Monday, December 30, 2019

Panic in Year Zero

We’ve been over this before, and the only reason I bring it up is that I’d rather be a tendentious pedantic bore than, well, not be a tendentious pedantic bore, I guess. 2020 is not the first year of a new decade. It’s the last year of the second decade of the twenty-first century. I’m arguing a lost cause here, I know. Ira Flatow, the science guy from public radio, was talking about the new decade. Et tu, NPR? So that’s it. I’ll shut up. But let me make one thing absolutely clear: I hold you all in utter contempt.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Also, a Mothman statue and a Bob Evans.

For those of you who might find yourselves in or around Gallipolis, Ohio, here’s a tip: You could do a lot worse than to cross the river to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, for a day of fun and edification. For one thing, that’s where the Silver Bridge fell down in 1967. It was the only place it could have fallen down, when you think about it. They also have the West Virginia Farm Museum, home to the largest taxidermy horse in the world. I’ve never been to Point Pleasant, but I’ll bet there’s lots more to see and do.

Monday, December 16, 2019

This is all I have to say about that

So far, the 100 word rant has achieved its nearly universal acclaim by avoiding controversy. We don’t take sides. This is not  a political blog. But I want to make something clear. They keep having these debates and as far as I’m concerned they don’t need to. The prospective candidates could instead take turns defecating into a big lawn and leaf bag. Then they could seal up the bag, dress it in a navy blue suit, and stick a flag pin on its lapel. And when November rolled around, I would enthusiastically vote for the actual literal sack of shit.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Don’t order the pesadillas!

Okay, I’ve been learning Spanish (I have one of those internets on my desk) for about an hour a day for several months now, which I think pretty much makes me an expert. Certainly, I’m qualified to give advice about the talking of it. Now, a lot of time in Spanish you can make a plural by adding an s. But not always. Like, even though “tu” means you, you would never ask the names of several people by saying “Como tus llamas?” That would lead them to understand that you wanted to consume their herd of Peruvian pack animals.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Home of the Old Machinery Museum

I presume you are unaware of the existence of Mondovi, Wisconsin, up in Buffalo County. That’s about to change. Because in the year 1879, onetime resident Menzus Raynard Bump (May 28, 1838 – May 6, 1913) was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly. Menzus R. Bump. He alone makes Mondovi worthy of note. But wait! It gets better. Also in 1879 (while Bump served  as a Representative),  Dutee A. Whelan was born in Mondovi. And Dutee A. Whelan grew up to be… a Wisconsin State Representative. Bump and Whelan. Two names that shall be forever linked in our memories.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Lives of the Philosophers, Pt. 7

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was called Wilhelm at home because his father and grandfather were also Georg. This is the only thing about him I’m pretty sure I understand. I’m okay with that, since his work is used to justify so many opposing philosophies (Marxism, fascism, liberalism, conservatism, Lutheranism, idealism, logical positivism) that if any of them is right everybody else has him wrong. Maybe they all do. This is the guy who said “Sein und Nichts sei dasselbe,” which I think means that existence and its absence are the same thing. So, plenty of wiggle room for different interpretations.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Deadly Pencils of Yesteryear

See, you think you’ve totally exhausted a topic and then a new and exciting avenue of inquiry opens up and you’re inundated with a welcome flood of useless knowledge. I was considering how old-timey telegraph guys were always shown licking their pencils and I remembered a thing my dad had called an indelible pencil. I looked that up and what it is is there’s dye mixed into the pencil lead and you can wet it and it soaks into the paper and you can’t erase it. They’re rarely used now for two reasons: We got ballpoints. The dye was poison.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Then there's "cousin."

Logically, shouldn’t the word “atlantic” mean warlike? Why is there a soft c in hard cider? Quince is a delicious but very sour fruit that should, all things being equal, be called “fifteen” in Spanish. While we’re on the subject of pome fruit, why would you ever buy just a single pear when phonetically speaking you could get a couple of them for the same price? But look, what I really want to point out is that English lacks a genderless term for an aunt or uncle. I’d like to suggest “aunk.” Try it out. You can thank me later.

