HUMOR INCORPORATED

Humor must both teach and preach if it would live forever; by forever, I mean 30 years.
–Mark Twain

If Webster’s definition of humor as the “quality of imagination quick to perceive the ludicrous or express itself in an amusing way” is on the mark, Twain underestimated the staying power of his humor by nigh onto 100 years (and counting). But “staying” is just one of humor’s possible powers, and because (as Lord Acton famously observed) power tends to corrupt, humor cannot absolutely avoid Acton’s axiom.

My musing on this subject is occasioned by April being National Humor Month — so proclaimed in 1976 by Larry Wilde, Founder/Director of The Carmel Institute of Humor: http://www.larrywilde.com/

As you might expect, The Carmel Institute of Humor is not without serious competition. A similar entity I’ve come across is The Humor Project, Inc., founded by Joel Goodman in 1977 “as the first organization in the world to focus full-time on the positive power of humor” — a claim that suggests a merger of Norman Vincent Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking” with funny business. And, from such appealing funny businesses as Goodman’s, have big businesses grown (judging by their “power” promotions): https://www.humorproject.com/

Now, far be it from me to regard the corporatizing of humor as a phony business — hey, there are worse things to make of humor than a commodity, and worse ways to earn a buck than to commercialize the process. But, purist that I am, I see making humor in the same light as making love: much to be preferred on a human level than as an industry (the virtues of consumer capitalism notwithstanding). Nonetheless, I’m not so doctrinaire as to deny either humor or sex to potential customers when free(?) enterprise comes a-courting.

Unlike Larry Wilde and Joel Goodman, mistermuse does not have a Speaker’s Bureau, a three-day Annual Conference (discounted fee for early registration), a five-point humor program, seminars or workshops. But mistermuse does offer an every-five-days discourse on subjects of interest (his, if not yours) — usually with tongue in cheek, and never with hat in hand. Dis course today concludes with ten humorous quotes, which come with a funny-back guarantee if he doesn’t think they’re priceless:

Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same.Oscar Wilde (not to be confused with Larry – or Curly or Moe, for that matter)
Conference: a meeting held to decide when the next meeting will take place. –Evan Esar
You can’t study comedy; it’s within you. –Don Rickles (the Donald Trump of insult-comics)
Start every day off with a smile and get it over with. –W.C. Fields
Everything is funny, as long as it’s happening to somebody else. –Will Rogers
Culture is roughly anything we do and monkeys don’t. –Lord Raglan
In politics, an absurdity is not a handicap. –Napoleon Bonesapart (I’ve been waiting a long time for the opportunity to butcher that name)
Politicians do more funny things naturally than I can think of doing purposely. –Will Rogers
Humor is just another defense against the universe. –Mel Brooks
Wit – the salt with which the American humorist spoils his intellectual cookery by leaving it out. –Ambrose Bierce

Over, and out.

 

YOU ARE WHO YOU ELECT

You are what you eat. –Dr. Victor Lindlahr, nutritionist (1897-1969)

Pun aside, a lot of whater has passed under the bridge since Dr. Lindlahr coined the above phrase 75+ years ago, and the older I get, the more I’ve taken his caution to heart….with resulting good health to show for it (if I should drop dead tomorrow, I shall reluctantly admit I came to that conclusion a bit prematurely).

But I have also come to see a parallel to this axiom in the public sector: it’s no accident that we have political dysfunction. We are who we elect. Our elected (and wanna-be elected) officials aren’t anomalies who have somehow passed under voters’ attention spans, leaving us to wonder how such coarse incivility found its way into the political mainstream. Well, wonder no more:

http://www.gocomics.com/wumo/2016/03/28

Obviously, then, eatin’ and politickin’ have a lot in common. As with our intellectual standards, if our table manners go down the drain, we regress into uncivilized louts. To combat this uncouth scourge, we must remember our etiquette. Politicians need to model their behavior after the culinary refinement of the epicure:

Therefore, let us get back to the good old days when politicians may have been idiots, but at least they weren’t tasteless idiots with little sense of propriety. Take these examples:

It’s time to put our blood or our urine where our mouth is. — Rep. Pat Murphy (D-IA) on drug testing, Feb. 1997

We have brave men and women who are willing to step forward because they know what’s at stake. They’re willing to sacrifice their lives for this great country. What I’m asking all of you tonight is not to put on a uniform. Put on a [Rick Santorum] bumper sticker. Is it that much to ask? Is it that much to ask to step up and serve your country? –Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), Jan. 2006

My problem was, I was too honest with you the first time. –Rep. Tillie Fowler (R-FL), explaining to her constituents why she changed positions.

The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, antifamily political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, , kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians. –Pat Robertson, 1992 fund raising letter

They intend to vote on the Sabbath, during Lent, to take away the liberty that we have right from God. This is an affront to God. –Rep. Steve King (R-IA)

Please burn before reading. –1972 Nixon White House illegal campaign tactics memo

My friends, no matter how rough the road may be, we can and we will never, never surrender to what is right. –Dan Quayle, Vice President under George H.W. Bush

I don’t think we came from monkeys. I think that’s ridiculous. I haven’t seen a half-monkey, half-person yet. –Glenn Beck (who apparently hadn’t looked in the mirror lately)

OK, Pat Robertson and Glenn Beck aren’t politicians. Hey, nobody’s perfect. Well, maybe Sarah Palin is, but we don’t have time to do her justice, so I’ll close with this reminder:

 

 

 

 

30 NOVEMBER — TO THE SWIFT

As 3o days hath the month of November,
Today marks the end of a month to remember.
Swift doth the day pass into December,
Ere the twain shall meet….in a glowing ember.

The above is my Lilliputian ode to two literary giants who were born on this day: Jonathan Swift  in 1667, Mark Twain in 1835. This post celebrates the former, the latter having been extolled in a post one year ago today (THE UNIVERSAL MARK TWAIN).

Jonathan Swift’s pièce de résistance, of course, was GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, a book I gobbled up when about 12 years old (in an abridged version for children), and still own. However, at that age I didn’t fully appreciate that it was much more than a grand adventure tale — it’s also a masterpiece of parody and social/political satire, as exemplified by the enmity between the empires of Lilliput and Blefuscu over which end of an egg should be broken first before being eaten — a conflict which put Gulliver in the middle between the Big Endians and the Small Endians. Well, I suppose that makes just as much sense as real people fighting over whose god is the Big Enchilada.

Let us turn now to three quotations from the unabridged GULLIVER’S TRAVELS:

Here commences a new dominion acquired with a title by divine right. Ships are sent with the first opportunity; the natives driven out or destroyed; their princes tortured to discover their gold; a free license give to all acts of inhumanity and lust, the earth reeking with the blood of its inhabitants: and this execrable crew of butchers, employed in so pious an expedition, is a modern colony, sent to convert an idolatrous and barbarous people.

The tiny Lilliputians surmise that Gulliver’s watch may be his god, because it is that which, he admits, he seldom does anything without consulting.

It is a maxim among these lawyers, that whatever hath been done before may legally be done again: and therefore they take special care to record all the decisions formerly made against common justice and the general reason of mankind. These, under the name of precedents, they produce as authorities, to justify the most iniquitous opinions; and the judges never fail of decreeing accordingly.

I close with three more Swift quotes, the last of which I intend to inscribe on a club to beat anyone who would disparage my stunning cunning punning:

When the world has once begun to use us ill, it afterwards continues the same treatment with less scruple or ceremony, as men do to a whore.

Words are the clothing of our thoughts.

Punning is a talent which no man affects to despise except he that is without it.

 

–30–

 

DOLLARS TO DOUGH-NUTS

Like a full moon, the mere thought of lots of money seems to make some people crazy. No doubt you’ve noticed with lotteries, for example, that the higher the jackpot, the more people play the lottery. I mean (leaving aside the astronomical odds against winning), what could you do with $500+ million that you couldn’t do with $250+ million — except maybe buy a sports team, put your money where your political ideology is (think Koch Brothers),  or build a Trump Tower-like monument to your ego?

