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Friday, August 26, 2016

Challenge match: Who is funnier, The Brits or the Colonists?

Confession: This post is 3 years old but I liked it... so here it is again. With the exception of Monty Python and Peter Sellers, we (the USA) are definitely funnier, Brexit or not, than the Brits.
The ten best jokes at the Fringe Festival in Scotland have just been announced. The headline in the British newspaper read "... These are the best jokes, bar none." Oh yeah? The jokes are so lame that I am challenging them to see which side of the pond has the funniest jokes. You be the judge.

Number 10

Theirs: The good thing about lending someone your time machine is that you basically get it back immediately.
Ours: I was in Rome recently and wanted to say "Hi" to the Pope, so I looked up his number in the phone book. It was et cum spirtu-tuo. (OK, so maybe you have to be Catholic, but it was funny in third grade... and beats the pants off their joke.)  Score: 1-0 USA

Number 9

Theirs: I was adopted at birth and have never met my mum. That makes it very difficult to enjoy any lap dance.
Ours: What songs do cows like to dance to? Any kind of mooosic will do. (A simple kid joke wins again!)  2-0 USA

Number 8

Theirs: The Universe implodes. No matter.
Ours: Chuck Norris counted to infinity--twice! (Cha-ching!) 3-0 USA

Number 7

Theirs: You know you are fat when you hug a child and it gets lost. (No!)
Ours: What does a snail say when he is riding on a turtle's back? Weeeee!! (Another kid joke is all it takes.) 4-0 USA

Number 6

Theirs: The Pope is a lot like Dr. Who. He never dies, just keeps being replaced by white men.
Ours: The Vatican announced it will begin selling its ceremonial incense mixtures that were previously only used in worship services.  The first scent will be Popepourri. (Now that's funny!)
5-0 USA

Number 5

Theirs: I can give you the cause of anaphylactic (sic) shock in a nutshell.
Ours: What happened when the monster ate the electric company? He was in shock for a month. (Kid jokes are better.)  6-0 USA

Number 4

Theirs: My friend told me he was going to a fancy dress party as an Italian island. I said to him "Don't be Sicily." (Their best attempt yet. Awkward but cute.)
Ours: Q: Did you hear about the Italian chef that died? A: He pasta way. (We really would have won but I'm giving them this one for sentimental reasons... I'm Italian.)  6-1 USA

Number 3

Theirs: I'm in a same sex marriage... the sex is always the same.
Ours: Take my wife... please! (Ta dah!)  7-1 USA

Number 2

Theirs: I used to work in a shoe-recycling shop. It was sole-destroying.
Ours: Man finds a shoe repair claim ticket in an old suit he hadn't worn for 12 years. Thinking he would play a joke on the cobbler, he presented his ticket with a straight face. The repairman, showing no emotion, checked in the back room then hollered, "They'll be ready Thursday."  8-1 USA

And the Number 1 British winner

Theirs: I heard a rumour (Britspeak) that Cadbury is bringing out an oriental chocolate bar. Could be a Chinese Wispa. (Really? Is that the best you've got?)
Ours: The doctor sadly tells the patient, "Sorry but you have only one month to live." The patient, crestfallen, grabs the doctor by his lab coat lapels and desperately asks "Isn't there something... anything I can do?!" The doctor pauses, then says, "Well... you could take two mud baths a day... " Hopeful, the distraught patient says, "Oh, thank you doctor... will this cure me?" Doctor shakes his head, "No... but it will get you used to the dirt." (Always save the best for last, right?)

Final score: USA 9, Great Britain 1
The elegant solid gold Knee-Slapper Trophy goes to America for the first year in a row!

Now don't you all go rioting like this is a football (really soccer) game... just be graceful and give us a "Jolly good, old chap" ... and send more episodes of Downton Abbey.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!: Signs of the Apocalypse, Part 3

No, it's NOT all about Marcia (top left),  It's about Jan (middle left), who spoke those catchphrase words in the frustration that only a middle sister could understand.

Note: Signs of the Apocalypse are those seemingly unworldly happenings that run dramatically counter to the real world normal. Could these events be foretelling that the end is near? Nah! Things ARE getting crazier and that's the new normal.

