What the Music You Listen to Says about You


Music is the true human universal. Everyone, even the most miserable nihilist who hates everything, likes music. Just not everyone likes the same kind. They say you are what you eat, one man’s meat is another man’s poison, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you somehow or other blend those old saws together you get what we’re after. Different music speaks to different people differently which speaks volumes about the listener to the rest of us. Here’s what all that speaking says about you:

You like hunting, fishing, dogs and beer. You do outdoor things indoors (rebuilding a transmission in the kitchen) and indoor things outdoors (sitting on the couch on the porch).

You drink classic cocktails, wear turtlenecks, and like cats. Your’e a square who imagines they’re hip. Or hep, you’re not quite sure which term to use.

Soft Rock, Pop
You are the type of person credit cards and the term “consumer” were created for. Everything there is to know about you can be gleaned from the logos, slogans and pictures on your wardrobe items.

Hard Rock
You like black clothes, tattoos, big dogs, and ugly shoes. Some or all of which are festooned with a skull. On a scale of one to ten you go for zero or eleven.

How you like your music, clothes, jewelry, car, socializing, so on and so etc., can be summed up by the Oscar Wilde quip, “Nothing succeeds like excess.”

You’re a white, pot-smoking vegan who dresses like a 70s hippie. Except for the wool socks with sandals. You have a child named Dylan and keep a cat, parrot, goat or chicken named Woody.

You dress haphazardly and wish you were someone else, somewhere else, sometime else. That’s ‘cause you got the blues, man.

You’re a Baptist.

Show Tunes
You like small annoying dogs and colorful scarves (for both you and the dog) and never go without product in your hair which is not its natural color. You have only girlfriends, whatever their sex.

You are calm and easygoing if not downright pliant. Or, more likely, you have no control over the sound system.

Christmas Carols
You like wearing red clothing, are overweight, have a big beard, and live up north. You’re a jolly, generous list maker who genrally likes most people, yet oddly enough only leaves the house once a year.

Pop Goes the Weasel
You drive a colorfully decorated, big, white, refrigerated Step Van slowly through residential streets all summer long and are very popular with little kids.

Sea Shanties
You enjoy sailing, are adept with sidearms, drink rum, speak with a rhotic dialect, have at least one prostheses and have probably had an eye poked out. You prefer monkeys and parrots to women in the workplace, and are deathly afraid of clock-eating crocodiles.

Piper Music
You have beady eyes, whiskers, a long hairless tail and are easily led astray by colorfully outfitted musicians. Or you’re a kid who’s also easily led astray by same. You probably live in Hamlin, or did at once upon a time.

Gregorian Chants
You wear itchy brown robes, sandals, and have a funny haircut. You don’t listen to the radio or watch TV and aren’t reading this because you don’t use computers.

You are highly intelligent with excellent taste in most everything. You are good-looking and always well turned out. You are esteemed and admired by all.

You get one guess as to the kind of music we listen to.

Filed 8/30/17

The Silliest Car Ever Manufactured


We phrase it ‘manufactured’ and not ‘built’ to distinguish between prototypes, one-offs, short-run failures, and home-made contraptions on the one hand and cars that went into production in the hundreds or thousands over many years. We also ignore bizarre contrivances from the very early days of motoring before folks figured out what a car was supposed to be.

There have been other famous flops and unmitigated turkeys like the Edsel, the Brickland, and the Yugo, but these were not necessarily outstandingly bad cars. Our nominee is worse than any of these. Oddly enough this car is not universally hated, people find them an amusing curiosity despite being unroadworthy enough to chill the spine of Ralph Nader. It’s a vehicle only the British could love and drive. Mad dogs and Englishmen and all that, what?

The car in question is Mr. Bean’s nemesis, the Reliant Robin. It was ungainly, it’s steering wheel came off, the doors creaked in the wind and it was voted the worst car ever by the British public. Despite all this it was produced for thirty years. What made this car so dreadful? Simple, it had only three wheels.

