Archives for category: Humor

Garrison Keillor’s “The Writers’ Almanac” notes the birthday of journalist-humorist-cynic H. L. Mencken. I always think of his reference to the “booboisee.” I would love to see him and Molly Ivins writing today, as our national politics have hit a nadir.

It’s the birthday of German-American satirist, cultural critic, and journalist H.L. Mencken (1880) (books by this author), born Henry Louis Mencken in Baltimore, Maryland, where he lived his entire life. Mencken was sometimes called the “Sage of Baltimore” or the “Bard of Baltimore” for his acerbic, pungent critiques of American life and politics.

Mencken’s father owned a cigar factory, and the family lived in an attractive row house in Union Square. Except for five years of married life, Mencken lived in that house until the day he died. When he was seven, his father gave him a printing press, which Mencken later said was one of the things that inspired him to become a journalist. His other inspiration was Mark Twain. He discovered Huckleberry Finn at nine and called it “the most stupendous event in my life.” After high school, his father gave him two choices: he could go to college or he could work in the cigar factory. Mencken chose the factory, which he hated, but he also took one of the very first correspondence courses ever offered: a class in writing from Cosmopolitan University. He later joked it was his sole journalism training.

After his father died of a stroke, Mencken began hounding the offices of the Morning Herald, finally talking himself into a job. Within two years, he was the drama critic. Within three years, he was the city editor. A year later, he was the managing editor. Mencken once said, “I believe that a young journalist, turned loose in a large city, had more fun than any other man.”

Mencken’s column, “The Free Lance,” which ran in the Baltimore Sun for 18 years, was nationally syndicated and made him quite famous for his caustic views on politics, culture, and science. In 1931, he referred to the state of Arkansas as “an apex of moronia,” and the legislature there passed a motion to pray for his soul. About Isaac Newton, he said: “[Isaac Newton] was a mathematician, which is mostly hogwash, too. Imagine measuring infinity! That’s a laugh.”

In 1925, Mencken traveled all the way to Tennessee to cover the famous trial of John Thomas Scopes, a high school teacher who’d been arrested for daring to teach evolutionary theory. It was Mencken who gave the trial its infamous name: the “Monkey Trial,” and who convinced famous defense attorney Clarence Darrow to offer his services to John Scopes. In the play Inherit the Wind (1955), which was based on the Scopes trial, the character of E.K. Hornbeck, a blustering, cynical atheist, was based on Mencken. Mencken was also an editor of The Smart Set, a witty literary magazine that published many up-and-coming authors, like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Mencken was a prolific letter writer, often penning more than 60 letters a day, which turned out to be more than 100,000 letters during his lifetime. In between writing his columns, he published more than 30 books, including the memoir trilogy Happy Days (1940), Newspaper Days (1941), and Heathen Days (1943). He also wrote The American Language, a multivolume study of how English language is spoken in the United States, which is now considered a classic. Until he was 50 years old, Mencken was called “America’s Best Known Bachelor,” having published numerous screeds against marriage in his columns. But he’d fallen in love, and he got married, and one newspaper quipped, “Bachelors of the nation are aghast, and sore afraid, like a sheep without a leader.” Mencken responded: “The Holy Spirit informed and inspired me. Like all other infidels, I am superstitious and always follow hunches: this one seemed to be a superb one.”

Mencken’s wife died five years after they married. He was heartbroken. He criticized President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and didn’t support the New Deal, and his popularity waned. He never fully recovered from a stroke (1948) and died in 1956.

H.L. Mencken said, “The two main ideas that run through all of my writing, whether it be literary criticism or political polemic are these: I am strong in favor of liberty and I hate fraud.”

Bob Shepherd writes a segment for Rod Serling in “The Twilight Zone”:

INT. OVAL OFFICE – DAY
Trump sitting behind the Resolute Desk. Camera back to reveal Rod Serling standing D.R.

SERLING

His name, Mr. Little. A man with little education, little taste, little knowledge, little concern for other people. Neglected as a child, he grew into a black hole of neediness. And so he used Daddy’s money to build big, erected his name in Midas-gold letters across the landscape–his every action screaming, “I am worth something.” Everything became a zero-sum game. If someone else failed or was worse off, he was better, a “winner,” and so he cheated and harassed and ridiculed the unfortunate, the stranger, the down and out; appealed to the basest instincts of the basest among us; huffed and puffed and blew himself to gigantic proportions, at least in his own little brain. A twisted, malignant, metastasizing tumor of need and narcissism and knee-jerk nastiness, Mr. Little doesn’t know much, but the biggest thing he doesn’t know is that he just stepped over into a place where everything is bigger than he is, where everything is just beyond the grasp of his little mind and his little hands. He just stepped over into . . . The Twilight Zone.

This tribute to a great political critic appeared in Garrison Keillor’s “The Writers’ Almanac.” Molly Ivins is sorely missed today. We can only imagine what she would have written about Trump and Pence and the other idiots running the government.

