Open Your Textbooks to Page 331

What is funny?

For the past seven years or so, you've been following this blog obsessively, enjoying laughter amidst incisive social commentary. But exactly why has this blog been so riotously side-splitting thus far? Why have you forsaken going to work and caring for your pets in favor of reading entry after entry? Let's stop for a moment and examine the causes and effects of laughter to discover...what is funny.

For our purposes today, we'll be discussing the twelve basic devices of written and visual comedy. They are:

1. The Insult
2. The Straight Man
3. Absurdity
4. Physical Trauma
5. Satire


"Hey, Character A," said Character B cheerily, entering the room, "telephone Character C. I feel like going to the picture shows tonight."

"I feel like shoving Character C up your butt tonight!" countered Character A.

Here we see how one character deftly responds to a simple request with a rib-tickling insult. Character B is left defenseless and bitter, while Character A has the last laugh. Character B may even be so deeply hurt by the barb that he may lose focus at work and in intimate moments with his wife!

In this next bit of prose, Character B plays the STRAIGHT MAN to Character A's wisecracking veteran cop. Read on:

"Officer B," said Officer A testily. "You are out of uniform. If we are to be partners in our pursuit of deadly heroin dealers, I insist that you don formal police attire."

"Hey, A," Sergeant B responded, his mouth full of Cheetos, "there's one thing I've learned on the streets: the only times a man should dress formal is at his senior prom and at his funeral. Now here...have a brew."

"I certainly will not," A admonished him. "We are on duty."

"Duty patootie," B said, belching. "Hoo boy—look at the gams on this Animal Planet babe!"

Here the juxtaposition of personalities lends a light touch that would fit perfectly into any summer movie release starring any combination of former Saturday Night Live cast members. Actual story and character are negligible: it is the winsome combination of the rational and the cynical that brings in the dollars on opening weekend, a full two days before the devastating reviews come crashing down like the wrath of Allah.

"Absurdity" is defined as making the real seem fantastical. We all know that a man cannot turn into an English muffin, for example, but when it happens on the page or the screen, we roar with unrestrained delight. See if you can guess how absurdity is used in the following exchange:

"Character A," B said, brows furrowed. "You seem upset. What's wrong?"

"It’s this stupid DVD player,” wept Character A, “my copy of Baby Geniuses won’t fit inside it for some reason.”

“But A,” said B, “that’s not the DVD player---that’s your cat’s left nostril!”

A looked at B blankly. “My head hurts sometimes,” he said.

Finished laughing yet? Probably not. That's because the deterioration of A’s diseased synapses have caused him a confusion so ridiculous that we call it "absurd." Unfortunately, many people find the entire idea of this blog "absurd," and this kind of scattershot criticism, along with all these meddlesome lawsuits, just serves to disrupt the flow of our perfectly innocent—and most definitely non-racist—fun.

"Gosh, Franciscan Monk B!" exclaimed Franciscan Monk A as he trimmed a hedge or topiary. "I sure do enjoy working in the yard on a cool autumn's day!"

"As do I, A!" Franciscan Monk B called back.

"Franciscan Monk B, watch out for that rake!"

"Aaaahhhh!!" cried Franciscan Monk B, stepping on the rake, watching helplessly as it flung itself upwards, its savagely sharp prongs burying themselves deep into his neck.

Ha, ha, ha, ha! That's right, it's our old friend "physical trauma." Beginning humorists should remember that there is nothing like a swollen hand or bleeding gums to entertain and edify. Pain is what made the Road Runner cartoons such classics, and it can work for just about anyone. The image of a red-faced dupe in need of immediate medical care can only bring tears of bliss to the reader or viewer---as do the topics of bank foreclosure and suicide pacts that just barely don’t work out.

Finally we come to satire, by far the funniest form of comedy. Where something like a funny name or a crude insult caters to our baser instincts, dry satire brings out the intelligent wit in each one of us, as well as providing an endless tide of belly laughs. Just read this selection from Moliere's 17th century masterpiece, The Misanthrope:

"I don't say that. But I told this person,
Surely you're under no necessity to compose;
Why you should wish to publish, heaven knows.
There's no excuse for printing tedious rot
Unless one writes for bread, as you do not.
Resist temptation, then, I beg of you;
Conceal your pastime from the public view,
And don't give up, on any provocation,
Your present high and courtly reputation,
To purchase at a greedy printer's shop
The name of silly author and scribbling fop."