So I found it refreshing to read recently about a guy who not only didn’t let dough go to his head, but stood income inequality on its head: Dan Price, a successful Seattle business owner who decided to help the people who helped him grow his business, by lowering his almost $1 million annual salary to $70,000 and increasing the salary of his 120 employees to that same level. According to Bloomberg Business data, America’s CEO-to-worker pay has increased 1,000% (to a ratio of 300+ to 1) since 1950. Price believed he could make the ratio 1-to-1 without raising prices or decreasing services to customers, and Price was right. Employee morale grew even stronger and business thrived. As a result of this heresy, he was named 2014 Entrepreneur of the year by Entrepreneur Magazine. I suspect it’s not a magazine run by conservatives.

As entrepreneur of this blog, I will now attempt to improve your morale by turning the remainder of this post over to the musings of others on the matter of money and affiliated subjects:

Where I was brought up, we never talked about money because there was never enough to furnish a topic of conversation. –Mark Twain

Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to shop. –Bo Derek

The chief ingredient that makes expensive merchandise so expensive is profit. –Evan Esar

I’ve got all the money I’ll ever need, if I die by four o’clock. –Henny Youngman

The only thing wealth does for some people is to make them worry about losing it. —Antoine Rivarol

Men make counterfeit money; in many more cases, money makes counterfeit men. –Sydney J. Harris

The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated. —H.L.  Mencken

The definition of a living wage depends upon whether you are getting it or giving it. –Evan Esar

I spent a lot of money on booze, broads and fast cars. The rest I just squandered. –George Best

The leaders of the French Revolution excited the poor against the rich; this made the rich poor, but it never made the poor rich. –Fisher Ames

There are two classes of people: the have-nots and the have-yachts. –Evan Esar

Greed is not a money issue. It’s a heart issue. –Andy Stanley

 

 

HAIR AND OTHER CLIPPINGS

I usually don’t wait until the end of spring to do spring cleaning. I usually don’t do spring cleaning at all. It just so happens that I came across a forgotten bunch of saved clippings from an era when people still read newspapers — the 1970s — and I happen to be someone who hates to toss things out before finding a use for them….even when the chance of that happening is about as remote as finding a use for the clearing on top of my skull where dense foliage once grew. Oh, if only I’d kept it (that lush growth, not my skull), because what I’ve saved by not needing hair tonic has been more than offset by the need for sun screen.

Anyway, I know that the only way I can bear to part with these historic paper documents is to preserve them here in paperless form, which makes the spring chickens among you the beneficiaries of the ancient wisdom you were deprived of. I only regret that time and space preclude more extensive excerpts than the quotations which follow.

One of my favorite scribes back then appears to have been the somewhat somber syndicated columnist, Sydney J. Harris:

The best argument for democracy is not that we are morally good enough for it, but that we are not morally good enough for anything else.

No class, as a class, is to be trusted, whether it is a class of color, or religion, or economic level. The excesses of the French proletariat in the Revolution were as great as the ferocities of the aristocracy. Stalin’s regime was worse than the Czar’s he supplanted. The Christian church under Constantine persecuted the “pagans” as viciously as the Romans had persecuted early Christians. Etc. 

One reason — perhaps the chief reason — that governments of all kinds go bad is that, with a few notable exceptions, the men who get political power are those who want it the most. The only man who can be trusted with authority, said Plato, is the man who does not want it; but his opposite is almost always the man who gets it.

It is the image we pay homage to, more than the substance. In Shakespeare, nobody takes the fool seriously, even when he says the wisest things in the play. Dress him in judicial robes, and when he opens his mouth, no dog dare bark.

