Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Limited Edition

On a shelf in the upstairs bathroom at work (where no baths are ever taken), two cans of so-called air freshener stood: a Lysol product that promises "to neutralize" odors and a Febreze product sporting a "Limited Edition" label. For the record, I rarely, if ever, use these products because (a) they emit offensive odors of their own, (b) they are examples of conspicuous capitalist waste fostered by marketing brainwashing, and (c) I mean, really, it's just natural life, and (d) I simply open the freakin' window if my emissions are apt to evoke adverse olfactory impacts in my co-workers. (To be honest, I have never even deigned to try the elegantly and oh-so-cleverly-named-but often-misspelled Febreze spray thingy.) Limited Edition. It got me wondering. How limited? Would it be infinite if it were not a limited edition? Limited in its success rate? Limited in the number of editions such that the one I stared at is the only one anywhere, therefore worth gazillions of dollars? And is there any product that is not a limited edition? I'm one. I'm a limited edition. (But not a product in the aforementioned sense above.) I am limited by time and space; by my capacities, hopes, failures, dreams, aspirations, strengths, weaknesses, et cetera. Ad infinitum (now that's a phrase denoting unlimited!). Limited by my strengths? My assets? Yes, they may be my greatest limitation of all, prodding me to hold on to the illusion of control, tricking me to hold on to what I have not got, nudging me toward willfulness when I should be surrendering or simply waiting. Edition? I am always either editing myself or allowing redaction upon myself. I'm often surprised by the latest edition of myself that hits the existential newsstands, sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not.

Limited Edition
. What a paradoxical phrase. It conveys limits, borders, definition, urgency. The very agency of restriction and limitation increases the perception of value.
This blog is a limited edition (it is ephemera, as I blogged back in September), read by rare and priceless limited edition readers, such as you,
and you

and you

and you, too (sweetly
and forever precious as your birthday approaches, six time zones east of where I sit).


(I am a semicolon; or maybe an ellipsis {perhaps parentheses}, but certainly not a period or full stop; not yet . . .)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Leave It to Beaver


A live beaver has been spotted in New York City, allegedly for the first time in about 200 years.

It was seen swimming in the Bronx River last week.

Of course, Times Square is not in the Bronx and has been all Disneyed up, but I'm pretty sure Forty-second Street and Eighth Avenue featured lots of live beaver in the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties. But memory is tricky and selective. I could be wrong. Maybe it was all trick photography, and smoke and mirrors.

"Hello! Is this microphone working?"

"Thank you, thank you, ladies and gentleman. I'll be here Thursday, Friday, Saturday."

"Can you hear me back there?"

"Hey, Louie, throw those hecklers out, will you!"

Saturday, February 24, 2007

What a Difference a Lettre Makest

Being on such great terms with my friend Claire Voyant, I have been made privy to these very, very clever (and humorous) results from tomorrow's Washington Post Style Invitational, and wish to share this privileged information with my loyal -- oh, what the heck -- my royal readers.

I wish I could say my internationally recognized humor (or humour) were represented here (were, because I'm using the subjunctive mood), but alas it is not. Besides, if it were, then I'd have to surrender my brand name The Laughorist for my real name. If I recall correctly, I did not even enter this contest (or did I? who can recall back that far!). No doubt I was busy blogging. (I did enter the contest to be announced next week, asking for presidential campaign slogans, so stay tuned.) (As for the subjunctive mood, that entry in Wikipedia is downright encyclopedic, but I guess it's supposed to be. It was so exhaustive, it almost made be subjunctively moody.)



(We) Give Us a Break
Sunday, February 25, 2007

The results for Week 699, one of the change-a-word-by-one-letter contests that some people think we should run every single week instead of all this other stuff with jokes and cartoons and poems and such drivel, were -- we have to admit -- so clever and so abundant that we needed two weeks' worth of columns to share the worthiest entries with you. Also, this is a convenient way for the Empress to take a day off from judging and go lounge poolside in the Imperial Hammock, taking care first to don the Imperial Parka and Earmuffs and Moon Boots.