Reliant Robin Pics

Now, there have been other three-wheelers built, but their makers had the good sense to put two wheels for steering and stability in the front. Having only one wheel up front made the Robin prone to rolling over in a turn at even moderate speeds. With side-by-side seating if driven without a passenger it was unbalanced to the driver’s side making rollovers even more likely. Some folks took to keeping something heavy, like a toolbox, on the passenger side to mitigate this unfortunate happenstance.

Rolling a Robin Video

There is a caveat here. According to British officialdom because it had fewer than four wheels the Robin wasn’t a car but a motorcycle. This despite having a completely enclosed car body, steering wheel and car-like controls, car seats and everything else car-like. By those measures it was a car, and so we deem it a car. Also unlike a motorcycle, the driver didn’t have to put his feet down to keep it toppling over when stopped. The real problem was toppling over when on the move. So, like a motorcycle after all.

Filed 8/28/17

Infrequently Answered Questions

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words (at a Million Dollars a Word)


Q: What’s the most successful propaganda campaign ever?

A: Leaving aside politics and religion, and as advertising is propaganda, speech intended to convince, we’d have to say it’s the Marlboro Man. The smoking cowboy has made Marlboro the number one cigarette brand worldwide for fifty years now. Are they that much different or better? Not really. Guess folks all over the world just want to be cowboys.

Legend has it Marlboro was originally launched as a lady’s cigarette. Sort-of an early Virginia Slims. This didn’t work so well, so they switched to the Marlboro Man, passed Winston as the top brand in the 1960s and never looked back. The brilliance of the Marlboro Man was, though it had them, it didn’t even really need slogans; the picture of a rugged cowboy in the great outdoors, free and manly, said enough. Beat the heck out of “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should,” “You’ve got your own cigarette now, baby,” and “Show us your Lark.”

Think back, what was your reaction the opening toon of this bit? Did you think of the Marlboro Man even before reading further? If so, the propaganda worked. Though if you didn’t rush out and buy a pack of Marlboro, maybe it wasn’t a total success. While the Marlboro Man isn’t subliminal advertising, it seems to approach it. Call it liminal advertising. Or perhaps inkling advertising.

liminal (lĭ′ mĭ nəl) adjective. Relating to the point (or threshold) beyond which a sensation becomes too faint to be experienced.

Filed 8/25/17

What’s Gravy for the Goose Is Spittle for the Gander?


TV, books, media, and popular culture generally paints the picture that a job is a soul-sucking rat race where you’re under the thumb of The Man. The battle cry of freedom of the downtrodden working stiff, “Take this job and shove it.” Unless you’re a woman. In which case a job is considered the path to liberation and fulfillment. So, which is it; wage slavery or paid freedom?

“Feminism is mixed up with the muddled idea that women are free when they serve their employer, but slaves when they help their husbands.”  –G.K. Chesterton

Filed 8/23/17

Ivory Tower of Babble

Xcorpse1 Xcorpsespring Xcorpsehead Xcorpse2

Have you even read some bit of jargon-filled professorial text and thought, “It looks like a sentence, it reads like a sentence, but it’s all Greek to me.” Is it because you don’t understand, or is it in fact utter gobbledegook? Or double-talk? Or an exquisite corpse?


In the early years of the Surrealist movement, a typical evening spent among its poets and artists might include a game of “exquisite corpse.” Based on an old parlor game, Exquisite Corpse was played by several people, each of whom would write a phrase on a sheet of paper, fold the paper to conceal part of it, and pass it on to the next player for his contribution.

The technique got its name from results obtained in initial playing, “Le cadavre / exquis / boira / le vin / nouveau” (The exquisite corpse will drink the young wine). Other examples are: “The dormitory of friable little girls puts the odious box right” and “The Senegal oyster will eat the tricolor bread.” These poetic fragments were felt to reveal what Nicolas Calas characterized as the “unconscious reality in the personality of the group” resulting from a process of what Ernst called “mental contagion.”

Read that last sentence again. Does “unconscious reality in the personality of the group” say anything real, or is it itself an exquisite corpse? Anyway, just for fun we give you our mini exquisite corpse generator below. Just click on the category menus, select various words, and presto! Grammatically correct, yet incoherent sentences. You, too, can write like an academician.

