Friday, June 30, 2006

"E Pluribus Unum" Humor Contest

"E Pluribus Unum" was the original motto of the United States. In fact Wikipedia has an excellent history of the phrase, the motto, and its relationship to ever-evolving lingerie fashions at:

The Laughorist figures, 50 years is enough. New times and customs demand new mottoes (after all, lingerie from the 1950s ain't the same as today's styles, unless it's a retro kind of thing). (Enough already with the digressions!) (Okay.)

The Contest

Coin an original new motto for the U.S. of A. as she celebrates her birthday.

The Rules

It must be funny and original (at least in the eyes of The Laughorist). The Laughorist is the judge, jury, and executioner on this one (give or take a view friends on the Jersey City waterfront and Brooklyn).

Send entries to So it's not tossed away as spam, put Contest in the subject line.

Enter as often as you like....whether you are from the USA or elsewhere (open-minded about it; it's just a freaking humor contest; not "humour" though).

It's free.

Deadline: July 7, 2006.


First-prize winner gets to select any one item from The Laughorist Store [see sidebar link].

Second-prize winner gets to select any item under US$15 at the store.

Winners and Honorable Mentions will get cited here.

Have at it.

Non me noce, solus nuntius sum!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Dharma vs. Salma

This Zen mondo from today's Zen Calendar (Workman Publishing):

A monk asked Yun-men:

"What is the pure and clear body of the Dharma?"

Yun-men replied: "Flowery hedge."

The Laughorist replied: "Salma Hayek."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Writing = Garbage?

In browsing through Jon Winokur's delicious The Portable Curmudgeon, my imaginary big toe just stubbed itself on this bit of a boulder in the shoe we now call blogging:

All writing is garbage. People who come out of nowhere to try to put into words any part of what goes on in their minds are pigs. -- Antonin Artaud

Um, Mr. A.A.? That would me moi. Oink. OINK! And the rest of us, I s'pose.

I don't know Artaud's works except for a riveting essay about him by the late Susan Sontag around 1973 in The New Yorker. You could look it up (as Casey Stengel said, and sources say HE was actually mimicking an earlier quote). My anal-rententive mind works that way. (Did you ever see the great T-shirt in Wireless, the public radio catalog, that says something like, "Is anal retentive hyphenated?") I remember Artaud as an anarchist French playwright. I guess. But, whew, how prescient could one be? put into words any part of what goes on in their minds...

That be us, Artie.

Winokur's little gem of a book offers just two more quotes on writing. Here they are:

If you can't annoy somebody, there's little point in writing. -- Kingsley Amis.

That's Martin's Da, the author of Lucky Jim, a fine satire. (I love Martin Amis's Money, as well as other works. I know, not on my Favorites. Who cares.)


If I didn't have writing, I'd be running down the street hurling grenades in people's faces. -- Paul Fussell.

And now a word from our irredeemably shameless sponsor:

Why not hurl slogans in people's faces instead of grenades? Go to The Laughorist Store on the sidebar. (Ain't nothin' like it anywhere else. Lucky us.)

Monday, June 26, 2006

A Slice of Life (Thin)

The Beatles sing "...say the Word..." on my car's speakers just as we pull up across the house, the summer rain now falling harder, tapping on the car roof. I say, "That's my favorite sound in the whole world, I think." I turn the car off. The music from the newly acquired Father's Day CD Rubber Soul goes silent. It is dark. The windshield wipers cease their metronome beat. You say, "My favorite sound is the birds when the sun first rises. I guess we just have different personalities." I sort of hum agreeably. To myself. No sound comes out. No words. Just the plinking rain. Receding now. We open the car doors. And now it is pouring, splashing between the close houses. "That's the sound I like," you say. We agree on that one.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

San Francisco 'They Might Be' Giants

Ray Durham's apparently first-ever walk-off homer yesterday brought a thrilling win for my boys. Being on the East Coast, I had been following the game on But, oh me of little faith. After the Jints failed to score with runners on first and third, with the team down 7-5 in the 8th, I pretty much gave up and went to walk the dog. (Nice walk. Magic light. Put the game out of mind.)