Report From Week 699
in which we asked readers to change any word beginning with E, F, G or H by one letter and define the result. This week we'll present the best of the E's and F's, with a whole set of winner and Losers. The best of the G's and H's will appear March 18. That week, the winner will also get the Inker, the official Style Invitational trophy, and the first runner-up will receive the magnetic Greek alphabet letters pictured here, brought back from Hellas itself by Kevin Dopart of Washington. (The letters are spelling out both the Greek word for "loser" and the English word phonetically.)

The rule for Week 699 was that the original word, not the result, had to begin with E, F, G or H. So, for instance, "flactate," a verb for a PR person's feeding drips of gossip to hungry reporters, couldn't go. The rules permitted a letter to be added, subtracted or substituted with another letter. Also, two letters could be transposed; several Losers realized that they didn't have to be adjacent letters. Also not qualifying: adding a number instead of a letter, as in Kevin Dopart's clever "GeiCO²: Global warming insurance," one of his 191 entries. (To answer your next question, no, Kevin is not on the federal payroll.)

For some reason, the single word that appeared on practically everyone's list was "fratulence," defined variously as a wafting from beer or kegs or college-kid dirty laundry.

4. Fuhrenheit: The temperature in Hell. (Brendan Beary, Great Mills)

3. Eruditz: A philosophy professor who can't figure out how to work the copying machine. (John Kupiec, Fairfax)

2. the winner of the artsy tubes of Breath Palette toothpaste: Fearcical: Ludicrous yet vaguely alarming. "There's a fearcical rumor we're going to invade Venezuela." (Martin Bancroft, Rochester, N.Y.)

And the Winner Of the Inker
Epigramp: A maxim that brands the speaker as an old codger: "If God had wanted women to wear pants . . ." (Brendan Beary)

Not Ef Bad [this week's term for Honorable Mentions]

Tedema: That jowly Kennedy look. (Kevin Dopart)

Educrate: To teach in one of the "modules" set up "temporarily" in the parking lot of an overcrowded school. (Ted Einstein, Silver Spring)

Elbrow: Extremely long underarm hair. (Ellen Raphaeli, Falls Church)

Emacidate: Go out with a fashion model. (Kevin Dopart)

Editore: Edited. (Peter Metrinko, Chantilly)

Demoticon: A little symbol signifying bad news on an e-mail from the boss. (Roy Ashley, Washington)

Tempress: Today, Mistress of the Domains of Chaos; tomorrow, just another loser. (Ann Martin, Annapolis)

Zencompass: Wherever you go, there you are. (Kevin Dopart)

Unergy: A condition that strikes people on the way to work, mostly on Mondays. (Janet Alexandrow, Springfield)

Ennaui: The least exciting of the Hawaiian islands. (Brendan Beary)

Entrophy: The consequence of resting on one's laurels. (Bill Strider, Gaithersburg)

Eohoppus: A prehistoric kangaroo. (Brendan Beary)

Enguish: What elocution teachers feel when they hear the president on the radio. (Karl Koerber, Crescent Valley, B.C.)

Estchew: To stay on daylight saving time. (Bob Kopac, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.)

Stonia: A small European country with very loose drug laws. (Russell Beland, Springfield)

Engin: Gasohol. (Andrew Hoenig, Rockville)

Innui: How you feel upon seeing the same landscape painting you saw in your last six hotel rooms. (Dave Komornik, Danville, Va.)

Erstwhale: The success story in the Jenny Craig ad. (Jay Shuck, Minneapolis)

Nestrogen: A hormone produced during pregnancy that produces cravings for wallpaper with matching borders and dust ruffles. (Brendan Beary)

Estrogent: Someone who asks if the fabulous pumps are available in a 13 1/2 E. (Phil Frankenfeld, Washington)

Excaliburp: Sword swallower's reflux. (Marian Carlsson, Lexington, Va.)