Filed 8/18/17

Grandpa Fought in WWII? These Brothers Grandpa Fought in the War of 1812 and They Can Tell You about It Today


John Tyler was the tenth President of the United States taking office in 1841 upon the death of William Henry Harrison. He’s remembered as the Tyler in the campaign slogan, “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too.” He’s not much remembered for being elected to congress. Of the Confederate States of America, that is. None of which is too terribly interesting as trivia. What’s more interesting, or perhaps surprising, are his two grandsons.

Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. and Harrison Ruffin Tyler, are alive today, 227 years (and counting) after their grandfather, John Tyler, was born in 1790. Both are the sons of Lyon Gardiner Tyler Sr. who was born when John Tyler was 63 years old. Harrison Tyler was born in 1928 when his father, Lyon Tyler Sr., was 75 years old.

John Tyler was 22 years old in 1812. And he was in the Army. And he fought in the War of 1812. If only he had also fought at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 this trivia snippet would have been just that extra bit better.

Filed 8/14/17

Another Tiny Mystery (Or the Frivia Just Keeps Getting Frivialer All the Time)


My iTunes music list reads, “Beethoven: Symphony #3 in F flat, Op 36.” Which confused me. Here’s why. The pic above shows a bit of a musical keyboard. The keys are labeled with the notes of C major. The black keys are sharps (half step above) or flats (half step below). Now then, as you can see there is no black key between E and F. So, what and where the heck is F flat?


The F-flat major scale has 1 double-flat, 6 flats.

Warning: The F-flat key is a theoretical major scale key.

This means:

> Its key signature would contain either double-sharps or double flats.

> It is rarely used in practice, because it is too complex to use.

Why on earth would Herr Beethoven compose in F flat major, especially since it’s the very same notes as E major? (Mouseover the bottom buttons to see.) Well, he didn’t. His third symphony is in E flat. The listing in my iTunes is a typo. But don’t blame me, it was automatically downloaded that way.

Of course, it might be worse. You could go a half step up from E and get the theoretical E sharp major key. Which would mean three sharps and four double sharps. (Mouseover button to see.) Why bother with such a scale? Compose in F, get the same results and save the bother.

Fbutton Fflat
Ebutton E
Esharpbutton Esharp

As you can imagine, there’s a lot of possible scales to learn. C major is the easiest, just play the white keys. C minor substitutes two flats, E flat and B flat. Now then, with modern electronic keyboards it would be possible to assign any note to any key. In which case you could learn the two easy C scales and at the push of a button transpose to another key signature and pretty much play any pop tune going.

This is not a new idea, a transposing piano does that, only mechanically. On a transposing piano the keyboard could be cranked back and forth to realign the keys to any scale while playing in C and C minor (or whatever). In fact, Irvin Berlin used one just to make composing tunes easier

Filed 8/11/17

Hooray for Hollywar Redux


Here’s an old Suck spot that fits the bill of some new content better than most of our repurposed old spots. Well, except for the guy getting crushed. Still, it continues our WWII theme of late.

Things we wonder about in Saving Private Ryan (other than how the entire mission is pretty stupid)

  1. Why were the U.S. infantrymen swarming atop the German tank?
  2. Why didn’t the German tank use its machine guns?
  3. How did Captain Miller shoot into the German tank’s driver’s view port?
  4. How probable was the Mustang tank buster?
  5. How probable was the kill shot through the sniper’s scope?

1. There’s nothing an infantryman can do climbing on a buttoned up tank, except maybe put something in the ventilation opening. So, what were they trying to accomplish? Other than getting shot to pieces by the German infantry.

2. The hull machine gun on the tank wasn’t just for looks, was it? It’s an anti-infantry weapon. Same for the turret mounted coaxial machine gun. The Germans loved machine guns. The infantry was based around them. Why weren’t they using them?

3. German tanks had really thick glass in the driver’s view port to prevent some infantryman from sticking a gun in and spraying the crew. The very thing Captain Miller does.

4. While a Thunderbolt was a more likely tank buster, the fact was neither were very effective in that rôle. Tank kills by either plane were extremely rare.