Monday, November 4, 2019


Lose height without dieting! Six internal organs these celebrities have in common! Bermuda love triangle! Take this quiz to find out your score! Don’t buy walnuts until you read this! Why Hollywood won’t cast Paul Newman anymore! Miracle solvent that cures thirst! Do this and never pay interest again! Foolproof strategies for winning bingo! Hidden Vatican fitness tips! 5 miracle foods for bigger teeth! Sex secrets of Nostradamus! Stop your car when you see this sign! What your thermometer doesn’t tell you! Area 51 Style Guide! Tell us what you prefer to eat and we’ll tell you your favorite foods!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Which is worse?

Vampire or werewolf? Mummy or zombie? Taco Bell or Arby’s? Barry Manilow or Olivia Newton-John? Monopoly or Scrabble? Mickey Spillane or Danielle Steel? Edsel or Corvair? Jeff Koons or Thomas Kinkade? Yankees or Dodgers? Weddings or graduations? Hangnail or razor burn? Earthquake or hurricane? Constipation or diarrhea? Kiss or Motley Crue? Pug or Shih-tzu? Flat tire or dead battery? Mice or roaches? Circus Peanuts or Atomic Red Hots? Stalin or Hitler? Insomnia or narcolepsy? Migraine or sciatica? Stroke or coronary? Boredom or panic? Anger or apathy; rage or indifference? Wondering or knowing? Life or… well, actually, we have no alternative.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Cradle to grave

I genuinely believe that consistency is a lazy fallback for when invention fails. Also, I hate to nitpick. And I realize that all my political perceptions tend to be tinted pink in an old-school trade unionist way. But how can anybody oppose choice and support the death penalty with the same brain? Well, it makes sense I guess if you believe that every important decision ought to be government-mediated. So maybe they’re simply offering a moderate and prudent compromise: “Look, just have the kid and if after a couple decades it isn’t working out, then we’ll kill ‘em for you.”

Monday, October 14, 2019

All peanuts are ground peanuts

There are a lot of crows in my neighborhood. Crows are famous for being clever and I thought it would be nice to make friends with them. So I’ve started, when walking the dog, carrying peanuts to give them in hopes they will remember me and become more familiar. My wife had no problem with the “I’m trying to make friends with crows” part. She simply asked if I offered the peanuts shelled or unshelled. Totally reasonable question, but it froze me. I couldn’t answer; I suddenly noticed that either term could signify either state of the peanut in question.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Dream On

Adlai Stevenson was a good example. Maybe also Elizabeth Dole? I just note that, historically, being a reasonable person with rational reasons for the things you do and cogent explanations for the positions you take is not any kind of qualification for winning the highest office in the land. Saying things like “Let’s be realistic,” or “Can we talk this over?” has never gotten anybody elected to the presidency. What seems to work is being able to fill big venues and get the folks out of their seats, all riled up, in a tizzy. Maybe Aerosmith should run for president.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Eventually, we're all fossil fuel.

The odds are, if you’re reading this, climate change will be pretty easy for you. If you’re anything like me, you’re already old and things that happen past the next 30 years or so simply won’t affect you. You’re probably rich, compared to the entire planetary human population, so you’ll be able to afford food and shelter even as they become scarcer. But wait. What about the cost of replacing all those reference books? Atlases, when elevations above sea level need revision. And dictionaries as meanings change. Like, remember when the phrase “a glacial pace” used to mean “very slow?”