Jesus Christ, that’s hilarious! It is quite clear by this gut-busting passage that our English teachers were correct when they condemned low humor and praised the early satirists. So there you have it: humor at its highest form. Other examples of sparkling satire include Wilmot Blithely’s 1808 drawing room classic Oh My! Oh My Word! Quite Honestly! Did You Really? and some of the stuff Woody Allen used to say before that Asian girl decided he should suck instead.

1) Why are bananas funnier than corn? Explain.
2) Name three recent human tragedies involving loss of life and explain how they could be turned into situation comedies.
3) What if I just started poking at my pinkie toe with a steak knife? Is that anything?


Cut Down By the System



FUNDING SOURCE APPLIED FOR: The 2007 Ford Foundation Grant for the Humanities


PURPOSE: To finally give America and the rest of the developing world a site to upload their own amateur spit take videos and vote democratically on which ones are the best and deserve praise and wider recognition

THOSE WHO MIGHT BENEFIT FROM PROJECT: All those who recognize the spit take as the ultimate symbolic expression of man’s futility of purpose on planet Earth and who can appreciate its artistic beauty while understanding the need for people with Internet access to rate thousands of them on a scale of 1 to 100, with 1 being “lame ‘n’ lousy” and 100 being “the spit take we were all born to witness”

SUBMITTED MATERIALS: Two eight-second amateur spit take videos, A Graduate Student at Penn State University Spews Lime-Aid on His Cat Upon Hearing His Mechanic’s Estimate for Fixing His Prius and An Adult Film Star Sprays Ginger Beer On Her Director Upon Learning Just Where He’d Like Her to Place the Crockpot

EXPERIENCE WITH PAST SIMILAR PROJECTS: I personally funded, designed, and hosted (2002-2004), which attracted more than 700 hits and included an amateur video submitted by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Halberstam under an assumed name

PROFESSIONAL REFERENCES: I encourage you to contact Mr. Paul Strickler, teacher of science, Annapolis Junior High School, for anecdotal evidence of my dedication and professionalism regarding long-term projects and challenges






And There Shall Be Balloons

I’m happy to announce that through this blog only, tickets for the 2007 Can It Kill and Eat Alan Arkin Convention are on sale for 30 percent off when car and hotel room rentals are made in a package deal through Avis. The 2007 Can It Kill and Eat Alan Arkin Convention promises to make the 2006 blowout look tame in comparison! Join people from all over America as they come together to share their passion for knowledge. This year’s special events include:

* A speech by noted biologist and animal behaviorist Gerst Munchit on what kinds of bears would most likely be able to kill and eat Alan Arkin

* A book-signing with Dr. Bernard Blume, author of Arkin-Eaters of the Sea, with a post-signing discussion of marine life and, given the right situation, its possible interest in, and aptitude for, killing and eating Alan Arkin

* A debate between Hofstra University scholars about the mythical Minotaur, and what its attitude and/or ability might have been regarding killing and eating Alan Arkin

* An appearance by Alan Arkin himself, who will field questions about his illustrious acting career and share his experiences involving creatures that seemed like they could have, if things had gone a little differently, killed and eaten him

* A discounted breakfast and dinner at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Albany

* Souvenirs, discussion groups, and a midnight screening of Little Miss Sunshine with running commentary by a panel of experts who will analyze Alan Arkin’s body type and perceived footspeed in his role as Grandpa and determine if, had the script gone in a different direction, he could have outran or otherwise eluded a Bengal tiger if it meant avoiding being slaughtered and devoured.

Tickets are bound to sell out fast, so write in today!

Sorry, no refunds. Mr. Arkin’s appearance has not been confirmed. The Albany Sheraton reserves the right to exhibit a mysterious ignorance of this event.


From the Mailbag

Dear Blog Owner(s):

I should like the take the opportunity afforded by this fine blog to offer what I believe is an invaluable service to our community.

Crime is rampant in our streets. The forces of EVIL have the upper hand. Do not deny it! Our police force has been stymied. It is time for ACTION.

Yes, action in the form of a powerful, secret society of SUPERHEROES the world must finally know about. I, sirs, am the linchpin of this society.

We are the LEAGUE OF QUALITY. And now we are prepared to come to the rescue of our fair metropolis. Let its hardworking citizens fear NO LONGER the tide of darkness and corruption that is ever-present. If the day must be saved, let us save it!