5. Not only improbable, probably impossible. At long range the bullet travels in an arc and would be heading slightly downward when it hit the scope. The possibility it would strike the optical glass and turn up to get through is incalculably infinitesimal.

Filed 8/9/17

WWII Tank Trivia


You likely know the Sherman Tank was named after American General William Tecumseh Sherman, but do you know who named it that? It wasn’t the U.S. Army, it was English Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Thing was, the Americans didn’t called it the Sherman during the war. Nor did they use any of the other American general tank names: Stuart, Lee, Grant, Pershing. Those were used by the British.

Churchill came up with those names because he couldn’t keep the American alpha-numeric designations straight. U.S. troops called the Sherman the M4 medium, or just the M4 or the medium. It wasn’t until later that American writers picked up on the British nomenclature and started using it. Now everyone calls it the Sherman. Anyway, Churchill did have a point, Lee, Grant, and Sherman are much easier to keep track of than M2, M3, and M4. Plus names simply sound better. Just like with planes. P51, OK. Mustang, cool.

On the other hand the British had a tank called the Churchill, which wasn’t named by Winston Churchill or after Winston Churchill. Or actually it was, just after the first Winston Churchill, Marlboro, not the WWII Prime Minister. So, why not name it the Marlboro? Because that doesn’t start with C. The British system was to name what they termed cruiser tanks with C names: Cromwell, Crusader, Churchill. They continued that after the war: Centurion, Chieftain, Challenger.

Is that why the pic shows the tank being renamed “Cump”? Nope, that’s your bonus trivia. General Sherman’s nickname among his friends was Cump.

Filed 8/7/17

Fair Trade?


“Human beings are born with different capacities. If they are free, they are not equal. And if they are equal, they are not free.”  –Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

On the other hand, what if everyone were born with the same capacities, would everyone come out equal? Have you ever played Monopoly? Everyone starts out equal and plays by the same rules, yet at the end of the game one person has all the money and property while the rest have nothing. So, what does inequality show anyway?

Filed 7/31/17

Instant Fossils


It takes hundreds or thousands of years to petrify something to stone, right? Wait, not so fast. Or rather, not so slow. Eric Milton describes his examination of a petrified tree trunk in Alberta, Canada:

“The piece was pure clear silica inside, it was coated with a rougher opaque crust of partially fused sand. The tree, whose stump was petrified, was alive five years ago! After the tree was cut down to accommodate the right of way for a new power transmission line, an accidental break allowed the live high-voltage wire to contact several tree stumps still in the ground. The power was cut off within hours of the break. All of the tree roots which contacted the broken wire were fossilized.”

Perhaps now we know what really happened to Lot’s wife. She didn’t turn to salt, it was basalt. Kerzap!

Peter Mungo Jupp: Electric Fossilization

Filed 7/26/17

Foody Frivia


Do you like cold pizza? Some do, some don’t. For us, pizza fresh out of the oven, yummy; Pizza fresh out of the fridge, yuck. Is it just the temperature, the texture, the look? Not really.

Despite being the same ingredients in the same arrangement hot pizza and cold pizza tastes different. But it’s not the pizza, it’s us. Taste receptors work differently at different temperatures. That’s why many things need to be spiced up a bit when eaten cold. Like leftover fried chicken. Just needs a little more salt and pepper, right? Or is that just us?

Know what else makes a difference? Packaging. The French gave experts the exact same wine poured from a high-price brand bottle and a low-price brand bottle and the experts declared the high-price brand wine was better. So then, you can feel better for buying that store brand box-o-wine. Just decant it into a fancy bottle and, “Voila, tres magnifique.”

One more trick. Want diners to laud your culinary offerings? Give it a fancy description. Folks will compliment the chef’s herb-crusted calamari, but will rate lowly the fried squid. Same dish, different name. Guess Shakespeare got it wrong. A rose by any other name… stinks.

Filed 7/19/17

What’s This?

no1 zenniB
no2 zenniC
no3 zenniD

What are we looking at above? Are they black squares with blue stripes or blue squares with black stripes? What if we remove the black?

Mouseover box 1: Do we still have squares and stripes or just some triangles and slashes? Let’s go another step and add more bits.

