I have been trying to convince a young groundhog that it shouldn’t make a home in a burrow near the back of our house. Each time I get a chance, I sneak up on it, make loud noises, and chase it. It scurries back to the burrow. I think I am losing the battle. Today, things took a very different turn that completely surprised me.
Category Archives: Humor
Give Peace A Chance – Bomb Agrabah
Elyse nails it with her win-win-win-win analysis here. Take a look at her blog post and leave comments there, please.
It was one of the most embarrassing things about working at the World Health Organization for an American like me. My knowledge of geography really wasn’t all that hot.
I was pretty good at Europe. I knew that Italy is shaped like a boot, and Switzerland, where I was living, looked like a delicious croissant. Russia and China? No problem. South Africa and Chile — those were easy — they’re at the bottom (and I had been to Chile, so I knew that it was south).
It didn’t help that several countries changed names at the precise moment when I was trying to find them on the map. Yeah, I’m talking to you Burma/Myanmar.
But I’m a pretty quick study. My knowledge of geography grew daily as I had to figure out where the hell everybody was when they went away without me. Today I can proudly say…
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There was a Japanese emperor who hired an artist to paint a rooster for him. The emperor was a patient man, so when the painting was not immediately forthcoming, he was not very concerned. Even so, years went by. How difficult was it to paint a rooster? The artist was benefitting from the patronage of the emperor, living in the palace grounds, eating the food provided, yet he had not produced the painting. After twenty years the emperor’s patience was spent. He went himself to the artist’s rooms to inquire about his painting.
The artist was startled to be visited by the emperor, but he bowed deeply and invited the other man to have a seat. “Please wait here, and I will get your painting.” The artist retreated into his studio. The emperor could hear him, singing softly to himself, puttering around.
After many minutes the emperor could take it no more. He leapt to his feet, as well as a now aging man could, and filled the doorway of the studio with his presence. “Twenty years I’ve waited and still you make me wait! Why should I not execute you now?”
The artist did not react to the threat, but stepped from his easel and said, “I am almost done now. Do you like it?”
The emperor’s temper calmed as he saw before him the perfect rooster. In simple lines it showed the rooster turned to look over its shoulder at him, just as he’d hoped. But then the man noticed dozens, no hundreds of other paintings almost the same, lining every surface of the room. To his eye, they all looked perfect, too.
“Did you just paint the rooster on the easel?” the emperor asked.
“Yes, your Majesty.”
“If you have painted all these other roosters, why do I not have one yet? Why have I waited twenty years for something you could do long ago, something you could do in just a few minutes?”
“Oh, your Majesty, I could not,” said the artist. “It has taken me this long to learn how to paint the perfect rooster. None of those before were good enough to give you.”
Ogden Nash, 1902-1971
A friend celebrates her birthday today. (Happy birthday, mj!) When I looked at the calendar and noticed that, I remembered another birthday today, as well. One of America’s favorite poets, Frederic Ogden Nash, was born on August 19, 1902. His free-form style allowed made-up words and rhyming lines of varying lengths. The off-kilter style endeared him to readers delighted by the inherent humor.
His first book, The Cricket of Garador, was a children’s book published in 1925. His first poetry was published in the New Yorker magazine in 1930. He continued writing well into the 1960s, publishing more than 500 pieces of verse, as well as three screenplays and a Broadway hit play.
A prolific writer, he’s often remembered for humorous poems on animals. Here are three you might recognize:
The cow is of bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other is milk.
The Lord in His wisdom made the fly,
And then forgot to tell us why.
The truth I do not stretch or shove
When I state that the dog is full of love.
I’ve also found, by actual test,
A wet dog is the lovingest.
These child-friendly verses, for many of us, were one of our first introductions to poetry. However, he also wrote for an adult audience, as evidenced by this reading of A Tale of the Thirteenth Floor.
Nash had a writing voice all his own, with uneven rhythm and unconventional rhyme. The sophistication of his verse was revealed in his observations on his own life as well as society around him. Marriage and children, aging and illness, wealth and work, were all topics he took on. The poem “I Never Even Suggested It” considers the negotiations within a marriage to keep the peace.
A more humorous take on the relationship between men and women can be found in this:
Reflexions on Ice-Breaking
His Take on Wealth in American Society Rings True Today
His views on wealth in society resonate within our current environment of increasing economic disparity. These pieces give you a taste of his observations:
Lines Indited with all the Depravity of Poverty
One way to be very happy is to be very rich
For then you can buy orchids by the quire and bacon by the flitch.
And yet at the same time People don’t mind if you only tip them a dime,
Because it’s very funny
But somehow if you’re rich enough you can get away with spending water like money
While if you’re not rich you can spend in one evening your salary for the year
And everybody will just stand around and jeer.
If you are rich you don’t have to think twice about buying a judge or a horse,
Or a lower instead of an upper, or a new suit, or a divorce,
And you never have to say When,
And you can sleep every morning until nine or ten,
All of which
Explains why I should like very, very much to be very, very rich.
