Sunday, July 27, 2008


The New York Times
reported how a college student complained on his blog about the cable provider Comcast. The young man, Brandon Dilbeck, thought no one was listening. (Who doesn't at times feel as if no one is listening [existentially, socially, or psychotically] at times? Huh?) After all, he hadn't gotten any comments on his blog, called Brandon Notices, in months, he said.

"It feels like nobody ever really reads my blog," he is reported to have declared.

Then -- poof! -- shortly afterward he gets an email from a Comcast dude!

You never know who is watching or reading your blog.

A similar thing happened to me about 1.75 years ago. I got an email from the BBC because someone there had read, ON MY BLOGGER PROFILE!, that John le Carre's A Perfect Spy was one of my favorite books.

The BBC invited me to pose a question to him, which I eventually got to ask him live, on the phone from my office (when I had an office, boo-hoo)! That was very, very cool.

Ya never know.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hed Aches

Headline, or "hed," on the front page of The (Syracuse) Post-Standard, July 24, 2008:

Sheriff: Bisesi walked in, admitted killings


"The guy wanted to spill his guts and they didn't stop him," he says.

I have to tell you, as I fished in my pocket for the two quarters to pay for the newspaper (all you online readers are wondering: newspaper? what's that, you troglodyte!), I juggled some confusing thoughts in my still-waking brainpan: who is "he"?

I first thought -- excuse my ignorance -- that "he" referred to the murder suspect, Bisesi.

Then I cleared it all up.

Chalk up this confusion to the albatross of miscommunication known as an unclear pronoun antecedent.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Do Ask, Do Tell

In an effort to help the Chinese people, especially those who encounter foreign devils, excuse me, tourists, during the Olympics, I nominate eight questions that you can ask (see preceding post, immediately below).

1. Who killed Jimmy Hoffa?

2. Would like me to show you how to use chopsticks?

3. What did you think of the final episode of "The Sopranos"?

4. Do you embrace the logic, beauty, and clarity of the serial comma?

5. What size is your [insert noun here to represent an anatomical anomaly, description of square feet or cubic metres of living space, or current total of 401(k), if any]?

6. How do you like our air and water pollution, as well as our popular habit of public spitting?

7. Do you miss all those manufacturing jobs we took from you?

8. Brother/sister, can you spare a dime?

Don't Ask, Pray Tell

This just in from Beijing:

The 'eight don't asks' of the Olympics

Posted by Tim Johnson

Tue Jul 22, 5:46 AM ET

Posters are appearing around Beijing guiding locals about how to interact with the (few) foreigners coming for the Summer Games.

The posters instruct residents on the “eight don’t asks” when chatting with foreign guests. Here’s a rough translation, courtesy of the Peaceful Rise blog:

Don’t ask about income or expenses, don’t ask about age, don’t ask about love life or marriage, don’t ask about health, don’t ask about someone’s home or address, don’t ask about personal experience, don’t ask about religious beliefs or political views, don’t ask what someone does.

So what is one to ask? Maybe the relative merits of fencing versus marathon swimming?

Now, for the foreigners out there, here’s the No. 1 dud question to ask a Chinese person. It’s a question that will draw a blank, non-comprehending stare:

“Hey, pal, tell me about your president. Is he doing a good job?”

Hey, everything these days says MADE IN CHINA. Maybe that's what should be stamped on a little card with these questions and hand the card to visitors to the Olympics.

As for asking that question about the president: ask it in the U.S.A. and who knows, you might find your travel plans are hindered, or when you go to vote your registraton is all of a sudden invalid.

Carry on. Laugh. Or...


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Nary a Solipsist Among 'em

According to The New York Times, the vogue pejorative term is narcissist, used to describe such wide-ranging folks as A-Rod, Madonna, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Jamie Lynn Spears, and Senator Chuck Hagel. Aw, c'mon. Anyone can be a narcissist, but it takes a special kind of narcissist to be a certified solipsist. Incidentally, in this image by Ron Barrett, from the Times's article, you'd have to erase "others" (well, everything else, too) to get to the level of solipsism that the Modern Age aspires to (by the way, something castigated today by the pope in Australia).

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Some Antics . . .

. . . or semantics.

Wordplay. Or is it wordploy?

Whether forecast = predictions on decision making.

That's all I've got for now.

A foregone conclusion (or, to borrow from the late Victor Borge), a fivegone conclusion in times of inflation. A fivecast, too (or three).