Mouseover box 2: Are we seeing anything but squares, stripes, and triangles? Is there something more to it? Finally, let’s add a black background all around.

Mouseover box 3: Aha! Now we can see it easily. It’s not a bunch of iconundrums, it’s type. ZENNI.

The reader might still be asking what’s this. Or maybe what’s that. It’s the trademark for a brand of eyewear. We just thought their typography was rather clever. And it shows how the human eye can read the most abstract letter forms. Which is also pretty clever. Can a computer optical reader do it? Nope. That’s why online forms use those twisted up numbers and letters to test if someone is a real person or a bot. Computers might be very powerful, and perhaps smart, but they aren’t very clever. But then, there are people like that, too.

One more thing. Once you see it as type it’s hard to unsee it. They’ll always be boxes and stripes and shapes and letters all at the same time. Try it and see.

Filed 7/14/17

The Casual Sportsman

Motor Sport Old News


Being the Casual Sportsman we admit to not following the sports ticker daily. (Is there even a sports ticker?) In place of daily we might substitute the word accidentally. Which is more-or-less how we stumbled upon the following items.

What happens when a chicken farmer puts a pickup truck engine in a twenty year old chassis from a company making wheel­chairs? You win Le Mans and dethrone Ferrari as GT world champion. In other words, you get the Shelby (AC) Cobra.

Cobra Ferrari Wars

Something that happened over fifty years ago is beyond old news, it’s history. Something that happened last year is old news. Combine the two and you get the story of the triumphant return of the Ford GT to Le Mans on the fiftieth anniversary of its one-two-three finish in 1966.

Ford Returns to Le Mans

One bit of trivia while we’re on the subject. The now traditional wildly spraying the big bottle of champagne all over was started spontaneously by Dan Gurney after the GT 40s second Le Mans victory in 1967.

Filed 7/11/17

Fourth of July On Tap


Since declaring independence from Britain two hundred and whatever-it-is years ago tomorrow, America has become a land of plenty. And there’s plenty of plenty beyond milk and honey to go around. Even excess. Some of it good, some of it not so good. But we’ll leave others to debate those points. The plenty we concern ourselves with is foodstuffs since that’s what we’ll stuff ourselves with at Fourth of July barbecues from coast to coast. Which sort-of leaves out Hawaii, but they can have a luau so it’s all good.

There’s really not much more for us to say, the picture should speak for itself. Not literally, that’s just a figure of speech, you will have to read the callouts.

Mouseover to enlarge

Now then, if we hadn’t split with Britain what would we be barbecuing? Fish and chips, bangers and mash, bubble and squeak, haggis? Nah. Likely pretty much the same as now, great slabs of meat and burgers and such. We know they barbecue over the pond, but they’re not exactly famous for it so we don’t know what they make. One also wonders about continental barbecue, too. None of the cooking shows of TV seem to feature Euro-BBQ. Caribbean, South American, Asian, yes; European, no. Just what do they barbecue in France, Germany and Italy? It’s a mystery to us.

Filed 7/3/17

A-a-a-a-h-h-h, July


It’s fairly widely known July and August were renamed after Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar respectively. Quick quiz: what were the names of the months they replaced?

July was originally Quintilis, August was originally Sextilis. These fell into the whole month name by number business: September, seventh month; October, eighth month; et cetera. If you know your Latin number prefixes you can tell that Quintilis meant fifth month and Sextilis meant sixth month. (If we knew Latin we might explain why it was Quintilis and not Quintember, but as we don’t know Latin we’ll just have to let it slide.)

But wait, isn’t July the seventh month? Well, yeah. Thing was, the original Roman calendar had only ten months and lasted 304 days with unaccounted for days in the winter. We don’t know how that was supposed to work. Neither did the Romans really because it didn’t. Which is why they added January and February in about 700 BC. They tacked these new months on the beginning of the year and so the numerical month names didn’t make sense any more.

Even then the Roman calendar didn’t add up and the seasons got out of whack. So much so they sometimes added a thirteenth month, Intercalaris, to try to rejigger the seasons back in line. Then the two Caesars got involved and reformed the thing to the calendar we enjoy today. If you don’t enjoy it, that’s on you.