Apart we are strong. Together we are invincible. Each of our parts will become a whole, and as a unit we offer TODAY to rescue this city from crime. Let us introduce ourselves:

We are TOASTERMAN and SNACKBOY. Yes, Toasterman, who can at any time change himself magically into a shock resistant toaster with variable heat settings. And his partner in fighting crime, Snackboy, who can AT ANY TIME shapeshift into a plateful of nutritious snacks. Can you imagine how these awesome superpowers could combat the disease that has infected our town?

We are COLDHEAD. Coldhead, a former Vietnam hero forgotten by his country, who has gained the stunning ability to lower the temperature of his head at will to NEAR-FREEZING levels. Many is the felon who will wish he hadn't been lured into touching the head of this brave warrior. He issues a fair warning to evildoers: one touch of my cranium will send a chill down your SPINES and a bolt of fear into your HEARTS!

We are THE CHOLESTEROL KID, a young incarnation of the classic western outlaw, more than prepared to pack up his six-guns and head for the pestilence-ridden back alleys of this city. True, his persistent intake of fatty foods and oils sometimes greatly diminishes his ability and interest in rising from bed to fight crime—but beware. He is as vengeful as he is QUICK ON THE DRAW!

We are DOCTOR SYNOPSIS. This former mad genius turned to the forces of good when he saw Hiroshima bombed by the DARK SIDE of science. Now, in his vast laboratory where chemicals churn and cauldrons bubble, he works day and night. But whenever we become confused as to the order of events in one of our anti-evil sprees, he turns his brilliant brain to verbally SUMMARIZING the situation for us in one swift stroke!

We are NON SEQUITUR. Brave. Defiant. Possessed with superhuman strength. Ready with an inappropriate comment whenever we need it. Beware, criminals! His seemingly incomprehensible METAPHORS in the midst of battle will confuse and bewilder you!

We are THE INOCULATOR. He'll vaccinate you against all major spore-borne diseases—and he'll vaccinate you with terror! Fear his deadly accurate NEEDLES and SKIN TABS!

We are THE CHAMELEON. His ability to change will have crooks fleeing in terror. A courageous fighter one day—an embittered BASTARD the next—back in slightly better spirits the day after that! Think about it!

And last, we are CAPTAIN PANTS. That is I, our ringleader. I will not tell you of my powers here. Suffice it to say that I have LONG AWAITED this day. Look out, crime: it's Quality Time!

Dear sirs, use us as you will. Summon us as you must. You may not now be fully AWARE of the threat posed to this city by such powerful ARCHVILLAINS as The Spine, Dark Blackness, and the Sinister Lemon People. But WE SEE what others miss.

And we are ready for battle.


The blog responds:

Dear League of Quality,

Sorry, I don't really have any crime-fighting opportunities for you at the moment, since I'm really just one dude sitting at a computer once in a while. However, if you're not looking to be paid or anything and just want some resume-building experience, I wouldn't mind having someone come over on Tuesday afternoons to proofread this stuff for me. Proofreading is a pain in the ass.

S. Narnia

The League of Quality responds:

Dear Mr. Narnia,

We accept your offer unreservedly. The League is currently between vehicles; is there a bus that goes near you?


The Game of Life

I had a busy week! It all began on Monday, when toward the end of another eleven-hour shift on the stapling floor of The Coupon Clipper for Seniors, I started to zone out for a minute, briefly scanning a buy-five-get-one-free offer for Gleem toothpaste as I prepared to put another stack of them into the 6250. Well, my supervisor caught me, dang it.

“Employee Narnia!” he shouted. “Dammit, I’m not paying you to read!”

I’m not paying you to read. This gave me an idea.

Within the hour I had quit the stapling floor and gotten a job at Random House. On Tuesday afternoon I was in my spacious private office scribbling in the margins of Philip Roth’s latest manuscript when the executive fiction editor walked in.

“Narnia,” he said, “you got a little bit of Mounds bar on the Joyce Carol Oates galleys. We’re not paying you to eat, you know.”

We’re not paying you to eat. This gave me an idea.

By Wednesday I was dining at Snoot’s, the hottest five-star restaurant in town, taking copious notes about the meal I was ingesting in preparation for dashing off a thousand-word, fully commissioned review for Gourmet magazine. A fellow critic, Nathan Phone, was with me and he frowned at what I was writing as he sipped his Pinot Noir.

