Humor Bag

Medieval Man:

imagesMedieval man knew about the Great Chain of Being.  It went:  God-Jesus-Angel-Man-ape-fish-gold-lead-dirt.  That’s the Great Chain of Being.  Medieval man knew anything.  The bird?  Goes between the ape and the fish.  What about a rabbit?  Okay, better than the bird but not so nifty as the ape.  What about a flat rabbit with a bus tire mark that you can sail like a Frisbee?  Okay, worse than the bird but still edges out the fish.  What about a man in a rooster suit that zips up the front?

Medieval man knew anything.  When did the earth start?  October 29, 4004 B.C. at 9 A.M.  What holds it up?  A strong man standing on an elephant which is standing on a tortoise.  What held up the tortoise?  Spirits, sometimes.  Later the scientists had a revolution and said the tortoise was falling.

Medieval Man wasn’t so dumb as you think.  For example, he might have had airplanes, TVs, pinball machines, and trash compactors if he’d wanted them.  But he loved the simple things—a tin suit with a plume, a song with four whole-notes, gold anything.  Sometimes a little gang rape.

Thinking Like a Dog

 I went to hear a talk by the author of Dogs Never Lie About Love.  For three hours, while the author’s three unleashed dogs wrestled noisily and sniffed about the audience in the cramped hotel conference room, he rambled on without ever saying more than that dogs have feelings greatly resembling those of humans.  For approximately half the time, he encouraged members of the audience to reiterate the belief that dogs have feelings greatly resembling those of humans.  Inevitably, the discussion turned from underrated dogs to overrated humans.  Wasn’t it a shame that humans were incapable of the honesty, innocence, and unbounded joy of dogs?  People are trapped in the conceit that they are “higher” than dogs, he suggested, when in fact they are merely different. 

I naturally had to ask him if he felt that our ability to understand something of where we came from and how we fit into the larger scheme of things was in any way preferable to the awareness of the dog.  He said he really didn’t see that it was.  Which led to the obvious question of whether the dog was in any way “higher” than the fly.  No, he said, it was not.  Seeing that he had been backed into a syllogism in which the man is no better than the fly, I took compassion and retreated.  But later I remembered reading a book by a neuroscientist explaining how the mystic, who can shut down all reflexive perception of time and space, is a man trying to think like a dog.

History of the World

by T. V. Generation

      First it was real hot and before us was big funny animals that the ape men defeated with his spear and with ropes tied to bent-down trees that yanked them in the air by the legs.  Then the Ejipshuns built giant peermids with their bare hands.  They always drew birds and were sideways.  The Geeks came and brought Sockraties, but a giant wooden horse tricked them in the fall on grease.  Finally the Romins took over the world and Sezer was the Boss of everything.  He built the Colosseum where the Raiders can still be seen today.  Rom had other influences in our life.  Sometimes we still use their letters to make dates.  Today is MDDLXVIII MLCMJ wait, MMVVIIV.  Rom finally fell because of carelessness and there were a lot of rapes, sacks, and pillars all over Europe.

Then the British Empire took over until King George went berserk and George Washington and his ragged men, two of which were brave clean black men, crossed the Delaware and showed the redcoats the Declaration of Independence that made them cry and get back on their ships.  They say that the British Empire never sailed in the sunset.  Lincoln freed the slaves and got shot in a box.  The slaves all loved him because they had always dreamed of going to Oakland.  We fought the Crouts back when all the movies were black and white.  Our subs were a lot trickier and the pilots used a lot of words like “hot dog” and “charlie” that the dumb Crouts couldn’t understand even though they were listening.  Lots of times Jerrys would still be in the towns even though we had already all drove in singing in our jeeps.  Then Robert Mitchum and Frank Lovejoy would have to sneak in a window and rat-a-tat them down the stairs and off balconies.

Everything was really fun in the fifties until they shot Kennedy in 1963 and then they shot him again in 1968, and in 1969 he drove off a bridge at night.  He doesn’t run for President anymore because he probably can’t get any insurance.  Then they shot Governor Wallace even though he was a decent-loving man who always wore a coat and tie, and they shot King Luther and Kent State and a guy who only wrote his name “X.”  Then the Beetles broke up and got shot and a crook broke into the White House and shot President Ford.  They even shot Reagan when he was somewhere without his pistols on.  Finally they shot the Pope on TV which was real boring compared to the real movies of those things with singing in the sky and Victor Mature on his knees twisting his face and wringing his hands with lightning and thunder all over the place.  But all the guys who got wasted were nobody’s real fault since there are too many poor people who can’t get Cadillacs because every time they try the rich white people drug them.  The rich people are also inflating the earth by planting nuclear plants and when it pops in China it will kill all the poor and elderly and the spotted owls.  That is why rich people want to go to the moon.

      In conclusion, we can generalize and say from all these facts and some movies I saw that if everything keeps going like it is Godzilla and King Kong will come out of the sewer with giant crabs and kick down our cities and swing the subway trains over their heads like chains and people will be late for work and will not be able to find a lot of their things.  Even a four hundred foot chicken that was worried about Lady Gaga getting hurt could not stop them.  So in the end man must learn that history repeats itself in strange ways and there are many things that man was not meant to know.  We must watch the skies and be ever alert when the moon is full and tell the army if you see people who never smile and talk in monotone.  And always carry matches.

I Have a Dream

With Lady Gaga in Le Façade, a little out-of-the-way restaurant overlooking the metropolis at night from the hundred and tenth floor of the Caterpillar Tractor Building, where Antwon kisses Madame’s hand and for his good friends, personally prepares by candlelight his forty-dollar Jello salad.  We whisper of Astrology, Scientology, Cosmic Consciousness, of my family’s blindness to my singular destiny—the inevitable day when all the world will wonder how this man could ever have been held in twenty years of obscurity as an aluminum siding salesman. 