The Roman Calendar

Filed 7/1/17

To Sound Like (a) Russian Omit (the) Articles


By our reckoning German has an excess of articles: ein, eine, das, die, der, dem, etc. English gets by fine with three: a, an, the. But to a Russian speaker that might seem too many. That’s because Russian has no words for a or the. Which means you can have a perfectly coherent language without these articles. This is why Russians speaking English some­times don’t include them, they just don’t come naturally. This quirk is used in lots of old jokes when Russians are speaking. As in…

Cosmonaut: In Russia we have world’s greatest space program. In one year we go to sun.
Astronaut: You can’t go to the sun, you’ll burn up.
Cosmonaut: This is not problem. We go at night.

Filed 6/27/17

The Operation Was a Success But…


If you discover one of these real notations from medical transcriptions on your own record, maybe it’s time to get a second opinion. Or perhaps a rewrite. Or a refund. Something.

Though if you want real dubious medical commentary, toss a lawyer into the mix.

Lawyer from court records: Now, Doctor, isn’t it true that when a person dies in his sleep, in most cases he just passes quietly away and doesn’t know anything about it until the next morning?

Yep. We’ve also heard it’s hard to solve some murders because the victims won’t coöperate.

Filed 6/23/17

See Run Run. Run, Run, Run.


It’s curious, to us at least, how one word can have so many completely different meanings and not be confusing when it crops up. On the other hand, we have the reverse case. That is, one meaning with multiple words. We have a term for that, synonym. What’s the term for the the other? We’re not entirely sure, but there is this:

homograph (hŏm′ ə-grăf, hōm′ ə-grăf) noun, a word of the same written form as another but of different meaning and usually origin, whether pronounced the same way or not, as bear “to carry; support” and bear “animal,” or lead “to conduct” and lead “metal.”

As you can see as in the word lead, a heteronym is a homograph, though not always the other way around. (You just knew we’d squeeze heteronym in here one way or another.) Then there is…

polysemy (pŏl′-ē sē-mē, pə-lĭs′ ə-mē) noun, a condition in which a single word, phrase, or concept has more than one meaning or connotation.

Think of the phrase, “all over.” Which could mean everywhere or totally finished.

English Words with the Most Multiple Meanings

Whether the words at the link qualify as homographs or not, we’re not entirely clear. Nor do we know what you call a word that can be pronounced more than one way. Though, considering accents and dialects, that might include half the dictionary.

Filed 6/20/17

Pointless Inanimation


You may have noticed the activity hereabouts lately has slowed to a snail’s pace. How slow is that? The desert snail can sleep for two years at a time. Wonder how they tell it’s asleep. Studying snails can’t be the world’s most exciting job, can it? Lot of down time, we imagine. “Call me when it wakes up.”

Filed 6/14/17

On the Horns of a Dilemma


OK, we admit the visual pun, or whatever you’d call it, is an idea stolen from Mad magazine’s “Horrifying Clichés” bit. So sue us. Though it won’t do you any good because they didn’t originate the idea of literal depictions of figures of speech as a gag. That goes back to an Italian cartoon strip Bilbolbul begun by Attilio Mussino in 1909.

A dilemma is a choice between two equal options. Latin, from Greek dilēmma, DI- (double) plus lēmma, proposition. These might be equally good or bad options. Though for a pessimist equally good is equally bad since you are going to miss out on one good option no matter what. Vice-versa for an optimist.

Life is full of dilemmas, unclear choices and trade-offs with upsides and downsides. Many have multiple choices and so might actually be trilemmas, quadralemmas or dodecalemmas. But it’d be ridiculous to have all those specific words when dilemma fairly well fits the bill for them all. Anyway, you could simply substitute the word quandary instead. You have two equal options. Not much of a dilemma, but there you go.

Filed 6/9/17

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time; Not


“The purpose of thinking is so our ideas can die instead of us.”  –Karl Popper

Filed 6/7/17

Infrequently Answered Questions

We’re Oblivious All the Time


Q: Are you one of those people who take everything for granted?