Excretary: The office worker who seems to spend two hours a day in the bathroom. (Jay Shuck)

Exhillaration: what Monica almost caused in Bill. (Peter Metrinko)

Experdition: The journey to Hell. (Martin Bancroft; Mae Scanlan, Washington)

Excavhate: To dredge up an old grievance during an argument. (Mike Fransella, Arlington)

Macebook.com: For warding off cyber-stalkers. (Ben Aronin, Washington)

FAQu: The response to frequently asked stupid questions. (Ira Allen, Bethesda)

Yellowship: Cowards Anonymous. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village)

Fiefdome: A state capitol building. (Creigh Richert, Aldie)

Fistipuffs: Very minor squabbling. (Jim Lubell, Mechanicsville)

Flabboyant: Proudly displaying one's girth. "In his Chippendales skit on 'SNL,' Chris Farley was amazingly flabboyant." (Brendan Beary)

Fatulence: That squishing noise of thighs rubbing together. (Jim Lubell, Mechanicsville)

Flimflame: To commit arson for the insurance money. (Howard Walderman, Columbia)

Loozies: All those women who hang on Style Invitational contestants. (Kevin Dopart)

Foaly: A elderly horse who likes to bother young colts. (John Holder, Charlotte)

Foresking: The best mohel in town. (Brendan Beary)

Fortissimoo: More, more, more cowbell! (Chris Doyle, sent from vacation in Bangkok)

Farternity: An old boys' club. (David Franks, Wichita)

Forget-me-note: A Dear John letter. (Chris Doyle)

Faux pAl - When your Inker-winning gag about "Gandhi II" turns out to have already been used by some guy named Yankovic. (Andy Bassett, New Plymouth, New Zealand)

Next Week: Stump Us, or The Battle of Hustings (Mark Eckenwiler, Washington)

© 2007 The Washington Post Company


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lent-ills, and Other Beens

A deliciously ascetic season, Lent was characterized by an iconic "giving up" of some treat, typically food, announced to family and friends. Such as, "I'm giving up Wise potato chips this year," which was a common refrain of my brothers and me over the years. We loved potato chips (called "crisps," I believe, abroad), addictively and rapturously and unhealthily. (Still do.) This addiction was anointed at any early age when my older brother and I, in the 1950s, would have an evening snack of potato chips in a little imitation copper bowl, which, emptied of chips, we irreverently placed on our heads, like a prelate's skullcap, as our parents watched the television sermons of fierce-eyed Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. One year, we learned that Sundays, as "little Easters," did not count as part of the forty days apportioned to Lent, so we felt that gave us a tremendous loophole. And so we binged on chips galore on Sundays. (Was Chips Galore the once and future husband of Pussy, the siren in the James Bond movies?) But, to be honest, that took some of the fun (if that's the word) out of it all; it was kind of wimpy; not up to the challenge. Exercising the loophole induced a guilt for not being guilty enough, if that makes any sense at all (as if this makes any sense at all to the postmodern mind).

One year, I forswore sugar in my daily tea. The habit was to have two heaping teaspoons of sugar in my morning tea, this from the earliest age I can recall. When Lent ended, I never went back to the sugar in my tea, and that's probably more than thirty years ago. What, if anything, does that tell me about human character (mine), and habits, and change? If anything, it tells me that the permanent change was barely intended, was almost imperceptible, almost accidental; mostly effortless; certainly not any result of rolled-up-sleeves willfulness. (Don't you just salivate over those semicolons? Could I ever abstain from employing semicolons, even if I tried? Not likely; not this year.)

The years of attempting to swear off booze, I guess I managed it, or nearly so. But by Easter it was off to the wild races (so, surely, I could not have opted for the loophole each week, because the brakes would not work by Monday morning) without a doubt.