But this time, the last laugh is Jan's (Eve Plumb in real life). It was 1969 and Eve was one year into her most noted role as Jan on The Brady Bunch which lasted on TV until 1974... and then in syndication perhaps forever.

So 11-year-old Eve bought her first house, a little 850 square-footer with a wrap-around deck, for $55,300. She just sold that house for a mere $3.9 million. Not bad appreciation for a starter home. Near that time, I bought my first house, 900-square feet, for $14,900. Then made a killing when I sold it three years later for $16,100. I was rich!

Her secret: Location, location, location. Her house was on the ocean in Malibu Beach. I guess the ocean wasn't there in 1969 which is why she bought it cheap(er). Mine was in Peoria, Illinois which is nowhere near the ocean... or anything else.

The Hermes Bolide 45 Shark

Want a new travel bag? This little bugger caught my eye. Saw it in Vanity Fair magazine... a must have. It's the Hermes Bolide 45 Shark " for a weekend get away or an extended sojourn" It's only $12,800, not counting tax, postage and handling and looks to be well worth it. I think the folks at Motel 6 will be green with envy when I check in with this beauty.

Medical bills got you up against the wall? I remember in the publishing biz (my life's work), every year, employee medical costs would increase by double digits, year after year. This was a number of years back and I'd always wonder why medical stuff just kept getting more and more expensive.

My nifty back belt
So maybe I shouldn't have been surprised when I had back surgery earlier in the year and I (and my insurance company) had to buy and use this back support for about a month. This is the one my surgeon said was the best and he wanted me to have it. So I did. Later, when the charge came through, I was a teensy bit taken aback. Would you guess it cost $1,550? Amazon had one from the same company that looked vaguely familiar. It went for $250, on Amazon Prime no less, but I'm sure it couldn't possibly match my Cadillac version.

Then there are the medications that suddenly increase in price overnight when the rights to manufacture are sold to another pharmaceutical company. A few of the notable:  

  • Cycloserine for tuberculosis, from $500 to $10,800 for 30 pills.
  • Ofirmed, an injectable painkiller, from $410 to$1,019.52 for 24 vials.
  • Vimovo for symptoms of arthritis, from $160 to $1,678.52 for 60 tablets.
  • Edecrin, a duretic, from $470 to $4,600 per vial.
  • Benznidizole, treats Chagas disease, a $60,000 per treatment increase.
  • EpiPen, for kids with life-threatening allergies, a 400% increase since acquisition.
  • But the ignominius topper is Daraprim. The day after purchase by Turing Pharmaceuticals, CEO Martin Shkreli bumped the price of this 62-year-old drug from $18.50 to $750. and bragged about it in the press. The medication is a critical treatment for a parasitic infection that could be fatal to those with compromised immune systems due to conditions like AIDS/HIV and cancer.

These increases are called "I gotcha now pricing," befitting the twisted 'golden rule' of capitalism gone mad: "Those who have the gold, rule."

Is it any wonder medical costs continue to amaze?

BTW, Don't you love the new medication names? The good ones have at least one or two Z's and an X or two and a Q without a U. And that supper time is the best TV time to promote laxatives with live action graphics showing the bowel in action. YUMMY! Makes you want to wear  "I (heart) my Laxative." on a T-shirt.

What Harry Potter looks like dead

Then there's Daniel Radcliffe's soaring acting career after Harry Potter, landing the role of a dead person in Swiss Army Man. really. It's the best dead role since Weekend With Bernie. Danial is dead from the first scene to the last and in it, he farts amazing, miraculous farts, and saves a life! Yep, that's true too in the movie.

Next thing you know, Missouri will pass a law that allows people to carry concealed guns without a permit. See? The apocalypse. (Late news flash... the Gov did not sign the bill into law. We are saved!)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Laugh and the world laughs with you... continued

Remember this Gary Larson cartoon?

His The Far Side syndicated cartoons made us laugh every day with creative humor. His last 'strip' was published on New Year's Day, 1995 though books of his compiled cartoons and newer works continue to sell and fill our shelves. A favorite that made the NYTimes bestseller list: There's a Hair in my Dirt: A Worm's Story.