A: Of course. Everybody is. For the most part. That’s because you have to be or you’d probably worry yourself to death or go raving mad with distraction in short order. You can’t pay attention to everything. Think about it, everything, every thing. That’s a heckuva lot of things. You pay attention to what matters at the moment and ignore the rest. The rest being 99.999…% of everything.

Right now, are you aware of every sound in the room? How about how the room smells? Are you noticing what your feet are doing? Are you paying attention to your breathing and heartbeat? As long as all the objects in the room aren’t acting up like something from The Exorcist or singing and dancing as in Cinderella you don’t give them a second thought, eh? You’d never dare go for a walk if you didn’t take it for granted people would drive their cars on the road and not the sidewalk.

We simply haven’t got the brain power to keep track of everything, or even a lot of things. So we ignore most everything. Which works because most of the time most of everything works as expected and so can be ignored, taken for granted. Taking nothing for granted, mistrusting everything and everyone is insane. We have a word for that, schizophrenia. How well does that work?

Filed 6/5/17

It’s the Law, of Sorts


And now for some real court transcripts from the book, Law and Disorder.

Attorney: What did the doctor tell you was the condition of the body when he performed the autopsy?
Witness: He described it as dead.

Attorney: Were you involved in a romantic relationship with her?
Witness: I ain’t involved in no romantic relationship with her. I’m married to her.

Counsel (to witness): Are you telling the truth?
Prosecutor: Objection; irrelevant.

Yep, the law works in mysterious ways. And lawyers, clients, and witnesses even myteriouser and mysteriouser. Which might explain this actual Denver law firm ad copy: “Just because you did it doesn’t mean you’re guilty.”

Filed 5/25/17

Infrequently Answered Questions

Animals Just Ain’t Human


Q: What separates man from beast?

A: Tool use? Nah, some animals, chimps and birds for instance, fashion and use simple tools. Language? Many animals communicate with calls and such. Music and art? Well, songbirds sing and bower birds decorate their nests, or bowers actually.

Looking around we’d have to say what really separates man from beast is clothes. People wear clothes. Animals never do. Not if they can help it, that is. Sure, some people dress their pets, but that’s human doing not Mother Nature. Anyway, animals go around stark naked and aren’t embarrassed doing so. By their expressions, we get the idea dogs are embarrassed wearing clothes rather than not. Cats, by contrast, look positively pissed when dressed up.

Though one might say some animals kind-of dress up. Hermit crabs don abandoned mollusk shells. Which is more armor than clothes. Elephants cover themselves with dirt and pigs with mud. Not really clothes, though. A wolf in sheep’s clothing is only a saying not a real thing wolves do. Non-human mammals don’t wear clothes because, well, they grow their own. Fur. Or hair or wool in some cases. Except big, fat ones like hippos and whales who have nothing.

Now then, big, fat animals in clothes would look absurd. On the other hand, big, fat people without clothes… we don’t even want to think about it.

Filed 5/9/17

The Casual Sportsman

The Play’s the Thing


“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”

Is that just something losers say to console themselves a la sour grapes? Like Leo Durocher said, “Nice guys finish last.” Or do we really believe the adage? Does it mean more or other than what we think it does upon closer scrutiny? We think it does.

While sports and games are, of course, competitive, they are also coöperative. They’re both at once. After all, every player agrees to play by the same rules, that’s the coöperative bit. That’s how you play the game, right? That’s why there are penalties within the game. You might win the play, but you don’t get to keep it if you didn’t play the game fairly.

Folks who only care about whether you win or lose and not how you play the game are cheaters, sore losers, bad winners, arguers, and crybabies. Who wants to play games with such folks? There’s the rub. Cheaters, sore losers, bad winners, arguers, and crybabies might win the game, but nobody’s going to invite them to play any more. In the end they’re losers. They lose the chance to play in the future.

At least if the good sports have their say about it. Sometimes you’re forced to play a rigged game. But that’s another story we won’t go into.

Filed 5/8/17

The Invention of Cossacks


Cossacks fall into the category of bigger than life figures along with ninjas, vikings, pirates, and gladiators, perhaps more legend than reality. Cossack is an English spelling and pronunciation of what a Cossack will say as Kōzăk. The word is Turkic in origin and roughly means wanderer or freeman. The same word lends itself to Kazakhstan, land of nomads, though there are no Cossacks in Kazakhstan.