Friday, July 18, 2008

Water You Know, the Seaquel

Back in my early days of blogging, I caused a stir by suggesting it was hypothetically possible, maybekindasorta, that people pee in the shower, maybe even Laughoristic bloggers tinkle en passant de shower. O, the comments on that post! A new shower thought has spouted forth: Do you ever drink the water that comes from the spout? Do you ever open your mouth and just take satisfying gulps of water, albeit in spray form, from the shower head? Until recently, I never did, ever, in all my years. Why not, I don't know. Then I tried it. No harm done. But I typically purse my lips while showering, habitually preventing the water from raining into my mouth. As for why, I leave that up to the armchair psychoaquatherapists. What about you? Ever drink shower water? Why? Why not?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rank and File Knockouts

Have you heard about chessboxing? [check out the link, with video]

It's a hybrid sport that combines mental and physical prowess (or is that prowesses?).

"The Thinking Man's Contact Sport" is how it's billed.

They just had a championship in, where else?, Berlin, in Kreuzberg.

Players play alternating rounds of chess and boxing.

I think this is way cool. I even love the blended word chessboxing.

Why not extend this to a host of other sports or contests?






It's been said before by others, but why not settle conflicts by chess instead of war?

p.s. Did you know the word checkmate is ancient Persian, or Farsi, for "the shah [king] is dead"?

p.p.s. My title salutes the worlds of chess and boxing. The rows in chess are ranks and files, respectively. And knockouts are, well, knockouts, unless, of course, they are knockers, in which case they may also be knockouts, too, I suppose (at least in a titular sense, parenthetically speaking). Carry on. Laugh. Or else.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pawlie's Portmanteux

These are what I submitted for the Washington Post Style Invitational humor contest on portmanteau coinages. In an e-mail, the Empress gently chided me, instructing that some of my brilliance did not technically meet the "portmanteau" criteria.

Nevertheless, none of my cleverness made the grade.

Fair and bollixed. You decide . . . if any should have (or "should have done," as the Brits would say if the sentence ended here) made the grade.

sicklicious -- cutting yet perversely pleasurable (...a sicklicious remark).

siblinguistics -- the psychologicallly charged speech habits of siblings ("I'm telling Mommy!" or "How could you think of going on a cruise on their fiftieth anniversary!")

stipulater -- to add conditions to an agreement after the fact.

technicalamity -- a highly specialized screw-up, or an event masquerading as such ("The system is down. What a technicalamity!)

Timbuktutu -- a scanty ballet outfit, and by extension a euphemism for nudity

Timbuktutu -- outfit worn -- sometimes -- by the Mali National Ballet Company

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

sacramention -- something you swore you would never tell.

sadomasochasm -- the gap between pleasure and pain.

topornography -- branch of topography that perceives explicit sexual connotations in land forms and contours.

unduleisure -- a casual but flirtatious wave of the hand.

ultimato -- a threat that backfires, leaving one red-faced, as in "I thought I told you to clean your room!" "I did, plus I did my homework and mowed the lawn."

umpirical -- pertaining to data that is simultaneously highly subjective and objective.

vestallment -- virginity, or its loss, on the installment plan.

vortext -- a message that just sucks the air out of you.

whiskeynote -- an intemperate opening speech or address

zerendipity -- discovering by sheer happenstance the existential nothingness and hollowness of life as we know it. (J.P. Sartre, Paris)

zaftwig -- America's next celebrity model; an anorexic beauty with strategically implanted supplements.

yeowomen -- back-up singers for a gangsta rapper.

yahootenanny -- a bunch of screaming idots. Yahootenanny: scream-activated search engine.

wobegonorhhea -- a sexually transmitted curse.

xenopheromone -- hormone that stimulates arousal triggered by the sound of a foreign accent.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Portmanteau, Ohs and Ahs

From the Washington Post's Style Invitational humor contest:

Report From Week 769

in which we asked for portmanteau words -- words combining two words in which at least two letters overlap: Most people had no trouble noticing that the words had to begin with a letter from S to Z; those who sent entries from all over the alphabet (a group that may or may not include a Mr. Chuck Smith of Woodbridge) should hold on to them for when we repeat this contest with other letters, providing we are still here and all that.

Among the most common words offered was "soporifiction," variously defined as the works of Henry James, Dostoevski, Thoreau and Danielle Steel. A special telegraphy prize goes to the (we swear) eight-time Loser who sent "Yodelegate: To delegate to another the task of yodeling" AND "Sugarlic: Sugar stored next to a bag of garlic" AND "Swedental: A Swedish dental plan."