Reflection on the Fallibility of Nemesis
He who is ridden by a conscience
Worries about a lot of nonscience;
He without benefit of scruples
His fun and income soon quadruples.
This excerpt from “Bankers Are Just Like Anybody Else Except Richer” may sound prescient:
This is a song to celebrate banks,
Because they are full of money and you go into them and all
you hear is clinks and clanks,
Or maybe a sound like the wind in the trees on the hills,
Which is the rustling of the thousand dollar bills.
Most bankers dwell in marble halls,
Which they get to dwell in because they encourage deposits
and discourage withdrawals,
And particularly because they all observe one rule which woe
betides the banker who fails to heed it,
Which is you must never lend any money to anybody unless
they don’t need it.
And even more pointed:
The Terrible People
People who have what they want are very fond of telling people who haven’t what they want that they really don’t want it,
And I wish I could afford to gather all such people into a gloomy castle on the Danube and hire half a dozen capable Draculas to haunt it.
I don’t mind their having a lot of money, and I don’t care how they employ it,
But I do think that they damn well ought to admit they enjoy it.
But no, they insist on being stealthy
About the pleasures of being wealthy,
And the possession of a handsome annuity
Makes them think that to say how hard it is to make both ends meet is their bounden duity.
You cannot conceive of an occasion
Which will find them without some suitable evasion.
Yes indeed, with arguments they are very fecund;
Their first point is that money isn’t everything, and that they have no money anyhow is their second.
Some people’s money is merited,
And other people’s is inherited,
But wherever it comes from,
They talk about it as if it were something you got pink gums from.
Perhaps indeed the possession of wealth is constantly distressing,
But I should be quite willing to assume every curse of wealth if I could at the same time assume every blessing.
The only incurable troubles of the rich are the troubles that money can’t cure,
Which is a kind of trouble that is even more troublesome if you are poor.
Certainly there are lots of things in life that money won’t buy, but it’s very funny —
Have you ever tried to buy them without money?
Other Notes on Nash
Nash made the city of Baltimore his home, and he was a tremendous fan of the Baltimore Colts. In 1968 he wrote a feature for Life Magazine on his beloved team. One of the poems in the feature memorialized a game forcing a play-off against the Green Bay Packers.
Is there a Baltimore fan alive
who’s forgotten Tom Matte in ’65?
The Colts by crippling injuries vexed,
Unitas first and Cuozzo next–
What would become of the pass attack?
Then Matte stepped in at quarterback.
He beat the Rams in a great display,
He did – and he damn near beat Green Bay.
Ask him today to plunge or block,
Tom’s the man who can roll or rock.
In Tokyo, they say karate
In Baltimore, they call it Matte.
When the first class stamp honoring the poet’s centennial was presented in 2002, the ceremony at his Baltimore home included members of the Colts team.
Ironically, I was reminded of him a while back when remarking in a comment about pelicans. Two different people responded with slightly different versions of this poem, which they attributed to Nash:
A wonderful bird is a pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week;
But I’m damned if I see how the helican.
However, the attribution has been muddied over time. According to this article, Nash was not the author. In fact, it states that the poem was written around 1910 by Dixon Lanire Merritt, editor of Nashville’s paper The Tennessean.
Regardless, Ogden Nash is an American poet to celebrate. His views and writings on the twentieth century still resonate today, and his humor and style stand the test of time.
Do you have favorite poems or memories of Ogden Nash to share?
Cooper and the Squirrels
Trapped! | No Means of Escape
by Jim and Melanie
At times, Melanie and I get ourselves into unusual situations. It has probably happened to you. You plan to do something assuming it might be fun, interesting, a novelty, etc. When you actually get to do it, you find it was a big mistake. You feel trapped and want to escape. It was a bad idea. Here are a couple of examples from our modest, but growing, list. If you have one to share, please add it in the comments.
Me: Hey, Melanie. What do you think of this idea? One of our favorite midwest bands is playing on a three-hour riverboat cruise as a fundraiser. It’s on the Mississippi River out of Dubuque. The river there is gorgeous. The town has some interesting history. Here is a picture of the boat. It has to be a good time. What do you say? Shall we get tickets?
Melanie: Sure. Sounds like fun. What could possibly go wrong? We love their music.
Kitties | Posed in Human Activities
I discovered this amusing photograph while browsing the Library of Congress. Click the image for a larger version. The Harry Frees collection of 33 more like it are at this link. If you are a cat person, take a few minutes to browse. You will be glad you did. Then, return.
1914 | Harry Whittier Frees | 1879-1953 | photographer
The LOC has an enormous collection of unique digital images online. It is searchable. Various collections are listed at the previous link. Gallery setting seems like an easy to view format. Images are available for viewing in different screen sizes. Go ahead and enjoy yourself. What else do you have to do today?