Tag Archives: irony

Oh, Baby!

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The world population has grown by 1.2 billion since I blogged here last.

First of all, I just made that number up out of my head. I could claim to be a SWAG master (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) and sometimes do, but not now. I could care less how many people have been born since my last blog, really. Why? They can’t read yet. Let them get a little tough around the edges before they pick up this drivel. If they laugh it will be AT me, not TO me, and that’s ok because I feel the same. If they don’t laugh that means they’re smarter than me.

Secondly, I actually know (roughly) how many babies have come into this world since the last time I blogged. Don’t ask me how I came about that figure, and don’t expect me to replicate my formula. I mean, how can someone actually KNOW anything? I’m not a nihilist by any means, mind you. I’m just saying that as I write this some woman somewhere on this planet has her legs spread trying to push a little human out of her womb. Let me state for the record that I’m glad I don’t have to be in the same room with her right now. I’ve seen enough of them for a lifetime.

Humor is hard work. Especially in written form. I used to laugh my butt off listening to Erma Bombeck on the radio or watching her on TV, but I’d read a book of hers and sit stone-faced throughout. It’s not easy being stone-faced, either. I know all you dopers are snickering at the word ‘stone-face’, and you can keep on snickering because that’s an acceptable form of laughing. Not as good as chortling, but better than a grin. But yes, written humor is much more difficult than the spoken word, and has to rely on the elephant – er, element of surprise. See how I gave you a visual out of the blue like that? Now I can’t get that stupid elephant out of my head. That should give you an indication how big my head is. The visuals just keep on coming. Hold on. Another baby just popped into the world, and she looks like Cujo’s been slobbering on her. Gross but beautiful. I have to say ‘beautiful’ or else millions of women will email me with photos of their newborn reptilian-like offspring claiming this is the epitome of beauty.

But I’m not writing today about babies. At least I’m not doing it on purpose. They just keep coming, like pickled egg and beer farts. Today’s missive is about the difficulties most writers have when it comes to humor. Personally, I’d prefer to skip humor all together and go straight into irony. Irony is when you don’t want to go there but you end up there anyway. I’ve always thought of myself as not the marrying type, yet I’ve gone down the chute – um, aisle four times. I’ve always tried to avoid going to hell, but now I could be a tour guide there. I’ve always wanted to be a famous writer, but God had different plans for me. Oh, yes, I’m a writer, but I’ll never be able to go into the Promised Land (the New York Times Best Seller List). At least not while I live. Here comes another bundle of joy. Welcome to the jungle.

How many writers do you know that has an elephant in his head and is still able to put nouns and verbs and those stinking adjectives together into a coherent stream of sentences? Ironically, this entire article has successfully lacked any semblance of cohesion, thanks to all these babies. They always steal the show. Twins!

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Spritz and the Pits

spritz and the pits

There is a new smart phone application that has the techies of the world wetting themselves in excitement. It’s called Spritz, a program that streams words at speeds up to 1,000 words per minute. The creators are utilizing something called the “Optimal Recognition Point,” the exact moment when the brain recognizes a single word. The app flashes text at you one word at a time, and the center of the word is colored red to help the mind focus at that point. Theoretically, a person who trains their reading speed using Spritz can in time read an entire novel in just a couple of hours. Evidently the average person reads around 220 words per minute. They must not have timed someone trying to read while their spouse is watching a TV show with the volume cranked to ear bleed levels, and their child in the next room (door open, of course) playing Modern Warfare online with a whole platoon of friends with the speakers wide open. I’m lucky to get 5 words a minute (8 words a minute during commercials – unless it’s for food, which brings all reading to a stop).

I went to their website and tried it. By golly, it worked! I sat right here in my computer chair and read for fifteen minutes as they increased the speed. By the time I was finished , I not only was reading at 1,000 wpm, I wet myself three times and didn’t know it. The only problem I had with the program was that I had no freaking idea what it was I read. That in itself is no big deal. I mean, as a writer I’m always being plied with offers from new authors wanting me to check out their novels, and I’m always happy to do so. Most of the novels I read are excellent all the way around, and I have no qualms about giving a glowing review. Sometimes, though, a novice writer cranks out something that reads like a psychopathic thesaurus has gone on an English language killing spree. Over the years I’ve read so many of these ‘experiments in literature’ (I’m being nice, ok?) that I’ve started thinking of taking their words apart and selling them back to the dictionary people. Of course, I’m much too nice a guy to tell another writer that their work makes me air my reading room out, so that officially makes me a terrible critic. I’ll respond to a writer’s query that they have ‘unique and challenging character development’ when in reality I never could determine who the protagonist was. When I say their novel has ‘unexpected plot twists,’ that means I expected there to be plot twists, but the story was so predictable it was like guessing what a baby would do when pinched. When I say I enjoyed their use of dialogue, that means everything else should be shoveled out. Now, I want to say something to all the authors who have asked me to review their books. I’m not talking about you. Trust me. Your book was incredible and inventive. Seriously.