“Narnia, Narnia, Narnia,” he said, shaking his head, “yes, the food is good, but you’ve got to be a little more critical. Gourmet isn’t paying you to shamelessly kiss butt, you know.”

This gave me an idea.

By dusk on Thursday I was playing foosball in Harrison Ford's luxury penthouse in Los Angeles, down 13-11 to the noted actor in game five of a best-of-seven series, assuring him of how absolutely wonderful his recent performance had been in Indiana Jones and the Remorseful Vampire and agreeing completely that it would be a fantastic idea for Harrison to quit Hollywood entirely and follow his dream of buying a lemon farm in Lopez, Michigan.

"Narnia, that's the worst advice from an agent I've ever heard," Harrison told me, stopping the game in midstream. "You're not supposed to let me destroy my career, you know. I'm not paying you to commit acts of sabotage like that."

This gave me an idea.

At 10:22 a.m. on Friday, I laid the last of the Mossad's sixteen pounds of dynamite inside the walls of the Crown Prince of Siam's prized personal yacht. When the steering wheel was turned the slightest bit upon that night's maiden voyage on the Dead Sea, the whole thing would explode into a million pieces! But upon returning to Mossad headquarters, I realized I had left the detonation setting on channel 4 instead of INPUT.

"Damn your incompetence, Narnia!" yelled the ruthless covert agent who had hired me. "We're not paying you to be a total, abject failure!"

This gave me an idea. Within the hour I was back on the stapling floor of The Coupon Clipper for Seniors, at a slightly reduced pay rate. It’s tough to know exactly what you want to do in life, you know?

What’d you do this week? Oh yeah? The police are digging up the area around your potting shed again? Persistent little buggers, I’ll give ‘em that much!


It Is So Worth It For $75 an Hour

Four near-confessions to my therapist and the sudden last-second reversals I made when I saw her reaction of dawning horror:

1) “Yeah, one time at Hooters this dude was seriously getting up in my face, so I took this pepper mill, reared back, and just totally bashed his---bashed his blog. I bashed his blog on my own blog, because, you know, I didn’t like it.”

2) “I guess you could say I’ve always been attracted to Kermit the Frog in a weirdly sexu---successful way. See, I like the fact that he’s a success. At being a frog. Name me a more successful frog and I’d love to hear about him.”

3) “Favorite movies? Well….oh, you know which one I really love? It makes me cry every time I see it. Children of the Cor—a Lesser God. Children of a Lesser God. Beautiful film. About deaf people, you know. Turns out they’re a lot like us. Not totally, of course, because they're basically retarde---retardant to cruelty, they just hate it, like everyone else. Seriously. Very retardant to people not being nice.”

4) “Who wouldn’t love to disinter the bodies of the dead and prop them up around the apartment and pretend you’re having a fabulous post-Oscar party? Um….ah….the answer to that, of course, is me. And that’s question one of our little quiz on how well you know me. I answered that one for you to start you off. Okay, question two is, um, what is my name?”

Three attempts by my therapist to be nice and the sudden last-second reversals she made when she just couldn’t hold it in:

1) “You shouldn’t feel your desire for role-playing with your partner is unhealthy; in fact I’m sure that if you discussed it with her openl---no, wait, I’m sorry, there is nothing erotic about wanting to pretend you’re a table and she’s a chair. It just doesn’t make any damn sense at all.”

2) “Yes, I agree, of course a small portion of the blame for your adult failures lies with your parents….if by ‘your parents’ we mean ‘you’ and by ‘small portion’ we mean every last bit of it. Oh God, you should actually be glad they didn’t just drown your finger-pointing self right in the sink. They had every bloody right.”

3) “Basically what I’m noticing with you, and please don’t take this the wrong way, because I’m only talking to you doctor to patient, is a dangerous, intensely troubling pattern of what we call Violent Dissociative Personality Cogni---oh, shut up and kiss me again, you handsome devil!”


A Moment of Culture

This past weekend saw the opening of a major new attraction within the city limits. The Museum of Practical Art announced daytime and evening hours now through November. Admission is three dollars for adults, one dollar for children and students, twenty-five cents for the old and insane.

The Museum is quite an eye-catching series of rooms that reminds us of art's changing value in today's efficiency-minded society. Bertolt Heensma, the curator of the Museum, told this reviewer that "People's attitudes about art are becoming less tolerant of the concept of 'art for art's sake'. Today's culture hound demands utility in paintings, sculptures, and the like. I myself see no reason a great masterwork cannot also be a practical part of any room or home workshop."