Speaking of doubts, I doubt I ever gave up "impure thoughts" for Lent. How could I, or anyone else? After all, such thoughts invaded my brain unbidden, like gamma rays or rain or oxygen or incense; the charge was not to "indulge" them, though, alas, the glossy pages of porn or a lingerie ad in a Sears catalog (pre-Victoria's Secret), or a fellow teenager getting off the bus downtown in a plaid skirt galvanized my own charged-up psyche -- and made me look like a minor character in a James Joyce short story, call it "Portrait of the Hardest as a Young Man." (To you less innocent than me: yes, a Victorian term:
impure thoughts. The actual deeds? You gotta be effin' kidding! [Speaking of "effin' I sort of promised myself I'd try to drop the F word during this year's practice. I can report I have not been successful even before evening. This practice is not as puritanical as it sounds; it makes for an intriguing self-auditory analysis, especially in traffic. My other goal is to avoid conversational interruptions. That may be more impossible than resisting so-called impure thoughts. As I've blogged before, I can't even stop myself from interrupting myself!]).

In later years, it's been toast without butter or some other things I can't even recall. In fact, recently it's been less and less of that youthful melodrama, a drama all about me. And why not? Who's youthful? Not moi.

Naturally, "giving up," or self-denial, has its place in the universe (though not particularly in the postmodern Western Hemisphere), but not if it's all about self.

No, not if it's all about the self, despite proud postures of solipsism proclaimed in one's blog banner.

The inventory of Lenten acts over the years is unfortunately not filled with visits to hospices, jails, or homeless shelters; such are the exception, not the rule.

So, forehead smudged with mortality-reminding ash this evening, I close with this commentary from my Zen Calendar for this day:


sin and evil

are not to be got rid of

just blindly.

look at the astringent persimmons!

they turn into the sweet dried ones.


P.S. After drafting the above post, and revising it several times, I went upstairs, got a washcloth, wet it, soaped it, and set about cleaning the ashes off my forehead. Successive rubbings did indeed clean my forehead, but a redness remained where the ashes were. Then I found that the icon of mortality stubbornly remained on the washcloth, the "human stain" (to use a Philip Roth phrase), which even more stubbornly clung to the sink, as one last black ember refused to be swallowed down the drain, finally yielding to my incessant pouring of water, as if I were some guilty murderer in an Edgar Allan Poe or Stephen King story.

P.P.S. Annual visit to a certain type of medical specialist today. PSA results normal. This is one situation where The Laughorist likes to be "normal."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Binge Purge Urge Dirge


Mardi Gras.
Fat Tuesday.

Cendre Mercredi. Ash Wednesday.

Binge.

Purge.

All together now, (one, two, three):

"I want more, give me more, right to the core."

"No, I don't; no, I won't; take it away, punish me hard."

"Give me now, no matter how, make me soar."

"Pare it down, shuck it off, all that lard."


(Okay, okay, so I suck as a songwriter.)


Carry on.

Some days are off-days for bloggers, too.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Filthy Lucre

I find the phrase filthy lucre semantically bountiful, with its oxymoronic hint of silvery luster besmirched by something shameful, perhaps even feces; its ambivalent conjurings of lust, Lucifer, and luck, all puritanically punished by the adjective filthy. As pointed out by the American Heritage Dictionary entry linked above, William Tyndale's 1526 English translation of the Bible used the phrase "filthy lucre," and the two words are now inseparably linked, at least in English. (Any readers of foreign tongue are invited to weigh in with their own versions of this phrase.)

I'm no Freudian (or even Jungian) psychoanalyst, but it has been said talking about money is the last taboo. An article by Alina Tugend in The New York Times of February 3, 2007, noted how, at least in America, people will divulge revelations of sexual abuse or details of sexual intimacy way more readily than financial secrets, especially among siblings, co-workers, and neighbors. In fact, the article noted that an anthology of 22 writers, called Money Changes Everything, edited by Elissa Schappell and Jenny Offill, lost out on the contribution of Writer 23. "He had written about his drug addiction, about a nervous breakdown, but he would not write about money."