5. Shamigo: A fair-weather friend. (Dave Prevar, Annapolis)

4. Senescenterfold: The highlight of the redesigned, retargeted AARP Magazine. (Bryan Crain, Modesto, Calif.)

3. Tontology: If you're the LONE Ranger, kemo sabe, then who am I? (Chris Doyle, Ponder, Tex.)

2. the winner of the plush toy scissors labeled "moyel": Soldermatology: For when you really want that facelift to last. (Patrick Mattimore, Gex, France)

And the Winner of the Inker

Treadmillstone: The unused home gym that keeps staring at you. (Rick Haynes, Potomac)

Bottomfoolery: Honorable Mentions

Storment: To interrupt the "Lost" finale to broadcast weather warnings for some county 100 miles away. (Pam Sweeney, Germantown)

Stripper diem: Daily expense allowance for conventioneers. (Pam Sweeney)

Satantrum: The toddler's meltdown from Hell. (Bob Kurlantzick, Potomac)

Scarecrowd: A parade of fashion models. (Larry Yungk, Arlington)

Sebummer: A prom night zit. (Dave Komornik, Danville, Va.)

Semensch: The ideal sperm donor. (Stacey Kenkermath, Alexandria)

Sepsisters: Siblings whose relationship is beyond dysfunctional. (Ellen Raphaeli, Falls Church)

Shishkabul: The grilling of prisoners in Afghanistan. (Dave Prevar)

Siblingo: The secret language spoken between twins. (Kathy Hardis Fraeman, Olney)

Simpledge: "Yes." (Dave Prevar)

Slothario: A man who lures women to bed just to sleep. (Russell Beland, Springfield; Patrick Mattimore)

Spamputate: To delete the entire junk mail basket. (Ari Unikoski, Tel Aviv)

Spinacheerios: A healthy cereal that didn't prove very popular with children. (Emery Walters, Reston, a First Offender)

Spongeneration: The move-back-home Gen-Y. (Dave Prevar)

Springsteenchilada: Even if you weren't born to run, you'll run. (N.G. Andrews, Portsmouth, Va.)

Stigmatata: The disgrace of a teenage girl caught stuffing Kleenex in her bra. (Roy Ashley, Washington)

Substandardize: Bring everything down to the lowest common denominator. (Marty McCullen, Gettysburg, Pa.)

Sudafederales: Brave agents who protect our nation from smuggled foreign cold medicines. (Pam Sweeney)

Successpool: Where you have to go to get filthy rich. (Russ Taylor, Vienna)

Syphilisterine: For when bad breath is the least of your problems. (Chris Rollins, Cumberland, Md.)

Tattoops: "It's supposed to be ROSE, not ROSS!" (Barry Koch, Catlett, Va.)

Testosteronearsighted: Having an affliction that prevents men from seeing dirty dishes in the sink. (Kathy Hardis Fraeman)

Theologymnasts: Those who perform amazing leaps and twists of logic to make Scripture seem to justify their political views. (David Komornik)

Thesaurustic : A charmingly simple dictionary; coarse; lacking refinement; unsophisticated. (John O'Byrne, Dublin)

Threnodynamics: The art of putting on a lively funeral. (Lars Wiberg, Rockport, Mass., a First Offender)

Timpanini: Italian drum rolls. (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

Warmadillo: Fresh Texan roadkill. (Kevin Dopart)

Tornadolescence: An unpredictable, destructive force of nature that can leave houses in shambles; i.e., adolescence in general. (Brendan Beary, Great Mills)

Torquemadam: The head dominatrix. (Chris Doyle)

Wiretapestry: The drapes in the FBI building. (Rick Haynes)

Twelfthirsty: The time when the women at the bar begin to look better. (Michael Mason, Fairfax)

Ungodlyricist: A sinner-songwriter. (Marc Boysworth, Burke)

Undressay: "Dear Penthouse Forum . . ." (Marc Boysworth)

Upholsteroid: An overstuffed recliner that takes up half the family room. (Michael Turniansky, Pikesville, Md.)

Wonderbrahman: Director of costume design for Frederick's of Bollywood. (Chris Doyle)

Urinalmost: What results from the "ready-fire-aim" approach. (Dan Ramish, Vienna)

Velcro-Magnon: The cretin at the party who just won't leave you alone. (Pam Sweeney)

Vermillionaire: A guy who drives a Bentley but whose accounts are deep in the red. (Russell Beland)

Viagrarian: A farmer who can plow the land for four hours without stopping to rest. (Roy Ashley)

Virtuoso-so: One who gives a surprisingly disappointing performance. (Beverley Sharp, Washington)

Vituperationalize: To justify one's harsh criticism of others, particularly in an election year. "We meant only to educate the voters about my opponent's lack of patriotism," the candidate vituperationalized. (John Shea, Lansdowne, Pa.)

Vomitzvah: A fraternity initiation rite. (Stephen Dudzik, Olney)

Whalecher: A man who peeks into the dressing rooms at Lane Bryant. (Emery Walters)

Whomily: A lecture on the moral rightness of good grammar. (Chris Doyle)

Worshippodrome: A megachurch. (John O'Byrne)

Xenamby-pamby: The Warrior Princess's prissy sister. (Mel Loftus, Holmen, Wis.)