Look, I’m the last person in the world to be all holier-than-thou in the realm of writing. There are some writers who are so awesome they make me want to break my keyboard over my knee and swear to never write another word out of respect and humility. There is a brigade of incredible young talent out there just waiting to take your imagination on a journey you’ll always cherish (I was going to say ‘a journey you’ll never forget,’ but that can cut both ways). You may have to wade through a haystack full of blunt straws in order to find that one sharp piece of writing, but thank goodness for Spritz. Now you can find out in record time if a certain book is worth your time.

Just do me a favor, though, ok? Don’t tell me my work has unexpected plot twists, ok. Let me know up front if my book sucks. I’ll respect you more for it. Actually, I’ll suggest you read the same book backwards using Spritz, just so you can get my words out of your system quicker. Who know? It might make more sense that way.

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The OTHER Rumination (was: How to Speak English in Eleven Different Languages)

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I’d like to share a disturbing trend that threatens to undermine the very fabric of our society.  A growing number of people are being afflicted with Rumination Syndrome, and to be honest with you, it’s making me sick to even think about it.  Rumination is the act of bringing food from the stomach back up into the mouth to rechew it.  Cows do it on a regular basis, and we all know it as ‘chewing their cud’.  How it got started in humans is still a mystery, but I would imagine somewhere in ancient history some guy got shitfaced and had to throw up in a public place but didn’t want anyone to know, so he vomited in his closed mouth, decided it wasn’t so bad and proceeded to gnaw on whatever it was some more before swallowing it again.  Disgusting, right?  Honestly, I’d rather do that on a regular basis than wait until it came out the other end.  But get this: a 17th century medical student said that ruminated food is “sweeter than honey and accompanied by a more delightful relish”.  I feel sorry for his wife.

I read that about 10% of institutionalized mental patients ruminate.  I would, too, if I had to eat the food they serve in those places.  If you think about it – and I know you’re thanking me right now for making you think about it at all – rumination can’t be good for the teeth, what with all the stomach acid rolling around in your mouth.  If you become one of the lucky few that develop a liking for re-eating your own partially digested food, you won’t have to worry about those pesky teeth for very long.  Stomach acid is stronger than Coca cola, and Coca cola is used by mechanics everywhere to wash excess acid off of batteries.  I guarantee that if you engage in tummy leftovers at least once a week, in six months you won’t have to worry about toothaches any more.

I never knew that rumination was something that was even remotely studied.  I always thought rumination was what happens in your head when you get an idea.  I mean, I’ve always known that most of us have in our life have had a stomach full of food and burped, only to have some of that pumpkin pie jump back into our mouth.  I’ve always called it ‘verping’.  In my vast experience on the subject, it never did taste any better the second time around.  Perhaps if I mix a few pieces of lettuce or a black olive with it, it might take the edge off.

The scientific paper that told me all about Rumination Syndrome states that there is a general lack of awareness of the condition by patients, doctors and the general public.  Wow.  That’s a shocker.  How often have you ever been to a fancy party and overheard someone talk about their rechewed steak?  That’s like saying there is a general lack of awareness of the amount of sweat that rolls off an illegal alien’s back as he crosses the desert. (For your information, it balances out to around two quarts, give or take half a pint depending if he travels at night)  Now that I’ve decided to expose the threat of Rumination Syndrome, those eggheads in their porcelain towers can’t complain that no one knows about it.  Now that I’ve brought this unsavory issue to light, the scientific community can begin doing studies to see just how widespread the problem is.  There will no doubt be obstacles in their way, though.  Who’s going to admit to blowing cookies in their mouth, chewing it up and swallowing it again?  Also, will the researchers require their test subjects to throw up and masticate their vomit before spitting it into a cup for analysis?