Some say our obsession to have more than the next guy, or gal, is fueled by this secrecy; others say it is simply envy, or greed, or materialism, or media marketing. A movement known as voluntary simplification is seen as an antidote to this acquisition fever. Similarly, some call for a commercial-free childhood.

I wonder if athletes get terribly upset when their exorbitant salaries are announced. I have little doubt Armando Benitez and others would prefer that such facts be kept secret. I call it the price of fame. (Obviously, the price of fame is too high a cost for many, witness the current or former behavior of many celebrities.)

It turns out blogging is a salutary vehicle for many who are hugely in debt. They talk about it openly but more or less anonymously. One couple blogs about it. It's apparently easier than face to face.

I don't know where I'm going with any of this. At first I was going to write about semicolons, but I got sidetracked. Now I've run out of steam (John Dryden once scathingly wrote of "...the steaming ordures of the stage...").

Filthy Lucre just seemed like a more alluring topic. It's no wonder a band chose it as a name.

What would be the opposite of filthy lucre? Clean Cash? Pristine Profit?

Just doesn't have the same ring to it. Plus, is it really possible to have pristine profit?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Book of Job (Interview Questions)

If you are interviewing for a new job, or if you are an employer interviewing someone for a new job (or if you are merely fantasizing about doing so), you need to read the tips in this link from The Style Invitational of The Washington Post (scroll down to results from Week 698).

One of my favorites?


Sell me this pocket lint! (Stephen Dudzik)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Mr. Wind-up Bird

Haruki Murakami's book The Wind-up Bird Chronicle features a "wind-up bird" as a significant character. It's a bird that makes a strange screech that sounds as if it were winding up the world. . . .whatever the heck that means.

The real-life Mr. Wind-up Bird is Barry Zito. He's the pitcher who shows up at spring training with a new team, a new $126-million contract, and, um, a completely new wind-up.

This is unsettling to Giants fans such as myself (since 1955, the year AFTER they won the World Series, which they have not won since). Mr. Wind-up Bird says it's because he wants to improve. Fine. But I must add he is a pitcher who's never missed a start in seven years, a pitcher who has won the Cy Young Award as recently as 2002. He says he's been working on this for last month and a half, unbeknownst of course to his new employers. Zito compares it to the fabulously successful Tiger Woods's adjustment of his fabulously successful swing in 1997. (Notice how I inserted that traditional [trad] apostrophe S, unlike most journalists.)

Maybe it will work out fine for Mr. Wind-up Bird. Maybe not.

It's akin to Ernest Hemingway switching to a new publisher and submitting a draft of James Joycean prose straight out of the likes of Finnegans Wake.

Or The Meloncutter changing stores and presenting himself as a meatpacker! (There's a word to mull over.)

Or a pole-dance teacher showing up to give instructions on trout fishing.

Or a failed entrepreneur-fratboy-politician trying his hand at U.S. president.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Saving Face

Did you know some people find it difficult to remember or identify faces? It's called prosopagnosia, or "face blindness." Here's a simple test you can take to see if you have it. (Hint: you have to guess whether it's Bush or Blair. Yuck! Why not Jennifer Lopez vs. Salma Hayek? Or Brad Pitt vs. George Clooney? Whatever.)

Not having one's face recognized is especially onerous in the Age of Celebrity. Imagine how slighted the glitterati feel.

It turns out authors are frequently among the unrecognized faces. But I'm alert to such sightings, probably because they are what I am not. Years ago I worked at Random House in New York. I saw Joseph Heller on the elevator. I approached John Updike in the lobby, asked for his autograph, and he chatted with me amiably. Kurt Vonnegut was often seen in the neighborhood. I saw Norman Mailer strutting up Second Avenue. (Before all that, I even met the satirist Peter DeVries at his house.) I saw James Baldwin sitting alone in a hotel lobby in Chicago in the 1980s, shook his hand (somewhat cold and feeble), and asked for his autograph. He pleasantly obliged, and his face warmed with a smile seemingly at the fact someone recognized his face.