Monday, September 23, 2019

Also rocketships with strings

Movies that start with helicopters, nudity, scuba diving, or speedboats are generally crap. Also movies having “blood” as the first word in the title. If the poster features a firearm as a prominent costar, again, generally crap. If, on the other hand, a shirtless dude is brandishing a weapon of any description while skimpily clad women serve as thigh candy (a term I myself coined), in that case, well, that’s probably crap too. These are safe predictions because, as has been previously noted, 98 percent everything is crap. Except monster movies where you can see the zipper. Those are great.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Online Survey: Extremely Satisfied

It is hard to express the extreme satisfaction that floods my every cell whenever I enter this particular Walgreens location. An overwhelming and all-pervasive sense of calm and well-being brings tears to my rheumy eyes; my bent and pain-wracked limbs seem to regain the suppleness of youth; my weary heart beats anew with the vigorous pulse of life and hope and wonder! Can this condition of extreme satisfaction be healthy? Normal? Even natural? I do not care. Heedless, I persist in these visits, for there is no comparing the level of extreme satisfaction thus engendered with any other earthly experience.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Somebody should check my work

This is our lucky day and here’s why. They figure the universe to be about 13.8 billion years old, which is 5.037 x 1012 days, give or take. Given those odds, the fact that today should happen be September 9, 2019, is incredibly unlikely if you think about it a certain way. Maybe it’s kind of a silly way to think about it but there we are. So anyway, if you’d have bet a buck on this happening you’d be pocketing like five trillion dollars, my point being that sometimes a long shot will come in and pay off big.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Ocelli are not noodles

Chalky Percher sounds like the name of some Dickensian cockney pickpocket, doesn’t it? But it’s a species of dragonfly that lives in Asia. They have five eyes – two big compound ones with tens of thousands of ommatidia to create a highly-resolved hemispherical image and then three little high speed lo-res ocelli on top of their heads to orient them in flight. These carnivores have tiny tiny brains but somehow they process all this input and select one specific bug in a cloud of identical bugs and catch it and eat it. So you don’t need to be smart, just focused.

Monday, August 26, 2019

I first thought of this next year

We’re totally dependent on a really limited frame of reference when it comes to observing the way stuff goes. Like, scattered shards of glass are never seen to emerge from your bare foot causing it to instantly unbleed as you hold out your hand while a tumbler full of some delicious beverage assembles itself on the floor and leaps up into your grasp so you can regurgitate some fluid into it. We never perceive anything unhappening. Because entropy, but our sample size is limited to one. What I mean is, maybe time runs both ways but we just don’t remember.

Monday, August 19, 2019

First person singular

Accept the Big Bang Theory. For argument’s sake. Okay, so everything is rushing away from everything else. No matter where you are, everything is receding from that point. In that sense, you are the center of the universe. Happy now? No? Supposing you had all the money in the world. Literally, all the money in the world. What would you buy? Well, nothing, because obviously nobody else is currently using money, and why would they give you anything for it? Okay okay, how about if you had all the time in the world? Well, you do. For now at least.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Did you bring bagels?

Just back of the envelope here –  nearly 20 million people share your birthday. And let’s say there are around a quarter million of them who have the exact same birthday. Not just same date; I mean they were born in your same year; they are the same age as you. If you’re young, there’s more. Next, about 10,000 of them were born within the same hour, maybe 150 at the same exact minute. This is sort of weird to think about. Just like everybody else, the last thing I want to be told is that I’m just like everybody else.

Monday, August 5, 2019

That's great. Just great.

American English idioms can be a source of confusion for the visitor. Native speakers often express themselves with a word or phrase whose literal translation is at odds with its widely accepted meaning. Here is a handy guide for the novice. When an American says “I’ll think about it,” she means no. The sentence “I’ll try to be there” means no. “We’ll see” means no. “Let’s agree to disagree” means “You are feeble-minded.” The terms nightstand, bookshelf, and stepstool  are all synonyms for milk crate. And “this needs to soak” means “I am not going to wash this. Not ever.”