Heensma's theories are put into practice with striking results. As one enters the museum, he is greeted by all sorts of works from the most renowned modern and classical artists. Right away one is greeted by Van Gogh's Sunflowers, on loan from the Japanese. One can revel in its colorful forms and peaceful, simplistic beauty—and then be delighted by the fact that the painting is here laid on a slant for use as an access ramp for the handicapped. As wheelchair-bound spectators roll up the bumpy face of Vincent's beautiful still life, one can truly appreciate the museum's modus operandi. Museumgoers may then marvel at a lesser known work by Rodin, an eight foot hollow sculpture that doubles neatly as an electronic security post. People pay their admission fee and walk under the Rodin to enter the first of seven tastefully decorated rooms. If the sculpture beeps, guests are asked to step over to a tasteful print of Bruegel's Triumph of Death, and to empty their pockets on top of it. The raised, gilded frame makes a perfect tray to temporarily collect metallic valuables.

The wonders of the museum are far too many to go into fully. Suffice it to say that Heensma has demonstrated most aptly the necessary duality of great works as both art and household appliance. A temporary exhibit features three paintings by the great Wassily Kandinsky. The paintings are of course hung from the ceiling, since Kandinsky boldly painted on both sides of the canvas. And what better place than the face of a slowly revolving Kandinsky to remind onlookers of the day's specials in the museum cafeteria? The signs are pasted onto the center of the work seamlessly. The opposite side of the same Kandinsky points us to the nearest restrooms.

Yes, the paintings and sculptures at the corner of 5th and 1st Avenue are all priceless. One can stand in front of Edward Hopper's Sunlight on Brownstones for hours. Hopper used yellows and reds to paint striking city dusks. The museum, in turn, will use Hopper's great canvas through Saturday to prop open a heavy fire exit currently under renovation. And what can one say of a lovely Henry Moore bronze head that, after taking one's breath away with its understated dignity, can be opened in hinge fashion at the browline to offer up a delicious and fat-free almond cookie? A variety of teas and coffees is also available, of course, free of charge.

It will take you hours to walk through this wonderful and innovative museum, but don't worry. If you ever get too tired and need a rest, just head for the Red Room, where Leonardo Da Vinci's depiction of Christ's last supper can now easily fold out into a surprisingly comfortable deck chair. Feel free to sit on the apostles for as long as you'd like—the guards at this museum are congenial and want you to feel at home.

The museum opens at 9 a.m., and specially written lyrics sung gracefully to Handel's piped-in Water Music will tell you when the gift shop closes for the day. You'll wish you never had to leave.


His Name Was Martin Boopem

Wow, I simply cannot believe Martin Boopem is dead. I just can’t believe it. Never heard of him? Yeah, I guess not many people have unless you follow the world of triathletes, which I do. In the nineteen-seventies, Martin Boopem was a god amongst triathletes. There’s no other way to put it. But you won’t see his name in many record books, nope. So how can this be, you ask? Well, let me tell you something first: Martin Boopem was the fastest marathoner who ever lived, the first man to ever break the two hour mark. He did it again and again, making the first third of any triathlon seem like a cakewalk. And on the bike? Well, he polished off those hundred and twelve miles in one hundred and sixty minutes fourteen times out of seventeen between 1974 and 1979. Pure speed and endurance, he was. You really had to see him step off that bike and head for the water. After running twenty-six miles and biking more than a hundred, it looked like he hadn’t even broken a sweat. He was always so far ahead of the other competitors, there almost didn’t seem any point to the swim that finished up the race. That’s where Boopem had a bit of a problem. Oh, don't get me wrong, the man could swim like a fish! When he was in the water, he was a motorboat, strong, swift, unshakeable. It’s just that, like most of us, Boopem wasn’t crazy about just diving in. He liked to stick his toes in the water to gauge the temperature, then wade in a bit to see how it felt. And like any sane person, if the water was cold, he would chuckle and go Ooooooh and kind of wait to get acclimated to it. Sometimes he would soak his hands and rub some of the water on his chest, but sometimes it made him shiver and that would set him back a bit, and who could blame him? Water can be cold! Often after five or six minutes of his hesitation, Boopem would be overtaken by the other swimmers who were starting to dive in willy nilly. This would splash a lot of water up and sometimes it would hit him, and Boopem would suck in air and turn away and laugh a little and he would hop back onto shore if it got really crazy out there with all that splashing. Eventually, though, he would dip down to his waist, and from there it was only another ten minutes or so until he yelled back to everyone on land, “I’m going under!” and he would drop under the surface just as quick as can be, only to pop up again and shiver some more and say, “Cold, cold!” Finally he would get used to the water, and realize that it hadn’t been so bad all along, and then he would take off like a bat out of hell and almost, almost be fast enough to place tenth or eleventh in the field if the wind was with him. If the wind wasn’t with him, well, there was no shame in placing fifteenth or sixteenth, was there? I mean, how many people can even finish one of those damn triathlons anyway? Could you? No, of course you couldn’t, you’re one of the fattest people I’ve ever seen. It looks like all the apple sauce in the world came together and decided to form a human being, and somebody stuck eyes and a mouth on it so it could go out to restaurants at night and eat everything but the American Express logo printed on the check holder. Jesus, you’re enormous. But it’s our anniversary tonight and I love you anyway, pumpkin. I have a little surprise for you…I wrote to Blockbuster and that silly lifetime ban no longer applies on Tuesdays and Wednesdays before 4 pm. So put your flip-flops on, because I heard there’s a new Pixar movie out on DVD where someone who’s done okay on a sitcom plays a wisecracking bar of soap!