What a shocker to come back and discover the Giants had snagged a big W!

I've been a fan since 1955.

How's that for timing? (They had just won the 1954 World Series and I asked my older brother Richard who his favorite baseball team was.)

Someday maybe I'll get hypnotized to relive those moments that I probably witnessed as a 5-year-old in front of a black and white TV with a screen the size of a postage stamp, cigarette smoke of adults swirling around us.

They'll never get closer.

Not in my lifetime.

Six outs away in 2002.

Sadly, I agree with Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle ( that the team's living in the past when it comes to Mr. Bonds. And I agree with the estimable Henry Shulman that this is unfortunately just a .500 team.

Trade Bonds now. Get someone in return for him.

Let's begin the New Era (not an endorsement to the cap company).

By the way, I stuck with the Giants when they moved from New York to San Francisco for two reasons:




Saturday, June 24, 2006

Attention Deficit Surplus Disorder

I'm b-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-ack!

Really, I've never seen my blog show up as one of those "updated blogs" that keeps cycling through at the home page like the news scroll at Times Square, so...........

I'll think I'll sign off and see if I can catch me on The Scroll.

Friday, June 23, 2006

ADHD -- Is It Right For Me?

I've been wondering lately about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Is it right for me? When I've read or heard about symptoms of ADHD, I stopped and did something else. Then, when I completed the conversation or reading, I concluded: Hey! That sounds a lot like me! Then I got distracted and did something else. (Which reminds me: one of the funniest entries ever, for me, in The Washington Post's Style Invitational weekly humor contest had to do with funny, albeit inappropriate, children's-book titles. Someone -- perhaps the estimable Stephen Dudzik, my alleged half-brother -- submitted something like this: The ADHD Association's First Book of Geogra --Hey, Let's Go Ride Our Bikes! It was phrased better than that, but you get my point. The Not Ready for theAlgonquin Roundtable Society of Losers

can correct me and find the exact entry, thank you.)

(It's arguable that even my persistent use of parentheses, this constant self-interrupting, is the most salient symptom of adult ADHD.)

Lest anyone think I'm fabricating all of this, I must confess I did some research (some, not a lot; of course, I did not have the attention span; which reminds me that some have posited the notion of attention surplus instead of deficit; which is alluring, seeing that we certainly have an avalanche of attention-grabbers vying for our focus; but I digress; and use a lot of semicolons; speaking of digression, did T.S. Eliot have ADHD? Think of his great line in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: "is it perfume from a dress that makes me so digress?"; the answer, T., is yeah!). The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has a fairly concise and pretty informative piece on ADHD in adults at:

In part, it makes a lot of connections between the diagnosis in children and adults and says "the probability that, of children who have ADHD, many will still have it as adults. Several studies done in recent years estimate that between 30 percent and 70 percent of children with ADHD continue to exhibit symptoms in the adult years. These symptomatic adults were retrospectively diagnosed with ADHD after the researchers' interviews with their parents."

Whoa! Hold on! My father is deceased and my mother is nearing 90. What is she going to say? "He was always like that. Well, maybe his brother tended to be more like that, especially before a parade. And he's still sort of..." Wait, Ma, this is about me, remember? Read my post on Solipsism. Please.

It further states:

"Typically, adults with ADHD are unaware that they have this disorder—they often just feel that it's impossible to get organized, to stick to a job, to keep an appointment. The everyday tasks of getting up, getting dressed and ready for the day's work, getting to work on time, and being productive on the job can be major challenges for the ADHD adult."

I don't want to put my job at risk, or anything else, or want my therapist to think I've been holding out on him, but, how can I delicately and professionally phrase this? Th-th-th-th-that's me, folks!

But if Bill Clinton, Robin Williams, and 97,443,228 million other Americans (yes, especially Americans [another dissertation can be inserted here; and another here; et cetera; ad infinitum; plus, see my recent "Age quod agis" post too]) are reading this, might they identify with it and make the same technically clinical "th-th-th-th-th-that's me, folks" conclusion?