It’s the birthday of the journalist and humorist who said, “The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion.” Molly Ivins (books by this author), born in Monterey, California (1944) and raised in Houston, Texas. She went to Smith and to Columbia’s School of Journalism and spent years covering the police beat for the Minneapolis Tribune (the first woman to do so) before moving back to Texas, the setting and subject of much of her life’s writing.

Ivins especially liked to poke fun at the Texas Legislature, which she referred to as “the Lege.” She gave George W. Bush the nickname “Shrub” and also referred to him as a post turtle (based on an old joke: the turtle didn’t get there itself, doesn’t belong there, and needs help getting out of the dilemma). She had actually known President Bush since they were teenagers in Houston. She poked fun at Democrats, too, and said about Bill Clinton: “If left to my own devices, I’d spend all my time pointing out that he’s weaker than bus-station chili. But the man is so constantly subjected to such hideous and unfair abuse that I wind up standing up for him on the general principle that some fairness should be applied. Besides, no one but a fool or a Republican ever took him for a liberal.” Clinton later said that Molly Ivins “was good when she praised me and painfully good when she criticized me.”

Her fiery liberal columns caused a lot of debate in Texas, with newspaper readers always writing in to complain. One time, she wrote about the Republican congressman from Dallas: “If his IQ slips any lower we’ll have to water him twice a day.” It generated a storm of controversy, and the paper she wrote for decided to use it to their advantage, to boost readership. They started placing advertisements on billboards all over Dallas that said, “Molly Ivins can’t say that … can she?” She used the line as the title of her first book (published in 1991).

She went on to write several best-selling books, including Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush — which was actually written and published in 2000, before George W. Bush had been elected to the White House. Ivins later said, “The next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please, pay attention.”

Molly Ivins died of breast cancer in 2007 at the age of 62. She once wrote: “Having breast cancer is massive amounts of no fun. First they mutilate you; then they poison you; then they burn you. I have been on blind dates better than that.”

Molly Ivins once said: “I am not anti-gun. I’m pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with
someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We’d turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don’t ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives.”

Stephen Colbert and I have one thing in common. We did not watch the RNC.

He explains why.

My explanation is that I can’t waste my time watching liars whose lies go uncontested.

Today is the day when the Republican Party convenes to renominate Donald Trump as President of the United States. Trump has so thoroughly conquered the Grand Old Party that some call it “the Trump Party.” No member dare challenges his decisions, statements or policies, for fear that a humiliating tweet will end his or her career. A once-proud party that trumpeted its devotion to principles like free trade, personal responsibility, and respect for the rule of law now meets to show their obeisance to a man who rejects its foundational principles.

Our contributor Robert Shepherd has written an opening oration for the chair of the convention. It is short, witty, and to the point. It is a fitting tribute to the man who says he needs four more years of chaos to make America great again.

This post in McSweeney’s was inspired by the news that the gun-toting couple from Missouri who threatened BLM protestors have been invited to speak at the Republican Convention.

Here is the first day:

Monday, August 24

9:00 pm
The Creatures From Beyond the Mist scream the national anthem.

9:05 pm
Morgon, Devourer of Children, discusses his proposal to drastically decrease education spending.

9:20 pm
Marjorie Taylor Greene, QAnon congressional candidate, explains why COVID-19 can’t be transmitted through the air because there is no such thing as “air.”

9:40 pm
Scott Baio triggers libs from his hot tub.

10:20 pm
Silicon Valley CEO Peter Thiel shares a PowerPoint about how minimum-wage workers can balance their budgets by scavenging for edible weeds and building traps to catch small rodents.

10:40 pm
Keynote speech: Axulythor, Sorcerer of Darkness, on the importance of restricting women’s access to reproductive healthcare.

Alexandra Petri is a humorist for the Washington Post. She explains here that Trump, Pence, and DeVos are offering the nation’s children a chance to be heroes by forcing them to return to school without safety measures in place.

She writes:


Wonderful news this week for those children who have long envied essential workers and sacrificial-economy grandparents their plaudits and wished that they, too, could be on the front lines of this coronavirus thing: Now they will have the opportunity!

Everyone knows how important it is that we have a plan to reopen schools safely. That is why the Trump administration has devised a plan: to reopen schools. They sure hope your governor has plans for the safety part! In the meantime, your kids and their teachers get to be heroes and pioneers, instead of just reading about them in musty textbooks!

Of course, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention technically does have some suggestions and guidelines for how to reopen safely. To do so would not be impossible, the agency recognized, but it would require a lot of effort, expense and preparation. This was until the president had the brilliant idea: What if we simply decided it didn’t?

“We don’t want the guidance from CDC to be a reason schools don’t open,” as Vice President Pence said at Wednesday’s press conference.
The CDC’s director, Robert Redfield, said, “I want to make it very clear that what is not the intent of CDC’s guidelines is to be used as a rationale to keep schools closed.”