(As you can see, I am a shameless name-dropper. Is it a sign of poor self-esteem? Or just living vicariously?)

I shouldn't joke about this face blindness phenomenon; it is considered a real neurological impairment. It's not that I think I have it, but I do find it difficult to describe a face to someone. It's hard for me to draw that picture with words. And I have no talent as a visual artist beyond the creation of stick figures.

I remember the youthful thrill of trying to rivet into my brain the image of the visage of someone I liked. (Typically, of course, I was unable to articulate such affection.) Must be what Lennon and McCartney had in mind with "I've Just Seen a Face."

Then there are the images of those I feared or loathed: a kid who bullied me, a teacher who smacked me to the ground. I wish I had no memory of their faces. Prosopagnosia for the antagonisti, call it.

Whether visually or otherwise, we seek to save face. In domestic quarrels, each participant tries to save face.

Barry Bonds held out on signing a $15.8 million contract with the San Francisco Giants, just to save face.

Nations and sects and rivals also fight to save face, even if it means destroying the whole body, the whole body politic, the whole soul, in the process.

I wonder if there is such a thing as mammogagnosia, "the forgetting of breasts"? I think I'm afflicted with whatever the opposite of that is. And let me tell you, Braille may not help but who cares!

There's even a romantic comedy film called Saving Face by Alice Wu. It concerns a Chinese-American lesbian.

Maybe right about now, some of you are wishing I'd do an about face (which is also the title of a work by Dario Fo, but not by Dario Marquez)!

Does all this make me a facist? (Read that last word carefully. Remember, spelling counts.)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Dis-cover-ease

So, I'm driving around listening to Abbey Road by The Beatles, ebulliently rekindling my youth with my young daughter.

"Wait. You'll love this," I excitedly tell her. "It's a children's song."

"Maxwell's Silver Hammer" comes on.

"Back in school again, Maxwell plays the fool again, teacher gets annoyed,
Wishing to avoid an unpleasant scene,
She tells Max to stay when the class has gone away,
So he waits behind,
Writing fifty times I must not be so
But when she turns her back on the boy, he creeps up from behind,
Bang bang Maxwell’s silver hammer came down upon her head,
Bang bang Maxwell’s silver hammer made sure that she was dead."

Did you ever hear such a whimsical light-hearted tune? And was there ever a greater mismatch of flippant tone paired with such casual, violent imagery? (Imagine the video they could've done!)

"Gee, Dad, did you ever listen to the lyrics?"

"Yeah, I mean, no, I mean, I guess not. I don't know. I guess I never really got that it was so violent."

We laughed. What could one say? Tone is everything, hunh?

Later, it somehow reminded me of a conversational game my older brother and I used to play, creating hilarious mismatches of pop songs being "covered," as they say, with the worst possible combinations.

Kate Smith or Ethel Merman doing Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze."

(Okay, you have to be a certain age to see how ludicrous it is.)

Bing Crosby covering The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."

And so on.

Come up with your own, because if you are expecting me to be hip in any contemporary way, it ain't happening.

Prince doing "White Christmas"?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Dawn's Early Light

I do not count myself among those who are "morning people." I awake slowly and reluctantly and typically with some measure of grouchiness. I count myself among the night owls.

I used to work roughly 3 p.m. until midnight or 1 a.m. at a newspaper. Loved those hours. Never set an alarm clock in those days. But, alas, my working those deadly nightshade hours became a skein of ruinous and profligate ways swirling into a self-destructive vortex. I was plucked from that vortex, rescued in ways that are hard now to define except to echo the title of a tragic but heartfelt book by Joseph Heller, one that used parentheses more artfully than any other book I've read:

Something Happened.

I used to feel guilty about not being a morning person, as if it reflected a negative and defeatist and bankrupt view of the world.

I'm resigned to it now. . . .not the worldview but the morning's slow march. I don't think there's much choice. It may even reflect my alleged sleep apnea and multiple awakenings every night. Hence, my nearly daily morning heavy weight of grogginess. The hangover of memory and night and darkness.