Ask Danny, Materials Receiver, Herndon Optical Supply

Dear Danny,

My girlfriend of eight months doesn’t seem to be able to commit to me. She won’t even engage in a discussion about what our long-term plans with each other are, and cuts me off if I talk even casually about the future. I really care for Mandy very much. What should I do?

-Paul in Santa Fe

Dear Paul in Santa Fe,

Man, let me tell you, if I had a girlfriend, I would so do her every night. And I mean I would do her right, too. Not like these guys who think they’re all that. And we would do it in every possible way, too, I swear. I’m just in a down mode right now, what can I say. It’s just not happening for me. But it will. It’s just a matter of time.

Dear Danny,

My wife’s in-laws are wrecking my marriage! My mother-in-law came right out and told me she didn’t care for me three weeks after the wedding, and since then, I’m not invited to any family get-togethers because there’s just too much bad blood. The strain on myself and my wife is getting tangible, and she insists I should be the one to make the peace. What do you think?

-Larry in Tulsa

Dear Larry in Tulsa,

Oh yeah, the wife and mother-in-law fantasy is a good one. I know some guy who claimed he closed the deal on both, but I think he’s full of it. That would definitely be completely hot, though. There was a rumor when I was in college that Casey Stiggs, when she married Ben Trepper, had some insanely smokin’ mother, and that Ben suggested a threesome and got totally yelled at for it. If I had a wife right now, and her mother was a sizzler, I don’t know, man, the way I’m feeling, I’m not saying I wouldn’t make a play on her. I’d be busy seriously doing my wife day and night, too, even if the other part didn’t happen. Marriage is a ways off, though. I’m just in this period where nothing’s going on. I doubt another month goes by without things changing, though. Then I’ll be back in the swing of things.

Dear Danny,

My beloved wife of twenty-one years passed away last Christmas. It’s been almost ten months and the grief is still so intense I can’t even get out of bed some days. Does a sorrow this deep ever go away, or are there some people who simply cannot find a way out of it no matter how hard they try? If I’m not functional by the next Christmas day, should I simply seek counseling?

-Mark in Baltimore

Dear Mark in Baltimore,

Man, if I was married that long, you’re damn right I’d be dressing my woman up like an elf and whatnot and doing her like that. You gotta be creative or things get stale. I would so put a Santa hat on her and show her a good time. Maybe some wooden shoes or something, I don’t know, but something to make it kind of crazy, you know? Oh yeah, every day would be Christmas for her because every day she’d be getting a little present, if you know what I mean. Every damn day, dude, no fooling. You think I’m not capable? The thing is, I’m between women right now. I don’t know what it is, I’m just coming up empty in getting something going. I’m definitely ready, but I gotta get through this dry spell. When the dry spell’s over, though, man, watch out. I almost feel sorry for the next girl. She’s gonna have her hands full!

Dear Danny,

Did you just see that chick walk by with those low-riders on? And the green tanktop? Did you seriously see that stuff? What would you do with that exactly?