Yiddishabille: Same black suit and black hat, but no shirt. (J. Larry Schott, Gainesville, Fla.)

Zentertainer: A performer who receives applause only in the form of one hand clapping. (Brian Herget, Annandale, whose only previous ink was in 1996, when he won a T-shirt)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Driving Directions

So one of the most memorable things Raymond Davidson taught me was "Yield and you need not break," the opening line of poem/prayer/meditation number 22 of "The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu" as translated by Witter Bynner. I still have the paperback copy I bought in the 1980s at the bookstore on 47th Street, in the Diamond District of Manhattan, the store in an area peopled by Hasidic men, a look Raymond loved. Later, years after I last saw him, one can see in the photos and drawings he sent back East, the long flowing beard of one of these Hasidics. What was that bookstore? It had a sign: "Where wise men fish." Is it still there? Help, someone. Raymond inscribed my copy of the book, saying, as if in a Zen koan, "I knew Witter Bynner in 1952, but I don't remember him" and that his brother knew Witter Bynner. Around that time, when Raymond was doing paintings of the Mets, he did one of Lao Tzu Number 22, handwritten, from this translation, illustrated, I recall, with stars and a young Dwight Gooden winding up to pitch. Who ultimately received the original of that painting? Of course, the reason I so loved "Yield and you need not break" was because it was a concept I practiced so poorly in my life. Maybe, just maybe, I'm a little better at it now. Maybe not. Who's keeping score, anyway? No one, I was told, a message rubbing against the grain of guilt so ingrained. "Yield and you need not break."

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Stranglet Than Paradise (or Pair o' dice)

And I quote, from The New York Times of June 27, 2008:

"Calling its claims 'overly speculative and not credible' and saying it is too late anyway [emphasis added], lawyers for the federal government argued this week that a so-called doomsday suit intended to prevent the startup of the world's most powerful particle accelerator should be thrown out.

In the lawsuit filed in March in Federal District Court in Honolulu, Walter L. Wagner, a retired radiation safety expert, and Luis Sancho, a Spanish science writer, contended that the Large Hadron Collider could create microscopic black holes that could wind up eating Earth [emphasis mine, but can you blame me?], or other dangerous particles known as strangelets -- a sort of contagious dead matter -- or so-called magnetic momopoles that could catalyze the destruction of ordinary matter."

The collider is being built outside Geneva, Switzerland, by the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, with American collaboration.

Let's all just take a breath here and pause, shall we?

Oh. The story was on page A17. Either it was too hot for page A1 or too unimportant. After all, what's the Big Deal anyway? What's a little apocalyptic angst compared to, say, the importance of Britney Spears's latest custody battle? Or Cindy McCain's hair?

Where was I?

This is either a topic you want to Google like crazy, or else simply log off your computer, say your prayers, and kiss your sorry ass goodbye.

And what would you Google anyway? "Large Hadron Collider"? Or "Instant Acts of Contrition"?

In the face of a doomsday scenario, leave it to me, The Laughorist, a.k.a. Pawlie Kokonuts, to seize on semantics. Don't you just love the term strangelets? I do. (No, it's not what I call my kids.)

There's a movie script here somewhere for, yes, of course, Dr. Strangelet.

Anyway, pleasant dreams. Carry on. Don't mind me; just blogging.

p.s. It's a good thing dyslexia didn't kick in; then we'd have the Large Hardon Collider. Now that would be truly dangerous!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Dot Orgasm

Who is Dot Orgasm, you ask? You are about to find out. (No, not a retro, 1970s porn star.) According to a recent ruling by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, the configuration for top-level domains (TLDs) is about to become virtually unlimited (well, up to 64 characters).

That means aside from dot com or dot org or dot net, or a few other new permissible TLDs, the doors will be wide open. Brand names, slogans, editorials, younameit. And inevitably we'll see dot orgasm, I'm sure, as one of the tamer variations on that theme.

Critics say it will cause chaos. As in dot utterconfusionandanarchy.

I had better reserve dot pawliekokonuts right away (or presently, to use the traditional sense of that word).

They say bidding will start at six figures.

That part, I like.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Botanical Collegial Mystery

Sometimes, while lying alone in a hammock looking at the North Star on a cool summer night at 3 a.m., I ask the botanical and cosmological universe:

Whatever happened to Botanist Colleague?

Oh, I know, I know, she is now
Botanist Noncolleague, as it were, as it is, but it's as if my departure ruptured the taxonomy of form and structure, as if the communal chickory connection were dechickoried, pilloried for verbally consorting with me and my ilk, a silk with no S, as opposed to Botanist Colleague, now Botanist Formercolleague, who is bracketed by S's, one might muse.

Just wondering.