Monday, July 29, 2019

Hard rock for soft people

Remember when we used to make fun of those easy listening stations? That terrible schmaltzy elevator soundtrack for old people? Aren’t you grateful that we were hipper than that? We listened to new and exciting sounds, uptempo mod beats that captured the dynamic and heavy changes we were going through, expressed the intense emotions we were feeling like no generation before us had ever felt anything. Ever. That’s why we stick with those artists through dye jobs, heart surgeries, liver transplants. Because we know they won’t ask us to listen to anything we’ve never heard before. What could be easier?

Monday, July 22, 2019

Choose your own adventure

Somebody might be showing you their new car and tell you they’d gotten all the options but no they didn’t. You can’t do that. That’s what grown-ups know that younger people have yet to internalize: that every selection involves a reduction of options. If you spend Sunday morning in bed you can’t spend it at the park. If you spend your paycheck on beer you can’t spend it on rent. Every decision you make is a crapshoot, and sometimes what you get is actually crap. I prefer binary choices because the odds that I’m wrong are an acceptable 50 percent.

Monday, July 15, 2019

For real

Two weeks on the road visiting family both immediate and extended. Drove home through the rain to join my granddaughter teaching her boyfriend rummy 500. Later opened a folder of scanned images and saw for the first time photos of long-gone ancestors from before the Great War. Went to bed temporarily qualmless and sinking. Opened a book first thing this morning to read a short piece about Kafka by David Foster Wallace. And he (Wallace) writes “… our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home.” I’m adrift here, in a good way, with nothing to add.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Nobody expects this

Back in the 15th century, expeditions from Spain were all over the world discovering new places. As history makes clear, this is because they were very inquisitive. Occasionally to a fault. Anyway, this led to words from the Spanish language entering general usage even for English speakers. For instance, on encountering a big lizard basking in the sun, one sailor might have said to another, “My, but doesn’t he look comfortable,” hence the modern term “Comodo Dragon.” Or even closer to home, in Europe: In Spanish, Germany is called Alemania, which makes sense because those people are crazy about beer.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Danny Boy

Originally, there was this folk tune called London Derriere, which was inspired I assume by a Piccadilly strumpet with a singularly impressive behind. It was collected in the 1855 book “The Ancient Music of Ireland” from the Society for the Preservation and Publication of the Melodies of Ireland, but didn’t generate much chart action until 1913, when a Englishman named Frederic Edward Weatherly published his version with new lyrics all about Irish people. It was a 1965 hit single for Detroit native Jackie Wilson, making it all in all one of the most egregious instances of cumulative cultural appropriation ever.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Told by an idiot

See, this is why I don’t go out to shows anymore. Somebody had tickets they weren’t using, so we went out the theater to see a play performed live, with actors, on a stage. And it was like a person isn’t even allowed to have a conversation even if they paid for their damn seat which mine was free but it’s the principle. Anyway, the show was a total ripoff, where this one guy basically stole every line Michael Fassbender spoke in his 2015 movie Macbeth which I guess they figured nobody had seen. How do they not get sued?

Monday, June 17, 2019

Yo. Word.

Octothorpe is the word for a hash or pound sign. Jentacular is the word for of or pertaining to breakfast. Nelipot is the word for a barefoot person. Psithurism is the word for the sound of the wind in the leaves. Somniloquence is the word for sleep talking. Taciturn is the word for being of few words, while pauciloquent is the word for taciturn. Logolepsy is the word for a fixation on words. Logogriph is the word for a word puzzle. Logorrhea is the word for the excessive use of words. And verbatim is the word for word for word.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Oscillating so rapidly from shame to pride that I am a blur.

So dude is terribly constipated. Impacted. (Don’t worry. This is not a poop joke. That’s as graphic as we get, right there. Keep reading.) He figures this is bad enough to require some form of intervention. But a friend recommends trying an herbal cure and she brews him some special tea. (This joke assumes friends routinely discuss the condition of their bowels.) He’s skeptical, but drinks it. And the stuff works. He feels great. “What was that?” he asks. “I made it myself,” she explains, “from this fern right here.” “Wow,” he says, “With fronds like these, who needs enemas?”