Next is an uncredited article dated June 1, 1978 titled College Students Treat Religion Sardonically,  which reported some of the classifications listed on religious preference cards turned in by students at U. C. Berkeley. These included: Seventh Day Agnostic, Frogonian of the Latter Day Saints, Hedonist, Porsche Fanatic and First Fundamentalist Christian Church of the Prolonged Suffering and Gooey Death. It would be interesting to learn, 36 years later, how many of those responders remain faithful to the religion of their student days.

Finally, there is this from a 1978 article by Harold C. Schonberg titled Elitism Is Good For The Arts:
Intellectual activity, of which the arts is one manifestation, is and always has been elitist. Demagogues and yahoos do not like this; they would like to drag us down to their own level. We live, after all, in democratic America, where all men are created equal. But surely the Founding Fathers did not expect that phrase to be taken literally. They meant that all men are entitled to equal rights, which is a different proposition entirely. For all men are not created equal, and the Founding Fathers, a group of elitists themselves, knew this perfectly well. If all men were created equal, we would all be Newtons, Einsteins, Beethovens or Rembrandts.

Or mistermuses.

NOW I can pitch those old newspaper clippings. Well, maybe I’ll still save that last one.

 

WOULD THAT IT WERE SO

I found that there is only one way to look thin: hang out with fat people.  –Rodney Dangerfield

God Himself could not sink this ship.  –Deckhand on the Titanic

I see no good reasons why the views given in this volume should shock the religious sensibilities of anyone.  –Charles Darwin, preamble to THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES

Moral systems are devised not to make life difficult, not to forbid pleasure, but to protect human beings from other human beings.  –Rev. Andrew Greeley

I tell you, cocaine isn’t habit forming. I know, because I’ve been taking it for years.  –Tallulah Bankhead

Live and learn.  –Old proverb

I think we agree, the past is over.  –George W. Bush (to John McCain)

I often think how much easier the world would have been to manage if Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini had been to Oxford.  —Lord Halifax

Gaiety is the most outstanding feature of the Soviet Union.  –Josef Stalin

Once you’ve seen one ghetto, you’ve seen them all.  –Spiro Agnew, former Governor and Vice President

It’s so bad being homeless in winter. They should buy a plane ticket and go somewhere hot like the Caribbean where they can eat free fish all day.  –Lady Victoria Harvey

We shall never make war except for peace.  —President William McKinley

I thank you for your very kind attention from the bottom of my post.  –mistermuse

 

 

 

 

 

A WASTE OF BREADTH

People waste many things — time, money, talent, food (one way or another) — but I think the saddest waste of all is the mind. You probably do too — especially when you stop to think how mindless all those fools are who disagree with what you think. I believe it was Ivan Vasilyevich who first said A mind is a terrible thing to waste, the wisdom of which so impressed his comrads that he became forever famous as Ivan the Terrible (apparently he did not suffer fools gladly).

So, it should be clear from the above that almost all waste can be controlled if we but set our minds to it. If you’re sitting around on your ass just wasting away, there is simply no excuse for it. Remember, mind over matter –it’s the only way to go if you want to get ahead, if you will. If you won’t, you have no one to blame but yourself.

I hope I have inspired you to get a grip and stop squandering away your life, of which you have but one to live, unless you have faith in reincarnation. Even so, there’s no telling what you might come back as — a curably dying Christian Scientist, for example – so why take a chance? If you don’t believe me, perhaps you’ll listen to the testimony of these waste not, want not-ers:

I spent 90% of my money on wine, women and song and just wasted the other 10%. –Ronnie Hawkins

A day without laughter is a day wasted. –Charlie Chaplin

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. –Bertrand Russell

The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life. –Muhammed Ali

If I don’t learn something every single day, it’s a wasted day. –Leonard Lauder

A Congressman’s idea of government waste is the money spent in another Congressman’s district. -Evan Esar

 I wasted time, and now doth time waste me. –William Shakespeare

I wish I could stand on a busy street corner, hat in hand, and beg people to throw me all their wasted hours. –Bernard Berenson