The article goes on to say:

"Diagnosing an adult with ADHD is not easy. ...the first time, [those who diagnosed] will begin to understand some of the traits that have given him or her trouble for years—distractibility, impulsivity, restlessness. Other adults will seek professional help for depression or anxiety and will find out that the root cause of some of their emotional problems is ADHD. They may have a history of school failures or problems at work. Often they have been involved in frequent automobile accidents."

Comment: I'm not THAT bad. But, Pawlie, my boy, Isn't that what everyone says, from the active alcoholic to the, um, um, subway groper [today's paper says they ran a sting on NYC subways and arrested a slew of 'em].

It states:

"A correct diagnosis of ADHD can bring a sense of relief. [true] The individual has brought into adulthood many negative perceptions of himself that may have led to low esteem. Now he can begin to understand why he has some of his problems and can begin to face them. This may mean, not only treatment for ADHD but also psychotherapy that can help him cope with the anger he feels about the failure to diagnose the disorder when he was younger."

Well, now I'm a little pissed at the NIMH article writers. I thought psychotherapy was giving me a better handle on my anger, and now you've added a whole NEW reason to be pissed off. Thanks. Thanks a lot, assholes.

"A professional coach can help the ADHD adult learn how to organize his life by using "props"—a large calendar posted where it will be seen in the morning, date books, lists, reminder notes, and have a special place for keys, bills, and the paperwork of everyday life. Tasks can be organized into sections, so that completion of each part can give a sense of accomplishment. Above all, ADHD adults should learn as much as they can about their disorder." [I AM learning about it, I'm just wondering, now, if this is a funny post or an embarrassingly serious one]

Look, I can't afford a professional coach. If you insist, I would settle for an amateur one, but she has to be in her twenties, preferably from either the Czech Republic or Hawaii, and must have at least 36D's -- for the best chance of clinical success, to keep me focussed.

But I like the idea of a coach. I honestly coach myself at work regarding this. And it works. And I am happy to share this truly helpful little tip. If I'm especially scattered, I look at the clock on my computer and tell myself I can't leave my chair for any reason, can't stray from one self-assigned subtask, can't respond to the blip of an incoming email, can't answer the phone unless it is a true business necessity. It helps. It settles me down. It really helps. Which is why I really need a giant poster of Age Quod Agis as an aforementioned prop.

I leave on an upbeat and cheery note; the NIMH piece lists "characteristics of ADHD that are positive—boundless energy, warmth, and enthusiasm."

I like that, but my energy is waning, so I'll stop for now.

A thought pops into my addled little brain: if I don't have "boundless energy, warmth, and enthusiam," now I'm wondering if I'm wrong about the whole self-diagnosis thing.

Which, dear readers, brings us full circle:

Is ADHD right for me?

You decide.

To help, I've added some shameless props of my own:

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Age Quod Agis

Father Birge would open the door, pop his head into our classroom, his eyeglasses slid halfway down his nose, interrupt the teacher (say, Father Giuliani) and the class (e.g. [exempli gratia], Latin class), and declare:

'Age quod agis.'

We'd hoot and howl. Lustily boo. Pretty much saying, "C'mon, Father, get outta here."

Everybody would laugh. But he had a point. After the laughter died, has died, I get the point lo these many years later.

Age quod agis.

Do what you are doing.

It's hard for my attention-addled-surplussed mind. It's hard in a world abhorrently demanding that hideous term "multitasking."

Age quod agis.

Attention. Focus. Concentration. Mindfulness.


I struggle to surrender to that concept.

Whenever I do, I'm more centered and peaceful.

I'm going to lunch now. I'll likely break my own Age Quod Agis code by reading the paper while eating.

At a nearby food court.

At least the TV won't be on and I won't have earplugs transmitting music and I won't be talking on a cellphone (maybe) and I won't be blogging on a laptop.

Not this time.

Do what you are doing.



The simple life.

Coulda woulda shoulda. Maybe I can. Today.

(I can't resist a shamelessly self-serving pitch: my site has Age Quod Agis mugs, shirts, stickers, et cetera --even thongs and boxers. Why not?)

Out to lunch now.