-Marty in St. Cloud

Dear Marty in St. Cloud,

Oh man, you gotta give me more of a heads up next time. I was checking out that redhead in the business suit. You know she’s got a great body, you can tell. Not Casey Stiggs great, but there’s definitely something going on under that blouse. Oh Lordy, if she were going out with me, there’d be no need for the suit, you getting my drift? Or do I have to spell it for you, man? I mean, I’m talking about the things I’d like to do to her. Can you imagine?

Next week, Danny answers your questions about the solar system.


Fine, I Don't Need You People Anyway

Dear Mr. Narnia,

We regret to inform you that we, the directors of the International Chess Federation, have decided to revoke your membership and right to compete in any and all tournaments through 2009 based on the incident of September 4. If you wish to appeal our action, please do so in writing no later than October 1.

Frankly, it was not terribly difficult to come to this decision. We have seen many forms of dishonesty and even outright cheating during head to head matches, including the advance theft of notes and plans, the employment of sophisticated high-tech monitoring systems, and the usual overt delay tactics of frustrated opponents. But we never imagined we would see a world-ranked player of your stature suddenly whip his right hand across the board in an attempt to simply slap Mr. Diderov’s queen clear off the table before anyone could spot the absurdly visible act, nor did we truly believe our eyes when you slowly lowered your head toward the board in what appeared to be genuine concentration but was eventually revealed to be a pathetically obvious gambit to take Mr. Diderov’s sole remaining rook into your mouth and swallow it whole. Finally, your secret substitution of the board just before match time with one made entirely of gingerbread seemed to give you no advantage over Mr. Diderov whatsoever, and we are still confused as to what you hoped to gain by the switch and what you meant by your defiant cries of “Ah ha, you Pharisees, it’s all gingerbread and now I possess life eternal!” as you were dragged from the auditorium, just before you started to cry.

Please turn over your credentials to the proper authorities by 2 p.m. on Wednesday so that they may be destroyed through a crushing or burning process.

Maximilian Loin
The International Chess Federation


Corning the Suarez: 1999-2007

This weekend we say goodbye to a misunderstood friend, one who truly deserved better in this life. The catch phrase “corning the suarez,” so near and dear to my heart for eight years, must now be laid to rest. Some say it was dead on arrival, others claim it should never have been born. Oh, how I hate these naysayers and Negative Normans! When, on a bright autumn day in 1999, I was asked by a friend what I was up to and inexplicably responded, “Oh, you know, nothing much, I’m just corning the suarez,” I felt sure that a legend had been born, though even to this moment I have no goddamn clue where that phrase came from or what the hell I was talking about. But it felt so right---like a sudden breeze out on the ocean, or a summer romance with a beautiful girl, one who comes up with weird catch phrases out of nowhere. Since 1999, I have tried to use “corning the suarez” whenever I could, only to receive little more than blank stares and sometimes even hostile lapel-grabbings. I’m not quite certain when or where it may have happened, but I like to feel that at some point in the past eight years I have, in fact, corned the suarez. Am I to be considered mad for this belief? It is a phrase that means nothing, yet means everything. It is both a testament to linguistic futility and a searing indictment of all that we hold dear. I’ve given it almost a decade to catch on, and sadly, I know now that it never will. Yet I feel an unmitigated sense of triumph and pride, both because I was its perennially caring godfather in this unfeeling world, always there for it if it needed me, and because the phrase has spawned a bastard child which even now is wriggling its way out into society like a tapeworm who’s had enough of some fat guy’s stomach lining and wants to see what Paris is like. Yesterday, while in conversation with a friend, I was asked what I was doing after work, to which I responded simply, and without forethought, “Hadn’t considered it, man, but I’ll probably wind up just wicking the everglade.”

Get ready, world. A little corner of you is about to change for about five to seven years.

For celebrity testimonials, exclusive footage of corning the suarez's early years, and fan-written tribute songs, go to