Monday, June 3, 2019

Curb your anxiety

Do you suffer from the nagging fear that you will somehow bump into a shiny parked motorcycle and knock it down into an adjacent parked motorcycle thereby initiating a chain reaction that causes a great many shiny expensive motorcycles to fall down like a row of dominoes, leading to your being mercilessly pummeled by a gang of enraged bikers? Relax. This probably won’t happen. Parked motorcycles are actually pretty stable. Even if you managed to knock one over, it probably would just lean on the next one, causing you to be mercilessly pummeled by one, at most two, enraged bikers.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Spring Cleaning

I’m clearing all these Post It notes from the edge of the monitor:

The good thing about yellow teeth is they make your shirt look whiter.

For me, every day is Thanksgiving. I'm not a particularly grateful person, I just put cranberry sauce on everything.

While there are notable exceptions, musical works which name their genre in the title are generally bad.

The teacher said, “Give me an example of the subjunctive mood.” I replied, “I wish I could.”

You start talking about terminating pregnancies resulting from incest, a lot of Alabama state legislators are bound to take it personal.

Monday, May 20, 2019

They go to great lengths

Okay, I call bullshit. Casey, Illinois, claims to have the world’s longest yardstick. It’s big alright, 36 feet long. But, to me, by definition, that’s no yardstick. Friends, “yardstick” is not one of those words where you have to look it up and learn its etymology to determine its meaning. In order to make any object qualify as a yardstick, you must first ensure that one of its dimensions is a yard. That’s just obvious. Then you can go ahead and make the world’s thickest yardstick, or the world’s widest yardstick. But there is exactly one possible length for yardsticks.

Monday, May 13, 2019

somebody stop me

They met while looking at places to build a house; it was love at first site. They took a six pack to the park in order to drink in the beauty of nature. They had a very emotional wedding; even the cake was in tiers. He suggested they honeymoon on a tricycle, but she was two tired. They lunched on hot dogs. The buns were okay but the franks were the wurst. But she remained totally loyal, saying she would fix her hair, brave an ice storm, or sit through a Longfellow recitation, sticking with him comb, hail, or Hiawatha.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Diplomacy 101

So, it’s like this. It’s like if you got in a fight and the other kid popped you in the mush before you socked him one smack in the labonza and now you have him in a wicked headlock and already you can feel your upper lip getting puffy and you’re going to look like a turtle for a couple days and you’re thinking you’d like to be done fighting right about now but he’s royally pissed and if you let him go he will proceed to pound the living snot out of you. That’s your global politics, right there.

Monday, April 29, 2019

sorry not sorry

If you are prone to sensations of vertigo, incidents of syncope, or episodes of sudden-onset aesthetic dyspepsia, please read no further. If have never found the cinematic oeuvre of the Horwitz brothers and their collaborator Mr. Feinberg be of any cultural value whatsoever please in the name of all that is decent turn away at once. Because, seriously, this one’s a stinker: “To raise funds for the restoration of its iconic cathedral, the Parisian diocese is issuing a pinup calendar featuring a group of twelve unusually buff and appealing young priests collectively known as the Hunk Batch of Notre Dame.”

Monday, April 22, 2019

laziest rant ever

The editorial we are feeling lethargic, so we are using quotes from the Internet to assemble 100 words about the Internet. To post on the Internet. So sue us. John Allen Paulos is the guy who said, “The Internet is the world's largest library. It's just that all the books are on the floor.” Dorothy Gambrell said, “If television's a babysitter, the Internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.” Also this, from the Wikipedia article about cuspidors: “Makeshift spittoons, such as large mixing bowls, can be used by people with a cold who are frequently coughing up phlegm.”