Mo' later.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


In Christian Discourses, Etc., the Danish philosopher/theologian Soren Kierkegaard has a chapter entitled "The Anxieties of Self-Torment." It's a comment on the Gospel of Matthew. He leads off the chapter with the verse from Matthew: Be not therefore anxious for the morrow-- after all such things do the heathen seek.

The kicker is this: in essence, Kierkegaard says you're greedy if you worry beyond the day. (Okay, okay, covetous is a shade different.) He declares that one who trusts in the care of a Higher Power [no, no, you're absolutely correct; he says "the Christian"] does not have this anxiety.

He writes:

Every day shall have its worry, that is to say, take care to be free from the next day's worry, accept tranquilly and gratefully the worry of today....for every day has enough of its worries. In this respect also God provides: He measures out the amount of worry which is enough for every day, so take no more than what is measured out, which is exactly enough; to be anxious for the next day is covetousness. [Walter Lowrie translation]

I'm not razoring in on how profound this affected me when I first read it, around 1979 or 1980. It struck me how radically useless it is to not live in the day, "this very day," as Kierkegaard terms it.

For me, personally [forgive the tautology], I used to go with "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die!" But it was a cry of desperation and despair. Today I say the same words out of gratitude and celebration, somehow infinitely different--which I am explaining very poorly.

Speaking of today, this morning I put an "I Leap for Kierkegaard" little bumpersticker on my car. I bought it from my own website ( many weeks ago.

Then I wondered if doing so lowered the value of my 1999 Ford Contour because I'll probably never be able to scrape it off the bumper, which is the same olive color as the rest of the car.

Sheeeeeeeeeeesh! Talk about neurotic.

h a i k u

lone robin singing

slow rhythmic twirl keeping time

scattered crushed pine cones

St. Sycophant's Day Hangover

I'm suffering from a mild sycophancy hangover today.

The day after the day before fawning.

All fawn done.

What's the cure, I wonder.

I'll walk the dog.

Maybe find The God of Small Things.

Perhaps a haiku later.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

St. Sycophant's Day

I'm declaring today, June 20th, St. Sycophant's Day. It honours the toadies, apple-polishers, ass-kissers, fawners, and obsequiously craven cravers of the world. Count me among them. Just for today.

I just performed a bit of a public favour. No harm in that, right mate? Part of the trade-offs of human commerce. You do this for me. I'll do that for you. Of course, the transaction is more subtle than that, rarely so explicit.

So, without advancing the risque (how does one insert an accent aigu right here?), or risky, details, let me just say the favour was performed, the deed was done, with all its attendant placing aside of fussy scruples, what-if's, and complicated caveats. But The Favour became something I embraced as time went on in its preparation. I relished doing it, became a more fervent believer in its cause. It wasn't as if personal moral scruples about this favour would (or had or will) prevent me from sleeping comfortably in good conscience (well, I typically get up two, three, maybe four or more times a night; medical thing; so, how good a sleep do I ever get anyway?). As I said, the tenets of belief underpinning The Favour (or Favor, for other fellow Anglo tribes) were such that I did not think I sold myself out completely. As I said before: human commerce.

C'mon: are you 100% uncompromisingly "pure"? Are you honest? Come on. And if you are, what is your price for such purity?

And now a word from not exactly our sponsors but a fine bit of reference to the word "sycophant":

As you can see, the word has a fascinating history, not the least of which is its association with the notion of informer.

I'm thrilled to learn that.

Because after the event ["event" is perhaps either misleading or too revealing a word; but I'll declare this: it wasn't at the U.N., or in the galleries of the US Senate or House, or at the British House of Lords or House of Commons], I mean after The Dispensing of The Favour, I glad-handed a few of the Favour-Askers and got well-deserved thanks from them and all that.

But I discovered something, something obvious to most grown-ups, I suppose. Namely this: the more I sought the gratitude of The Favour-Askers (FAs) the more they were repelled by me. Literally repelled by my craving. By my cravenness [crave and craven seem to have two different roots]. The FAs actually walked away, averted their eyes when they saw me approaching.

It made me a little angry, eh? How dare they?