I just had a brilliant idea.  Let’s turn this lemon around and make lemonade out of it!  Here goes: If only one day a year everybody in the rich countries of the world ate a big meal, stuck their fingers down their throat and then ate their meal again before putting it in a Tupperware bowl, we could combine our resources and feed all the hungry people!  It would be the ultimate in recycling!  Ok, I need to stop right here so I can draft a letter to the U.N. and get the ball rolling on this revolutionary plan.  I could come up with a trademarked ‘Gagbag’ so the ‘haves’ could give to the ‘have nots’.  I’ll call it “Retching for the Wretched”.  Yes, we can turn Rumination Syndrome into a worldwide movement!  I wonder who from the Hollywood elite will be the first to hand over their Gagbag . . . oh, the future has suddenly turned bright!

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Humble Pie

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I believe humble pie is God’s way of reminding us just Who the boss is.  Case in point: last week I fell trying to step over a Birdie (the dog) barrier (Jack – the cat – has got to have his own space free of the BEAST, fer cryin’ outloud – and rollin’ in the mud) and temporarily reverted to heathen status while in the course of the event I shall always call the ‘fall’.  I caught my back foot on the knee high barrier, and realized in that instant that I would eventually find myself in a classic death pose on the kitchen floor in just the matter of a heartbeat.  As I plummeted toward the tile I had time to say one last, profound word that would speak for my entire life.  My primitive side stole the mike, though, and croaked “F**K!”  The syllable bounced loudly off the walls and ceiling all through the house like a barbaric YAWP (nod to Walt Whitman), and as soon as the sound vomited from my lungs I knew I had been exposed as a true redneck, so I repeated the verb one more time for good measure as my old bones kissed the ground.  I lay there, hearing that word echo like bullets into my civility, and it reminded me there were still some remnants of my old salty dawg days hanging around the cobwebbed rafters of my mind.  Pride and arrogance flew out the window for a moment, and that’s when the Creator shoved a mouthful of humility down my throat.  The only thing left of me was laughter, so I used it to pick myself off the floor.

Now I’m not sure what’s going to come out of my mouth if, for instance, I were involved in an automobile accident.  I’ve heard it said “first you say it, then you do it”, but would rather not have either.  It seems instinct has the upper hand on what wisdom will spew from my lips, though, so I really shouldn’t torture myself pretending I’d have a choice in the moment.  I mean, I’d prefer to quote Apollo Creed in that beer commercial: “Here we go!” or to even come up with something all my own, like “Cancel my Bar Mitzvah!” or “Wotten Totten Piddly Pie!”  Yes, that would be nice – but we both know it won’t happen.  I’ll be caught up in the moment and announce the arrival of my bodily waste.  That’s what makes humble pie so tasty.  Hey, it’s better than eating crow, if you consider tripe superior to bird meat.

Look, I’m as humble as the next guy. Wait. I’m way more humble than the next guy, if you’re talking about that guy over there. Heck, I’m so humble, I spent the better part of one whole day with bird poop on my head and didn’t give it two thoughts. Well, to be technical, I didn’t even give it one thought. I’m used to people pointing and laughing at me for something or another, so I just checked for a booger on my mustache and kept going. Maybe that wasn’t a good example of being humble. Let me think. Uh, hold on. Thinking isn’t my strong suit. Let’s see what ole Webster has to say. Humble: not proud or haughty; not arrogant or assertive. Wow. Thanks, Noah. You just told me what it’s NOT. Sheesh. They don’t make dictionaries like they used to.

I heard a story once about a guy in Chicago who wanted to spread his religious beliefs and asked God to give him a suggestion. God must have been in a rare mood that day, because He told the guy “Make a sandwich board with your church’s worship times on it, and walk all around the downtown area.” The guy grumbled about it (but not too loud lest God hear him) but made a sandwich board, painted the information on it, strapped it onto himself and spent the day wandering up one busy sidewalk after another, feeling very self conscious and ‘not proud or haughty’. Finally the day was done. The guy took the sandwich board off and went home, thinking to himself, “I bet nobody else in Chicago has the humility it takes to do what I just did.” So much for not being proud. Reminds me of the old song “Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way.” I know how that feels. Really.

Perhaps humbleness doesn’t know itself. Not that it’s ignorant or anything like that. It just won’t put a spotlight on itself. I think humility must be unassuming, too, and not likely to take credit for anything. You know, humbleness would be a pretty good friend to have around. Imagine how much attention you could get just having it nearby. I think I’ll make a huge humble pie and hand it around, because we need more of it in others. It gets mighty lonely up here on Humble Mountain.