But is there anyone more luminous and prayerful and mystical and poetic about morningtime than

The Secretary of Dawns?

I offer you the rich tableau of his incandescent and singular ponderings of dawn.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Fencebusters


Bored (i.e., rich) teenagers are busting fences as a form of entertainment. According to a recent story in The New York Times, suburban Long Island (New York) teens run at and hurl themselves into wooden fences separating neighbors, sending themselves and slats flying. Then they brag about it by displaying images or videos of their, um, performance art on various Web sites.

It's called fence-plowing or fence-popping. The more technical term is:
defencestration.

This behavior is more popularly known as moronism.

To my knowledge, advanced defencestration is not yet an accredited course at any college in Southern Florida, Texas, or California.

Is Slats Dominoes their leader?

Although they undoubtedly never heard of him, were they subconsciously inspired by the late Pete Reiser, the indomitable if reckless major league baseball outfielder known for crashing into outfield walls and fences?

Do they sing "Don't Fence Me In" while performing?

Does their ritual include reciting lines from the play Fences?

They must be fans of the Boston Red Sox, because you just know they love Fenceway Park.

Where were they from 1961 to 1989?



Certainly not in Berlin. That wall just didn't have enough give, did it, kids?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Spell Right. . . .Or Die!


Spell right . . . or die!

I guess that's how it would've been in the Old School days of Marxist-Leninist rule in Russia. These days, if you screw up your spelling or grammar, you're just sent back to school. . . .rather than sent to a gulag in Siberia.

The governor of Lenin's hometown region of Ulyanovsk (who presumably is a flawless speller and grammarian) was so fed up with bad spelling and grammar that he ordered some 2,000 bureaucrats back to school.

What next? Serial killings as punishment for the the abuse and misuse of serial commas? Would these be commakaze missions?

What awards go to the "Most Imporved Speller"?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Says-pool

I heard a radio commercial this morning referring to the Internet as the "information superhighway."

Whew, I hadn't heard that one in a long time.

I never felt that metaphor worked. It is typically invoked by advertisers promising high-speed Internet service, allowing users to drive up the information ramp quickly, yadda-yadda.

I'm reminded of something Henry David Thoreau wrote:

"We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate."

What is a good metaphor for the Internet?

I think it's more like a river, stream, or ocean.

Or maybe a gigantic pool. Yeah, that's it.

*The says-pool.

(Of course, you might argue for sees-pool, seize-pool, or cease-and-desist-pool. But I like the fact that says-pool captures two elements of the Internet: our wading in (or diving in) to a great sea of Something-or-other interlinked like that old game of Telephone, driven by "he said-she said-he said-she said-they said-it said" ad infinitum. That said, let me note that in real life a Google search of my real name nets thousands upon thousands of entries, and maybe as many as 90% are wrong in their attribution. Almost right, but not quite. And it's all a matter of the rippling effects of misinformation upon misinformation, which can never be corrected or amended.)

Laugh. Or....

Else.

* The coinage "says-pool" is copyright 2007 by The Laughorist, Pawlie Kokonuts, and his antecedents, precedents, and malcontents.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Kaizen, the Kokonuts Way

I like the term kaizen, with its evocation of ongoing improvement. (The folks at Kaizen Chronicles got me thinking about this. Kudos to them for quoting a Leonard Cohen song. By the way, guys, is Bo Steed a nom de plume, so to speak, of a porn star?!)

I forgot I had encountered the term in the workplace years ago, during an aggressive rampage of so-called Total Quality Management (TQM), continuous improvement, blah-blah-blah, et cetera ad nauseam. Of course, it was mostly a ruse, a vehicle for "lean manufacturing" (incidentally, we didn't manufacture anything), an opportunity to supposedly do your job better, so your position (as well as many other positions) could be eliminated, so the company could be sold, raking in oodles of money for the owners, the purveyors of "quality." (All of that did eventually happen.)