“They must fully open. And they must be fully operational,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said. “And how that happens is best left to education and community leaders.”

Look, does the CDC know better what benchmarks a school should pass to reopen safely than your school’s five or six beleaguered administrators without degrees in public health do? Please do not answer this question, as it was rhetorical.

Is there any scientific support for this approach? So far, we don’t really have data showing that children are major carriers of the virus. Is this the same as, “There is data showing that children are NOT major carriers of the virus”? No, but — the fact that so many people can’t tell the difference just shows why being back at school is so crucial!

So will there be testing? Of course there will be! It’s a school! Probably there will also be essays and pop quizzes!

And is the CDC going to change its guidelines now that the president is upset that they are too detailed? Again, these guidelines are not binding! You can just do whatever. If you think it is too onerous to do what the CDC suggests is necessary in order to be safe, then simply do not do it! Also, yes.

The bottom line is: SCHOOLS MUST OPEN! Not only is it good for the economy, and not only will it be good for students to get to socialize and see counselors and have nutrition — all this, is, of course, true! which is why the American Pediatric Association urged us to set physically reopening schools as our goal! — but these brave pupils’ presence will also be a great incentive for your local government to get this virus under control, something the president and his team are very disappointed municipalities have not already managed to do on their own. We all agree that the best part of a plane ride is when you get off the plane at your destination, which is why we are now taking steps to push everyone out the door of that plane in the hopes that they will turn out to be at their destination and not 29,000 feet in the air surrounded by water vapor and highly intrepid geese.

But don’t look at this as a situation where the Trump administration is doing nothing to mitigate the alarming uptick of cases besides insist that, maybe, with less testing, it would go away, and now they would like to send your kids back into it. This is a situation where children are being offered what they want most: the opportunity to be heroes! Before, people complained that school was boring. Where was the drama? Where was the excitement? This is the boost the whole “school” concept needed. Send kids to learn pre-algebra and also play Russian roulette with the lives of their elderly relatives and teachers? Now I’m interested!

And best yet, in keeping with our commitment to choice in education, if your child is too wealthy to be willing to be a hero just yet, you can hire a substitute to attend class and do all the testing in their place. Rumor has it that the president was doing this even before the virus! But he has always been ahead of the unflattened curve.

Samuel Jayne Tanner and Ben Stasny write a satirical posting for a middle-school English language arts teacher that appeared in McSweeny’s.

Area School District is looking for a Language Arts Teacher/ Cheerleading Coach/ Custodian/ Nurse to help lead our COVID-19 and anti-racism instruction during this unprecedented moment.

The Language Arts Teacher/ Cheerleading Coach/ Custodian/ Nurse/ COVID-19 & Anti-Racism Specialist will be responsible for providing equitable grammatical, emotional, health, school spirit, and hygiene counsel to students. In these turbulent times, guidance for our students is more important than it has ever been before. This position will also provide an overall vision for COVID-19 relief and anti-racism throughout our middle school program as well as design a non-contact floor routine. The Language Arts Teacher/ Cheerleading Coach/ Custodian/ Nurse/ COVID-19 & Anti-Racism Specialist must step-up and deliver the steady, immersive leadership that is required in this new normal…

Applicants should drive up to the first available COVID testing tent in our faculty parking lot and call our front office to alert school admin that you are there. Depending on how many staff have called in sick or are carrying out a job action, someone will eventually come out and greet you. Be ready to take a COVID test, teach a practice lesson using White Fragility that demonstrates Common Core standards, lead a verse of the school fight song, disinfect 27 doorknobs, and give your interviewer a COVID test. Good luck!

The Phoenix Chamber Choir of Vancouver recorded this wonderful parody of a song written by Billy Joel about the rigors and tedium of quarantine.

Enjoy!

A friend sharedthis article about Kamala Harris that shows her at ease. The first video is hilarious. She is at the 92nd Street Y, an institution of Jewish culture in Manhattan, which has a great lecture series. She tells a story about her first meeting with her Jewish mother-in-law that is priceless.

Another video in the article shows her cooking at home with her husband. She has a great laugh. She is interesting. She will bring dynamism to the campaign and fresh ideas.

And here is Kamala cooking Indian food. Watch her deftly cut an onion.

I’m struck by how comfortable she is in front of a camera, how heartily she laughs. She is charismatic. Trump has already attacked her as “radical left,” which is funny since he twice donated to her campaigns. Overnight he attacked the Biden-Harris ticket as racist. I wish I could have seen her laugh when she heard that.

I’m thrilled that Joe Biden picked Senator Harris as his running mate. She is a great addition to the ticket.

Can’t wait to see her debate Mike Pence, that is, if Mother (Pence’s wife) allows him to share the stage with a woman. Harris was a member of the debate team when she was a student at Howard University.