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Spirituality 101

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Today I’ll be teaching you how to pass yourself off as a spiritual person.  Note that I didn’t say I’d lead you anywhere close to the geographic area of spirituality – that’s up to people behind the dais, wise men wearing turbans, bartenders and cabbies.  What I’m going to do is show you how you can mystify and amaze others into wondering if maybe they’ve underestimated your ability to trip-the-go-into-the-light-fantastic.  You may have no idea what happens to us when we die, or what God’s area code is, or what colors go best with Easter Sunday, but you’ll be able to at least hobnob with the gospel elite without looking like a heathen.

The first thing you have to do is get the look down.  Under no circumstances should you ever act surprised in any way, shape or form.  Spiritual people can have a piano fall from a twenty story window right next to them without blinking an eyelash.  Why?  Because they know that everything is in God’s hands, even if it slips out of His fingers from a twenty story window.  If you’re in a conversation with someone about spirituality and they say “The universe sits on a turtle’s back,” you can shoot a knowing look at them that says “I knew that all along”.  In my two hundred level class How to Speak Spiritually, you’ll be able to say to such a person with absolute confidence, “Yes, and I know that the turtle sits on another turtle’s back because it’s turtles all the way down”.  For now, though, you have to learn how to look like you’re in the loop.  This is how you make a ‘knowing look’: For starters, keep your mouth closed.  Nothing screams idiot faster than a gaping mouth.  If you have trouble with this you can always chew gum, but not while you’re trying to look spiritual.  Secondly, as you’re listening to someone talk about something spiritual, keep one eyebrow raised.  Watch Spock from Star Trek.  He’s got the eyebrow thing down.  This gives the impression that you are weighing their words with your other eyebrow, which is very, very spiritual.  Finally, if the person you’re having a conversation with speaks more than five words, make sure you put your hand up to your face, lay your forefinger on your temple and let the others just hang there like they’re resting but at the same time poised to make a dramatic gesture.  This combined with a raised eyebrow and closed mouth absolutely radiates spirituality.  If you’re serious about making this your major, you’ll need to take How To Dress Spiritually which also incorporates the art of standing and walking spiritually.  For now, though, you just need to look like you’ve been hanging out with Gandhi.  I will give you a teaser about that class: sarong.  If you didn’t catch the double entendre there, I’m sari.

Now, there’s going to come a time when someone asks you what religion you are.  They are actually setting you up for an argument about religion.  There’s nothing worse than religion if you’re trying to be spiritual, because if you allow yourself to be nailed down to one particular theology you’ll end up being God’s dartboard.  The correct answer to such a question is “I’m not religious; I’m spiritual.”  This send the message for them to back off because they’re dealing with a dyed-in-the-wool mystic who doesn’t mess around with trivial things like belief systems and good versus evil.  Which leads us to the next phase of passing yourself off as being spiritual.  Spiritual folks don’t subscribe to the whole “God and the Devil” motif.  It’s all about positive and negative forces.  If you really want to impress them and let them think you completely understand duality, there are a few catch-phrases you can let roll off your tongue.  Feel free to memorize these, but whatever you do, don’t make things up.  Unless you’re actually a bonafide spiritual guru, you’re liable to say something that proves you a fool.  You can say “Everything comes full circle,” of if you know the person you’re speaking with has even less than a clue than you about the subject and you don’t want to lose them with too many heady words, you can say “What comes around goes around”.  If you’re in a group of people, it’s always proper to use the words karma and causality.  Just throw them around like snowballs in the winter.  They’re liable to hit someone.

Overall, you can memorize a few terms that will keep you afloat in a conversation about spirituality, at least until you can excuse yourself and find something appropriate in my handout Spiritual Things to Say in a Pinch.  My favorites are “Hmmm,” (use this with the entire compliment of facial cues I’ve already mentioned) “I couldn’t agree with you more,” (a fine saying that can have two meanings) “I see,” (straight and to the point, it tells the others that you’re not someone to be trifled with) and “Joseph Campbell had a lot to say about that”.  While we’re on the subject of name-dropping, you can pass yourself off as a spiritual giant if you tell your audience that you were influenced by Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, any other saint or prophet, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Junior, Billy Graham or Bono.  I encourage you to get the crib notes highlighting the things these great spiritual beings have said so you don’t go down in conversational flames.  Again, these are just a few suggestions.  My other classes will get into greater detail.

If you look like you’re spiritual and act like you know a thing or two about such a deep and socially acceptable topic, you’ll be able to pass yourself off as an enigma.  There’s nothing more spiritual than an enigma.  Except a paradox.  But that’s another subject entirely.

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