The Professional

Save your damn criticisms of my so-called ‘violent outburst’ at Uncle Stuart’s wake, everyone. I refuse to apologize for my abrupt and necessarily profane exit, for to ask me to do so is to ask me to apologize for being what I am, which is a card-carrying, unrepentant mortar and pestle snob, something I have always been and will always proudly be. You morons might as well ask a leopard to shed its spots, or an antelope to lose its deadly venom. I simply cannot abide it when dumb people speak in an uneducated fashion about mortars and pestles and their qualities or lack thereof, so when Aunt Ceil, regardless of her supposedly crushing grief, defended the ridiculous basalt mocajete she bought in Oslo, I had every right to become upset and call her a worthless whore, as you would too if you only took the time to understand the vast differences between the various kinds of mortars and pestles available on the open market. I’m sure that Ceil would be delighted to spend the rest of her pathetic days crushing her grains and herbs in some bastardized ceramic Apilco from Williams Sonoma, but that doesn’t mean I have to be around her when she yaps about it. If any of you lunkheads would care to come by the trailer on a weeknight and examine my vast mortar and pestle collection, a simple sixty-minute lesson in mortar and pestle history, culture, and myth will be offered by me at no charge. No charge to receive an education I dare say most of you mouth-breathers need in the most dire way! Finally you’ll be able to circulate in decent society when I speak to you at length of the importance of low sand content in the volcanic rock of a well-crafted mortar and pestle, the surprising depth differences between Italian, South American, and Indonesian mortars and pestles, and the tragedy of counterfeit Tunisian olive wood models flooding the markets of our west coast, making idiots like you believe they’re getting the real thing when one slack-jawed look at the porousness of the interior curvature would tell you otherwise. If anything, you should all be thanking me that I didn’t brain Ceil with a 7-iron as soon as she came out with that asinine statement about how grinding moisture-rich and acidic garlic varietals in an Aztec metate releases their flavor more than if you used a well-ridged earthenware suribachi. Jesus H. Christ, losers, was I the only one who nearly threw up when that came out of her gob? Apparently so. Tell you what, why don’t you keep the invitation to Donna’s wedding and all the other meaningless family gatherings until you learn something about mortars and pestles and can make a simple statement about them that won’t have me heaving, okay? And though it’s too late for me to back out of Sidney’s christening, don’t expect me to remain silent there on the issue of his father’s recent embarrassing dart purchase. Nice set, nimrod---I’m sure those 80% Tungsten Cyclones will be worth plenty on eBay when everyone realizes those are actually Collette Shafts with 2ba thread weighing them down. Did you even graduate from elementary school, numbskull?


The Blog = Truth

Dear Godlike in Boston,

Thanks for your comments to the blog. You make a fair point; however, the subtle fact that you seem to be missing, fair reader, is that THE RED SOX SUCK!!!!


Dear Soren,

Your response to my posting on your blog was well-articulated and thoroughly researched, I am sure. Allow me at this time to respectfully differ with your viewpoint and refer back to my original thesis that THE RED SOX RULE!!!!!!

-Godlike in Boston

Dear Godlike in Boston,

Yes, yes, my friend, once again you have put forth your hypothesis in a most cogent manner, and yet I cannot help but feel that, if everything is taken into careful consideration, THE RED SOX BLOW!!!!!


Dear Soren,

I appreciate the stark honesty that you have made the touchstone of our current exchange. But, with all due respect to your experience and intellect, may I suggest to you at this time that you might be overlooking a vital bit of substantiated data that I feel establishes beyond a shadow of a doubt that THE RED SOX ROCK!!!!

-Godlike in Boston

Dear Godlike in Boston:

The clarity of your argument continues to impress me to the point where I am now actually reconsidering my outlook on this entire matter; in fact, let me say, without hesitation, that I have, upon examining all the evidence you have put before me, become suddenly convinced that THE RED SOX BITE!!!!


Dear Soren:

Never before have I come upon a more reasoned debater or a more impassioned advocate for his message, and I will here confess that it is your opinion of the situation which has caused me to re-evaluate all that I believed I knew, and so I say unabashedly on this day, to all who might hear me, that THE RED SOX DOMINATE!!!!

-Godlike in Boston

Dear Godlike in Boston:

You’re right. You are absolutely right. So right, I feel, that I am willing to go public here and now with a total embrace of your ethos and declare in giant capital letters that THE RED SOX SUCK!!!!


Dear Soren:

Hey, what’s this I found on the floor? Oh look, it’s THE RED SOX REIGN!!!!!!

-Godlike in Boston

Dear Godlike in Boston:

Hey, what’s that crawling out of your sister’s hairnet? It kind of resembles THE RED SOX WHEEZE!!!!!!!!!!!!


(Note to the reader: The remaining nineteen pages of this exchange, dated August 31, 2007, are currently on display at the National Archives in Washington, DC through November 9 as part of the “American Minds in Debate: The Foundations of Democracy” exhibit. See the Archives’ web site for directions and museum hours.)