Monday, April 15, 2019

the greatest generation

They used to think that getting cold gave you a cold. They believed that sending Native children to schools where they were made to speak English was a good thing to do. They believed tomatoes were poison, arsenic made you beautiful, yeast cured acne. They defined homosexuality as a crime, then a disease. They thought that atoms were indivisible and Styx was a good band. People were stupid then and didn’t know any better. They were always so sure. But you and I are lucky enough to live when we do, when it’s possible to finally be right about everything.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Why drown worms when the fish ain’t biting?

American English has many colloquial idioms which cannot be taken literally, phrases which may on first hearing seem bizarre or inane. Some common examples: “That coffee’s too hot to drink,” means, “Your idea is too bold to achieve general acceptance.” “New laces on the same old cleats,” refers to an attempt to reinvigorate anything tired or worn-out with only superficial changes. Finally, here is an exchange in which two speakers opine on an absent third party’s lack of intellectual acuity: “That fella is about one demigod short of a pantheon.” “Yup. That Greyhound don’t go all the way to Topeka.”

Monday, April 1, 2019

Tragical Realism

So I’m trying to learn Spanish and it’s helping me a lot as far as staying in the moment, because I only know how to say stuff in the present tense. I could tell a little story that when translated into English would read back like some hardboiled Hemingway. “It’s Monday today. I drink a cup of coffee. I read a book at the library. I talk to Pablo. ‘Renato,’ he says, ‘you are my friend.’” Then I also manage to come up with sentences worthy of Buñuel. “My grandfather wants to drink a fish hamburger.” “When is my shirt?”

Monday, March 25, 2019

You will be the next guy’s last guy.

Suppose you live in a really old house and that you are an idiot. But that’s redundant, because what you are trying to do a lot of times is in direct conflict with the laws of thermodynamics. Entropy always increases, which means your house is actually required by law to fall down. And the last guy pretty much buggered up every aspect of repair and maintenance he executed. Here’s a hint: That last guy can be your best excuse. When you perform a particularly egregious kludge, enough thick drippy coats of paint can make your crappy new work look old.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Tracking the arms of Morpheus.

If you ever needed proof that government is the least effective way to govern, consider the gridlock on death row in many states. The roadblock is the authorities can’t get the drugs they need to conduct the executions. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of ordinary citizens are successfully giving themselves lethal injections every year.  Once again, the private sector leads the way. Myself, I oppose capital punishment. My logic is –  and try to follow me here –  we shouldn’t kill people. Except some guys, because every once in a while there’s somebody who ought to be put down like a rabid skunk.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Or Paterson, New Jersey

Okay, I looked it up. Worldwide, about 150,000 people die every day. That’s right around the entire population of Rockford, Illinois. Fortunately it doesn’t happen in a localized way like that, with Rockford suddenly a massive cleanup challenge and no more Cheap Trick concerts ever. That would be creepy but also it would have advantages for everybody else, because if Rockford had already done all the dying we needed for the day you could go ahead with all the potentially fatal activities you’ve been wanting to try. I can’t think of any right now, but you know what I mean.

Monday, March 4, 2019


I like how we just use whatever word works the best even if it’s not originally English. That’s useful since strictly speaking there are no precise words in our actual language for pizza, schmuck, angst, sombrero, ninja, kiosk, brassiere, sauna, kindergarten, shampoo, ukulele, pajamas, ketchup, almanac, slalom, chutzpah, robot, glissando, bamboo, paprika, tungsten, tundra, gumption, armadillo, and yoga. Also, mad props to the Norman invasion because if it wasn’t for French we’d describe hamburgers as being composed of ground cow, which is accurate but unappetizing. And nine out of ten reed players agree, embouchure sounds so much better than enmouthment.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Pencils. Music. Soup.

