s probably safe to say that following Thanksgiving dinner, a whole lotta folks are lying in the arms of Morpheus long before their usual bedtime. And why is that? Tryptophan, say the tryptophan lobby.

So what is tryptophan?

It’s an amino acid. And if you want to know what that is, you’ll need to ask someone who didn’t flunk biology twice — like I did. You’ll also need to ask someone else how, exactly, it acts as a sleep inducer, because I don’t know that, either. What I do know is for years I heard people say with unswerving certainty that since tryptophan is in turkey, it — and it alone — accounts for the post-dinner fade-and-crash we are all too familiar with.

So is that true?

Well, tryptophan can make you sleepy, so it is a soporific of sorts. And its sleep-inducing quality increases if you add some carbohydrates.

While tryptophan is indeed in turkey, it’s also in chicken, pork, salmon, eggs, pumpkin, even tofu. So one would expect to hear of peeps passing out as often from, say, a lox omelet on a bagel as from Thanksgiving dinner. But we don’t. And why is that?

Think Occam’s razor for a bit.

Done?

If so, you should realize Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t involve only eating a bit of turkey followed by a cracker or two. Uh-uh. Thanksgiving dinner is Trencherman’s Dream Come True. Only turkey on your plate? Hell, you can barely find the turkey, since it’s buried under a mound of mashed potatoes, dressing, green beans, yams — all slathered with a pint or so of gravy. Then add a brewski or twoski (or even three and fourski), some dinner rolls, a couple slices of pumpkin pie and whipped cream, and you’ve got a digestive system that’s about as clogged as the Tokyo subway at rush hour.

But — unlike the Tokyo subway — your cloggage won’t be clearing out anytime soon. Matter of fact, it’s just gonna sit there in one huge greasy lump as your digestive system struggles mightily to process it. And that struggle takes energy — lots of it. Which is why you’re cacked out in your Lay-z-Boy, drooling and barely aware of the world around you. And this is due to tryptophan? Get real.

However, if you still wanna blame your zug-out on tryptophan, go ahead.

But if you do, I’ll keep blaming the Disaster in Dallas on the Campfire Girls.

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