But the part about the Informer as an etymology association for "sycophant" very much intrigued me because the whole, shall we say, postcoital aroma (they smelled the whiff of St. Sycophant perfume emanating from my every pore) reminded me while I was driving home of a John le Carre novel. It dawned on fawning me that the sycophant is dangerous. Not pleasing him, not returning the favor of obeisance, sets up a dangerous game. Hence, Magnus Pym is le Carre's wonderfully tragic empty antihero in "A Perfect Spy." Hence that US spy Rick Aldrich [was that his name?] who turned out to be a counter spy for 30 some-odd years for the Russians.

I had an aha! revelation.

Those guys, those Perfect Spies, are the patron saints of St. Sycophant's Day. Magnus Pym and Smiley and the whole lot of them.

Now I know.

The dangerous dagger of sycophancy is sharpened most by what? Indifference? Irrelevance?

How should / would the feast day be celebrated in years hence? Groveling? Bowing? Lying prostrate? Licking? Sniveling?

Likely none of the above. Because:

As Oscar Wilde said, "Living well is the best revenge."

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Millionth Word

Recently, The Style Invitational weekly humor contest of The Washington Post invited entrants to coin "the millionth word" in the English language (yeah, someone's counting). It had to end in -ion. Here are my entries:

derriaeration -- flatulence.

orgasanation -- a group of very excited individuals; highly motivated team.

anorerection -- loss of appetite for, um, excitement.

zodiaction -- action taken after reading one's daily horoscope.

antipastion -- place to wait before being served at Italian restaurant.

decolletagion -- infectious competition to see who has the most revealing plunging neckline (occurs during awards shows).

sacramention -- something you swore you would never tell.

camisolution -- method by which a woman changes a man's mind.

commation -- disturbance or confusion owing to a misplaced or misused comma.

commoanication -- expression of pain, complaint, or lament.

incognation -- a country blinded by ignorance.

lameantation -- regret over what one meant to say.

fruction -- the fruits of sucking up to someone.

We'll see which ones, if any, find ink in The Washington Post.

Marcel Proust

I was browsing through my faded and yellowing copy of The Penguin Dictionary of Modern Quotations, dated 1976, and came up with this intriguing line from Proust:

As soon as one is unhappy one becomes moral.

It's from "Within a Budding Grove," of Remembrance of Things Past. The R. Scott Moncrieff translation. That's the boxed-set version I picked up about 10 to 12 years ago, at a place called Books and Memories, in Syracuse, New york, for about nine dollars, if the faulty device called memory serves me well.

That quote is one of those gems you come across reading Proust. (Another one: he once referred to the body as a "nervous envelope.")

His line reminds me of the Cornwalls, the Puritans, the Talibanic naysayers, the tight-lipped moralists, the Arthur Dimmesdales... [add yours here]

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Hot Hot Hot

Too hot today. Sultry. Drains me. It enervates me. I'm done.

Isn't the prefect solipsistic site one wherein no one ever posts a comment?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Chesterton Redux

Another Chesterton quote. I first heard it on a retreat, years ago. It goes like this:

If a thing is worth doing it is worth doing badly.

It's apparently from a Chesterton work entitled What's Wrong with the World. The words were cited as an encouragement for those in attendance to take a certain step, no matter how imperfectly.

The advice was helpful.

It worked.

It has worked.

It's working.


The quote is most helpful -- ironically enough for perfectionists (I tend toward that), prodding them out of the paralysis of purported perfectness (itself an illusion, a vanity, a willfullness instead of a surrender).

I've made the 'mistake' of repeating this line in the world of business. They don't get it.

But I still say it in my head -- especially when I'm on a stress-filled deadline.

G.K. Chesterton

"The Nothing scrawled on a five-foot page." -- G.K. Chesterton, in A Song of Defeat.

Another elegant metaphor for all web logs, especially this one.

Speaking of Chesterton, to some degree conservatives have conveniently co-opted him for their own uses, as if they own him. (Just as conservatives have at least attempted to appropriate the American flag solely for their own worldview.) That's to be expected, naturally, of someone who wrote Orthodoxy. Various websites of Chesterton aficionados (such as display tidy categorizations and careful compilations of Chesterton quotations. Of course, that's their right (well, it's a rite, too). At one time, one of these organizations had a rather tasteless quote forward-referenced to 9/11 (about the destruction of buildings), but it seems to have been removed.