I always thought he was at his best when he used animals as his subjects. One favorite depicts a family of spiders driving in a car with a "Have a Nice Day" bumper sticker featuring a 'smiley face' with eight eyes.

While visiting my sis in San Francisco a number of years ago, we were driving past the California Academy of Sciences when we saw a current exhibit sign announcing Gary Larson's work. We immediately did a 180 and spent the most enjoyable next hours laughing, tittering, snickering, nodding and smiling. What was amazing, as we and others in the exhibit silently read the 450 captions mounted 16 to a panel, were the shared similar outbursts from all corners of the exhibit room.

Our group of strangers were a truly happy bunch as we nodded and smiled to each other, sometimes sharing a favorite with a pointed finger or nod.  I don't recall a word being spoken but everyone left with a far richer disposition than when we walked in the door.

Without being specific about how humor makes our world a better place, we all have personal evidence that it definitely does.

Take a few minutes now to make your world richer today by enjoying a cartoon slide show of The New Yorker magazine's "reader's favorites," shared graciously by the magazine's cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff. My favorite is the one with the praying mantises.

FYI: The New Yorker publishes weekly and features more really good cartoons in every issue from the best cartoonists... more fun than you can find anywhere else... and it is also rich with topical editorial content. That in itself is worth a look.

Funny is, and I quote:

Always remember, you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else. Margaret Mead

We are all here on earth to help others; what the others are here for I don't know. W.H. Auden

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please. Mark Twain

People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do. Isaac Asimov

Roses are red, violets are blue, I'm schitzophrenic and so am I. Oscar Levant

I never said most of the things I said. Yogi Berra

Go to heaven for the climate, go to hell for the company. Mark Twain

A day without sunshine is like, you know, night. Steve Martin

And the piece de resistance quotes by Jack Handey (a real person):
  • To me, boxing is like a ballet, except there's no music, no choreography, and the dancers hit each other.
  • Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.
  • I hope life isn't a big joke, because I don't get it.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Be All You Can Be


A little background: The respected London Review of Books introduced a 'Personals' category to its classified pages in 1998.

Known to all literati, the well-respected magazine opened its doors to some of the most witty, fun-to-read personal ads from brainy readers, each, in all seriousness (more or less), trying to outdo the other. 

Originally designed to match intelligent people based on their literary interest, readers immediately ganged up on the personals section for their own purposes. "They were instantly very, very silly," said its originator.

This is the fictional back story of one of those ads, as I imagined. The ad is as it appeared below, names and addresses made up, of course:


“Female, 54. Own all limbs. Seeks man with low priorities. Contact Box 347, this magazine.”

When you are brand new in town and lonely at night, you get desperate.

“Dear Box 347: Where I came from, limbs were optional. Only priority was to wake up the next morning. I am a used-to-be cowboy, also 54, have three of my four limbs but am passionate for someone who can scratch my elbow. I like that about you. Have you a name? I’m box 1438. I want to know more.”

“Dear Lefty: Easy pardner. Let’s go slow-mail to start. I’m intrigued… and a very good scratcher. You can call me Chase, as in ‘the fun of the...’ I’m blond at the moment but can be any color that suits you, tall-ish for a girl and 32-28-34, though not necessarily in that order. Your turn. More please. Chase”

“Oh Chase: Be still my heart. I truly think we may be on to something. I am also on the tall side, lightly graying but full hair, and trim as a ship under full sail. I wear glasses now and size 12 cowboy boots—no innuendo intended. How am I doing so far? Lefty.”

“None taken, Lefty. You are doing fine. I’m a schoolteacher, 6th and 7th grades. I’m molding tomorrow but anxious about today. And you?

“Me too. I’m a cowpoke, ma’am, Was masquerading as a corrections officer one state to the left, as of six days ago, but couldn’t hack the humanity. One-armed cowboys aren’t in great demand these days. My tomorrow is probably a lot less promising than yours. Can we meet?”

“So soon? I thought foreplay lasted longer cowboy.”