(Do not think I am drawn to Le Façade through some simple-minded motive; I am drawn by many complexly intertwined simple-minded motives.)

Deep Thoughts

If you ever wrote a trio for harp, cymbals, and bass drum, you would need a guy who could play the harp really loud.

***

I saw the beer ad and thought, Yes!  If I had it all to do over again I’d buy a boat, load it with water-beaded cover girls tossing their hair as they grab with gusto for water-beaded beers, and sail endlessly from port to port, loading cases of beer and unloading bent cans, because “you only go around once.” 

***

People are pretty much the same.  I want to say that the President isn’t much different than me, but you’d probably say, “Wait!  The President isn’t a little bug-eyed man in a dunce cap who scampers through the forest at night hunting owls with a bullwhip.”

***

A lot of people think Abraham Lincoln is the greatest American.  He always wore black.  I bet they didn’t think of Evel Knievel who wore a body suit of stars and stripes!  He put rockets on a black Lincoln convertible and tried to shoot over the Grand Canyon.  

***

I think a thousand years from now when people look back to the twentieth century they’re going to want to know a lot more about Don Ho.

***

The Phantom

A small yellow car, looking like it was resurrected from an automobile graveyard, sledge-hammered into roughly its original shape, fitted with a self-rebuilt engine in some weedy back yard, painted yellow with a fifty-cent brush, and now parked for no apparent reason by a gas station fence in a small mountain town, revving its motor every few seconds with a jackhammer-like sound, dripping oil, blowing clouds of exhaust.  At the wheel, a lank, sickly figure, its stringy hair falling over bony shoulders and a torn, filthy tank-shirt.  A scabby hand draped out the window, cigarette dangling from the fingers, and a face like a computerized police sketch blending every color, and evolutionary stage of man—jolting backward as the tires screech and burn, the rear end skidding left and right, the car bottoming over the curb.  Another figure on the passenger side grinning smugly, hand gripping the roof, riding along for the glory.  They screech up the hill in a wake of exhaust, revealing large black letters painted across the trunk:

                                                    THE PHANTOM

 

Notes on Life in General

indexAt Stanford, almost all the courses in my philosophy major were held in one particular room.  The department had three or four rooms, but I always seemed to end up in the same one.  There were nineteen wooden desks in the room, and on each desk over the years students had carved one of the basic words of philosophy: Truth, Good, Beauty, Reality, Essence, Being, Mind, Form, Substance, and so on.  It wasn’t until my third year that I had a kind of mini-enlightenment in the midst of all that musty rationalism.  It struck me that each of the droning courses was about one of those nineteen words—using the other eighteen to define it.  So if you stayed around long enough you could come full circle.  Perhaps the most interesting philosophical question was “What do I do with a degree in philosophy?”  I thought of printing a card with my name and phone number: 

DIAL A WORLD VIEW
  Philosophical emergencies, day or night.
  Ask me which religion is right.
  Sweeping, sketchy hypotheses transcending any of yours.

It occurred to me that I might qualify as a Generalist.  The Generalist trade used to boast some big guns—Plato, Aristotle, Erasmus, Leonardo.  But who do we have now—the Ed Bush Talk Show?  Jerry Springer?  The field was open—I would be the Doctor of Vast General Thought.  So I began writing and offering opinions on things in general.  People at cocktail parties would say, “Can’t you be more specific?”  And I would say, “I’m sorry, I’m a Generalist.”  My world grew increasingly general until I found it difficult to deal with any subject bound by time and space.  At that point, an illuminating event occurred.

One day, as I was about to give a talk on history in general, I noticed that I had been billed as “Wyn Wachhorst, humanist.”  To be honest, I had to look that one up.  I had never been sure just what a humanist did.  But I had also never been sure just what I did.  Seeing the definition, I thought, “These people have got something!”  Had I experienced this epiphany earlier, a great many past dilemmas might have been resolved. 

My stint in the Coast Guard is only one example.  I had shopped around and unearthed a deal whereby I could serve six months as an officer aboard ship and then get out.  It was such a short stay that the captain felt it impractical to train me for anything in particular.  Ostensibly, we were a rescue ship; but my visions of appearing in Life magazine hanging from a lifeline in a typhoon pulling bodies out of the twisted steel of a listing Andrea Doria never panned out because all we ever really did was take sandwiches out to a lighthouse every other Tuesday.  Therefore, I mostly just sat around the wardroom watching TV, eating pie, and drawing pictures.  There was a Filipino steward who mopped the floor incessantly so that I had to keep raising my feet.  Sometimes I emptied the exec’s wastebasket or went ashore to take a guitar lesson from a big Scotsman in an unpainted house with a caved-in porch and a mattress in the front yard.  He taught any instrument you wanted.  He had an old upright piano that came around the Horn and went “byork” when you hit a note, a stepped-on trombone that still worked fairly well, and a cello full of cement.  I also spent a whole Saturday helping a local bartender burn down his house, the circumstances of which, intriguing as they must have been, have escaped me.  The point of this is that few of these activities seemed suitable for the sign on my wardroom mail tray, other officers having labeled theirs “Cdr. G. H. Fleming: Operations Officer,” “Lt. J. Haugen: Deck Officer,” or “Lt(jg) L. Desmond: Communications Officer.”  Mine read:

Ens. N. E. Wachhorst: Flats fixed. Lawnmowers sharpened.  
Trash hauled.  Palms read. May I guess your weight? 10¢.
See live snakes! 15¢. A wizard with a rubber band.

Had I known, it could have simply read: “Humanist.”

 

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