But in the cozy compilations of quotes, you don't tend to find this line, from The Defendant (1901), essays of various Chesterton reviews:

"'My country, right or wrong,' is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, 'My mother, drunk or sober.'"

Yes, we can spend hours deconstructing and debating elements of this: patriot, desperate, motherhood, drunkenness. Another time perhaps.

Is it buried purposefully? Accidentally?

The words are very apt today. My take is that it's that kind of sentiment that we need to hear more of (yes, you can end a sentence with a preposition). I hear too many jingoists invoking too many cliches.

I've adapted this apt quote and put it on T-shirts, stickers, mugs -- even thongs and boxers ( Irreverent? Twisted? Chesterton would like irreverent, I'd venture.

It's worth a debate.

Friday, June 16, 2006


Leopold "Poldy" Bloom. Molly, his wife. If I'm not mistaken, on Bloomsday, June 16, he kept a pair of Molly's panties in his pocket. That's one way to keep her on your mind. Or in the penile colony a yard or so south. (Well, it's not as if mind is just up in the skull, eh? The fine book Descartes' Error by Dr. Antonio Damasio explores that.)

Way to go, Leo!


It's my favorite word in the English language, first learned from a William F. Buckley Jr. column, in the 1960s. Why do I like this word? Its Latin root says it all: alone + the self, only the self. Just me. Moi. Even a formal philosophy based on this. And is this not The Age of Solipsism, as evidenced by this very writing, this artifice itself, the Whole Blog Plant spinning on the axis of Celebrated Self, Sellabrated Ipse-ness, for all the cyber world to see (and sometimes hear, if one is so technically disposed or talented)? It's not as if I'm exempt from such solipsism by merely declaring it, it's not as if I'm exonerated by announcing it. Really, now, we're all subjectivists to a degree (not me, you protest! But if you truly doth protest, do not use that suspect pronoun d'ego).

What would the perfect solipsistic blog consist of? And endless loop of "I"s linked to one's own phot only accessible by one's own computer with the username "I" followed by the password "memememememememememenotyounotyounotyounotyounotyounotyouoryoueitherIgotyourpointasshole"?

How could we have a culture of celebrity without our friends Mr. and Mrs. Solipsist?

And why end with this [likely inexact] quote from Fyodor Dostoevsky: "Gentlemen, you ask me what is hell? It is the inability to love"?

The cool thing about the internet is that someone will read this and find the totally precise and exact quotation and its source and page number. Now, that is very unsolipsistic, is it not. Thank you in advance.

I should be sleeping.

It is 0122 hours.

While you are researching quotations, maybe you can help with this. Several years ago, in a front-page story in The New York Times, it was noted that for many years a series of aphorisms (not laughorisms, as on my were attributed to Mother Teresa. Nice, cogent aphorisms. Turns out she unwittingly cribbed them, from some guy who in the 1960s or maybe 1970s had written them for a thesis at Harvard, who owned the copyright, and who subsequently published a book of these not-really-Mother-Teresa-pithy-spiritual quotations. The 20 million krone question is: who is that guy? Where are those quotes? Does it matter? Yes, it does to me. Even didn't seem to help me ("misattributed quotes" might've been the topic I tried). In researching this, I discovered a wonderful online research project that someone did through a library (sorry, as I type it is not at my fingertips but I printed it out somewhere): a quote he says is falsely attributed to Edmund Burke, a quote oft quoted [wrongly] that goes [wrongly] something like: "All that good men have to do for evil to prevail is do nothing." I told you the quote is not exact. If I recall, this fellow challenged ANYONE to find that quote [or the "real" one like it] ANYWHERE in Burke's writings, or he would keep the url up there.

More later.

I really should go back to reading The Kite Runner in the hopes I'll go to sleep.

I do have to work tomorrow. At a real job.

And I thought I'd write just one sentence.