“When you are chasin’ a wild mustang, Chase, it lasts as short as it takes. You’re the only thing keeping me here at the moment, and you know cowboys… always looking for the next arroyo.”

“Will 5pm Wednesday at Starbuck fit?”

“Like a rodeo glove. How will I know you?”

“Trust me, you will. And you?”

“Ditto. Can’t wait.”

4:45 p.m: Wednesday, Starbucks: A busy time. Drive-thru filled, line five deep at the counter. Only two open tables, one with a good view. Plunking his cowboy hat on one empty chair, Lefty folds his 6’3 body into the other. With piercing blue eyes centering a weather-chiseled, sun baked face, he watches everyone in the door like a cowpoke checking his herd.

5:15 pm: Cold coffee smells like day-old campfire poison. Late out of the gate means she is a playful tease… I hope. OK, you got me Chase. I’m ready as a bull rider at 3-2-1-let ‘er rip.

5:25 pm: OK Chase… git along little doggie.

5:45 pm: Please, Chase.

6:12 pm: She ain’t comin’. She ain’t comin’. I woulda liked to try. I really… Damn!

6:20 pm: I’m outa here… for good. Hit the road, Jack, one more time.

6:23 p.m Wednesday, same Starbucks: With tears streaming down her cheeks, she watches him walk out of her life. Slowly and with great effort, the gaunt, tall-ish lady holding her two-hour-cold tea, rises from a corner table. She knew in her heart she couldn’t. The imagined, caring romance had gone far beyond her reach, much too soon to be fully savored. The rejection sure to come would be one more blow to an already overwhelmed psyche.

Frightened and feeling even more alone, she adjusts her pink ball cap on the brunette wig that covers her bare head and brushes through the bustling coffee crowd of friends and lovers, all too involved to notice.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A reprise from 2011: "Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!"

 "Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!"
... A direct quote from Mrs Noah as she watched the animals, two-by-two, board the ark...  NOT!

Actually, Dorothy (Judy Garland) said it in The Wizard of Oz when all she had to contend with was a tornado, the Wizard, the wicked witch of the West, a bunch of Munchkins and her friends, a cowardly lion, a scarecrow without a brain and a tin man without a heart. Sounds like my old bowling team.

Anyhow, the subject today is animals...  human and the other kind. And if you want to see how it all began, (evolutionists, you can skip this part) take a look at Robert Crumb's illustrated Book of Genesis. It is truly cool.

Crumb, known for his comic book style and some rather "unusual" drawings and underground comic characterizations, stuck right to the book (that is, The Bible) for this one. Actually, his depiction is from the King James Bible and a 2004 translation called The Five Books of Moses... so Catholics, sit this one out unless you go immediately to confession. As an added bonus, you will finally get to see what God, Adam and Eve and that damn snake look like.

Other big news on the animal front... as told by Associated Press writer Jennifer Quinn who reported it so 'Milnesque:'

When we left them, Christopher Robin was going away, and Things were going to be Different. 

Now, more that eight decades later, a rumor is sweeping the Hundred Acre Wood. According to Owl, who heard it from Rabbit, who heard it from Piglet, the adventures are about to resume. It falls to the bear to pass on the news to Eeyore.

"It's Christopher Robin," said Winnie-the-Pooh. "He's coming back. "

And so it is... after 84 years, the first authorized sequel to A.A. Milne's classic tales, Return to the Hundred Acre Wood, is now on sale. Just that thought brings back rich memories of those bed time stories read when my kids were as young as theirs are now.

Alan Alexander Milne, 1882-1956,  was an English novelist and playwright who gained legendary status as the author of the Winnie-the-Poo series of children's tales and poems. As beloved as his characters in the series were to the children, the stories weren't written for his son... or children at all.  They were intended, he said, for the child within us, as simple lessons of life.

And, looking as some of Pooh's quotes, what lessons they are:

When late morning rolls around and you're feeling a bit out of sorts, don't worry; you're probably just a little eleven o'clockish.

When looking at your two paws, as soon as you have decided which of them is the right one, then you can be sure the other one is the left.