Cossacks go back about five hundred years and are a self-created ethnicity, if you will. Cossacks gravitated to a kind of no man’s land on the Black Sea to get away from the four local empires of the time, Muscovy, the Polish Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Tartars. The various hordes, or tribe settlements, could have come from any of those areas and were loosely united in Orthodox Christianity and a desire to not be serfs or slaves or minions of empire.

To remain independent surrounded by hostile empires the Cossacks had to be physically fit and martially fierce. Some liken them to Spartans who drank a lot. As you’ve probably seen in the movies and such Cossack dancing is darned athletic, part dance and part acrobatics. You might say it was the original break dancing. It evolved from martial arts training. As far as dance fighting goes, a Cossack could probably kick the bejeezus out of those finger-snapping gangs from West Side Story.

Then there were bands of brigands who looked and fought like Cossacks, but weren’t part of any horde settlement. Whether they arose from Cossack ranks is hard to say. These are generally what people think of as Cossacks. Whether they were or not is debatable.

Filed 5/5/17

There’s No Place Like Home


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Here’s an old Fortean Times spot from 2002 about people being killed by everyday household items. Not the most joyful topic, but what do you expect for a rag that runs a monthly “Strange Deaths” department? We don’t have the story text, so we’ll just have a bit of fun with old saws about the home. Home is where the hurt is. Wherever I hang myself is home. Calamity begins at home. Home sweet release of death home. A house is not a home, it’s a death trap.

They also say you can’t go home again. All things considered maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Filed 5/4/17

A Caboodle of Redundant Common Phrases


Kit and caboodle – A kit is a collection, like a tool kit. A caboodle, originally boodle, is a group. (Not that people commonly say either boodle or caboodle any more.) Collection, group, pretty much the same thing. If your kit or caboodle is mismatched or haphazard you might say it contains…

This and that – This and that are obviously not the same item, but in the phrase nobody differentiates what’s this and what’s that, they’re both whatever. A lot like…

Odds and Ends – Odds are unmatched items and ends are leftovers. They’re pretty darn close to the same things. Just like…

Bits and bobs – Lo and behold we have this and that odds and ends. Which leads us to…

Lo and behold – Lo means look. Behold means see it, or look at it. To say the phrase another way…

Look and see – This might not be all so redundant as see can also mean understand while look doesn’t. To which we say…

Fine and dandy – Perhaps dandy is a little better than fine, but they’re still rather the same sentiment. Our likely reaction when something is…

Fair and square – Fair deal, square deal, same thing. A square has four equal sides, what could be more fair? Much better than…

Rack and ruin – The rack isn’t like the torture device, but a variant of the now defunct word wrack, which became the modern word wreck everywhere except in this phrase. Unfortunately we’ve run out of segues to lead into the last two, but here they are anyway…

Hard and fast – The fast here isn’t speedy, but firmly affixed or sturdy. (Fast is the root of the word fasten.) In which case fast pretty much means the same as hard: firm, not easily broken or detached. The phrase originated as a nautical term meaning a ship was firmly beached or run aground.

Beck and call – Call means just what you’d think. Beck only exists now-a-days in the phrase so you wouldn’t know what to think, except it means call. Sort-of. Beck is a shortened form of beckon, which is to call with a gesture, a nod, a hand motion, a curling finger, that sort of thing.

So then, why do we have so many redundant phrases such as these? Quite simply as a rhetorical device, repetition adds emphasis. Even better when words rhyme, like fair and square; or are alliterative, like rack and ruin. While popular phrases come and go these go on and on. Even when the redundancy is as obvious as on and on.

Filed 5/3/17

May We Say, “Mai Oui, C’est Mai”

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It’s another interactive cartoon. This time, a two-fer. Mouseover the pic for the second joke. Did we do it because we couldn’t decide on the gag line? Just what does the headline have to do with it? Is there some secret meaning to it all? Another unsolved mystery? You may never know.

Filed 5/1/17

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