But Wikipedia informs me that true kaizen must be practiced with something called respect for people (why does Wikipedia put it in quotes, with initial caps?), or else it is something called kaiaku, which -- no surprise -- means "change for the worse."

I was wondering, though, is kaizen a polar opposite of the acceptance and resignation of zen?

Oh well.

How Now Tao Wow.

What about today?

Today my kaizen consisted of a total and complete, up and down, across and behind, under and over, cleaning of the Kokonuts domestic bathroom. Every spot. I started it because it bothered me to distraction. Not because I was asked to or was nagged or was guilty about it. (Sheesh, maybe it was because of my public letter about flirting in my previous post! (I inserted all that to see if Dr. Andrew and his legions weigh in.) (Enough already with the parentheses!) With my wife joining in, it soon became a collaborative, and rather fun, task. (Refreshingly and rarely collegial.) I told my daughter when we were done that we could eat off any surface in there if we so chose. This binge cleaning (initiated by a binge person) of course evoked evangelical and crusading thoughts such as, "hey, let's do this every Saturday!" (soon amended to "every other Saturday," since my spouse works every other weekend), almost immediately amended to "how about we just confine ourselves to this one day."

We would've enlisted the energetic resources of our young daughter, but she had an overnight guest over, so we went easy, making both of them haul out the detritus of old shampoo bottles, dusty ornamental things, and other junk.

This episode led to a spousal leisurely lunch at a North Side Italian bistro (another rare event) (daughter went with friend) (I even tried some latte; not for me), some residual soreness, a skipped afternoon nap (we were too late into the afternoon, past its nap-taking tipping point), and a fairly positive outlook on life while gazing out the window into the chilling but lambent northern sunlight.

Kaizen, the Kokonuts Way.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

'Chill, Sil' Thrills As Hot Topic

I don't know what to make of the passionate press dueling of Silvio Berlusconi, 70, and his wife, Veronica Lario, 50. In a word, he's at the least a big flirt and his wife of 27 years is so pissed off she penned a letter to the newspaper her husband hates the most. She demanded a public apology, and more or less got it. Juicy stuff. I love it.

And I just love the picture in The Huffington Post of Aida Yespica, the delicious doll (pardon me, "Venezuelan showgirl") who was the target or victim or recipient of one of Sil's offhand passionate remarks.

Sil, the former papal ambassador to the Cayman Islands (correction: former prime minister of Italy), reportedly says things like, "With you I would go anywhere" or "If I weren't already married, I would marry you right now."

Doesn't every guy "joke" like that when faced with such mounting challenges?

C'mon, Ronnie (can I flirt with you, Veronica, and call you by such a casual name? Please? Pretty please?) You're as hot as that tart Aida (just kidding, Aida, baby!), and you're the same age as my wife. That's cool.

Let's just lighten up, shall we, kids?

Since I'm not running for office, let me just say, "Sil, buddy, you have impeccable Italian taste -- in wives and suits, and, um, colleagues and acquaintances."

Public Blogosphere Letter To My Wife:

Honey, I kid. All the time. You know me. Plus, I just can't help openly flirting (but not on TV like Sil). Can't hide the real me for long, can I? What's a little flirting? It's not as if I'm like billionaire Mr. Big, Silvio Berlusconi, sending out flowers from the Palazzo Chigi every day to some strange woman and telling the world I'm sending them to you. That's just not me. (Sheesh, who has that kind of dough?!) It's not like I'm fighting off Venezuelan showgirls (hey, Mr. Hugo Chavez, why didn't you bring Aida to your United Nations speech, huh?). Anyway, I apologize, in advance, dear. For not being like Mr. B. (Can't say it's for lack of trying, right?)

Ciao!

Laugh. Or.... Else.

p.s. I have attached a recent Euro photo of someone claiming to be Herr Laughorist in case Aida or Veronica need to see how rough things really can be.

Tschuss!