To the uneducated, an A is just three sticks.

Those who are clever, who have a Brain, never understand anything.

Owl hasn't exactly got Brain, but he Knows Things.

If you want to make a song more hummy, add a few tiddely poms.

The more it snows (Tiddely pom),
The more it goes (Tiddely pom),
The more it goes (Tiddely pom),
On snowing. And nobody knows (Tiddely pom),
How cold my toes (Tiddely pom),
How cold my toes (Tiddely pom),
Are growing.

Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering.

Just because an animal is large, it doesn't mean he doesn't want kindness; however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo.

If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.

My spelling is Wobbly. It's good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.

It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?

If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.

Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?

I used to believe in forever
But forever's too good to be true.

I've missed you, Pooh Bear... in more ways than you know.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Life has its ups and downs but architecture is forever

You could live here... but if the cost doesn't kill you, the commute might.

Yeah, it could be a touch pricey at $100 mil (plus annual upkeep charges of $150-200,000 per year) but you have to admit, not having to mow the lawn could be worth it. The commute however, is another story.

Mumbai Tower
For people living near the top in tall places--the 80th floor of 111W 57th, overlooking Central Park in NYC or the world's tallest residential structure, the Mumbai World One Tower--your annual elevator rides alone could total 400-plus miles... and not an inch of it is exercise.

You're talking about the equivalent of one full work week of elevator rides, not counting that bratty kid downstairs who runs in and presses all the buttons before you can stop him. And if you have varicose veins, bad feet and/or claustrophobia, you learn money can't buy you everything.

Despite the thought that living high is the exclusive option of the very rich and bold, especially because your building looks like a thin stick high in the air, subject to wind, violent storms and clouds, it is the elevator itself that imposes strict limitations on viability.

111 W 57th St. NYC
Most of today's elevators are limited by how much cable is needed to raise and lower the elevator car and how much will fit at the top by its weight and the space required. If you think 100 floors of fishing line takes a lot of space, imagine if it is thick cable strong enough to support an elevator-full, plus an occasional grand piano and more. Even super piano movers Laurel and Hardy couldn't hack that.

Tall buildings hold their own fascination. Tallest today is the beautiful Burj Kahlifa in Dubai rising about half-mile into the clouds. But that will soon be eclipsed two or three times in the next five years. A building today, because of innovations in elevators and a better understanding of the laws of nature, could be a mile high. How would you like to live on floor 357? What a ride that would be.

Elevators, the biggest drawback to date, will soon be able to travel up, down and sideways at rapid speed, with multiple cars in the same channel, as maglev technology comes into play. These cars will speed along on rails using counter-affecting magnets that allows them to travel on a thin cushion of air... no more cables and lots more control!

Architects have also come to understand that putting counter-weights at the top of such buildings reduces sway and a feeling of "seasickness" and unease... but maybe not for me. Fortunately, being 'much less than rich' has its benefits. Counter weights can be anywhere from 300 to 800 tons apiece. That's the equivalent of 100 African elephants or 20 tractor-trailers or 20 humpback whales or 6 Boeing 787's. How's that for wow factor?

So you like high? How's this for someone who builds those tall things. (Photo from NYTimes weekly magazine.) 

Tall and ultra-tall buildings are majestic and awesome but good architecture at any level is like a symphony. All one has to do to enjoy is visit Columbus, Indiana. This city of 45,000 just south of Indianapolis has many attributes but perhaps the greatest is that it is the home of the Cummins Engine Company. Its Chairman of many years ago, the late J. Irwin Miller, launched a charitable foundation that helped subsidize a large number of building projects in the city... churches, homes, office buildings, parks and the like, by-up-and coming engineers and architects. Columbus is visited annually by architectural students and tourists for its wealth of beautiful structures throughout. It is designated a National Historic Landmark by The National Park Service and is well worth the trip.

Every great architect is--necessarily--a poet. He (she) must be 
a great interpreter of his time, his day, his age.
Frank Lloyd Wright

We shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us.
Winston Churchill

The mother of art is architecture. Without an architecture 
of our own we have no soul of our own civilization. 
Frank Lloyd Wright