Nothing funny this morning. Instead, I shall impart some knowledge you may find, if not vitally useful, at least utterly useless. Johann Eberhard Faber was born in Bavaria in 1822, moved to the United States in 1848, and opened a pencil factory in 1861. (He was descended from an ancient lineage of pencil-makers back in the old country.)There is no connection here with the bassist and composer Eberhard Weber, but you should check him out anyway. Anyway, Faber reportedly named his Mongol pencil after purée Mongole, his favorite soup. I will find a recipe, cook it, and write about that.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Lives of the Philosophers, Pt. 6

Arthur Schopenhauer is confusing – a racist anti-Semite abolitionist proto-Buddhist, a eugenicist and an animal rights advocate. According to Wikipedia, his ideas had a tremendous influence on folks like Nietzsche, Tolstoy, Wittgenstein, Schrödinger, Mahler, Einstein, Jung, Shaw, Borges and Beckett, which probably goes without saying to anyone who has noted their common rejection of epistemological transcendental idealism. What the article does not mention is Schopenhauer’s brief cameo in a typically witty Ira Gershwin lyric. Also, I recommend finding a picture of him and deciding for yourself if he was responsible for the haircut on that guy from Flock of Seagulls.

Monday, February 11, 2019

ecru au lait

Odd to think that every paint company has at least one person whose job it is to think up new words for beige. Unfair that expensive trousers of the same nominal size are roomier although poor people tend to be fatter. Peculiar when commercial bakeries sell home-made bread, unless maybe they’re sleeping there. Weird to talk about the courage it takes to be a leader without giving any recognition to the cowardice required of followers, and ironic to observe a roomful of folks in neat business casual attire dutifully taking notes as a self-appointed expert conducts Lessons in Effective Leadership.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Nobody's from Venus.

Science fiction was more fun back when the solar system was inhabited by near-human races who epitomized their respective planets. Warlike Martians, jovial Jovians, grumpy Saturnians. Now we know for a fact that even if there’s something approximating life in, say, little moist pockets of Mars, these alien critters are likely to be microscopic, anaerobic, and stubbornly uncommunicative. Worse, since Pluto was demoted, my very excellent mother just says, um… no.  No pies. It’s okay. I have a cool mnemonic for recalling the names of the planets. I just say to myself, “Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.”

Monday, January 28, 2019

Matryoshka is full of herself

He walked up to the teller’s window and said I want to check my balance. So she pushed him over. He said, leave me a loan. I’m really an archeologist, she replied. My career is in ruins. Don’t go, he begged. At least stay long enough for a proper goodbye. But she was gone without further adieu. Distraught, he decided to end it all. He went shopping for arsenic, all the while singing I’m Getting Semimetal Over You. He rejected our offer of a free coffin, saying that’s the last thing I need. It was left to us to barium.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Don't get all pithy

What makes most famous quotes memorable is judicious editing. Like when Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” what most people don’t know is that Plato piped up right away with, “Dude, you got that half right.” Or when MacArthur left Corregidor what he actually said was, “I shall return… when it’s safe.” Finally, it has often been reported that Charlie Chaplin once said, “All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman, and a pretty girl.” Most sources leave out the next part, where he said, “And a camera. Somebody should bring a camera.”

Monday, January 14, 2019

Mussel up. Clam down.

Life can be worrisome but I hate to think of you sitting there fretting. Try to relax; I’ll talk you down. Here are some things that might or might not happen that would not require you to feel the vaguest inkling of concern or even interest:  To reinvigorate the downtown business district, they could hold a bus-stop sign redesign competition. IHOP could introduce a new syrup. Lapels could get wide again. They might have a library fine amnesty. Or that one guitar player from Rush might announce that he’s starting a new band with those three other guys from Aerosmith.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Hereby resolved

I’m thinking of words that lack opposites. Like reckless, for example. Turns out the word reck comes from the same root as reckon, so reckless means without consideration, without thinking. Feckless? Feck is short for effect, so fecklessness achieves nothing. Feck is also a second word that is spelled and pronounced exactly the same, defeating the whole purpose of language. It’s a minced oath along with dang, heck, shoot, and corksoaker, a bottling worker responsible for the thorough wetting of stoppers. Anyway, this year I intend to be more reckful, feckful, sheveled, and gruntled. And especially gormful. Always extra gormful.