Archives for category: Humor

Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect reviews the Netflix movie Don’t Look Up!


“Appreciate the brilliance of the season’s most profound, category-busting movie.”

Don’t Look Up is described as a parody of Trumpism and climate denial. It is elegantly that. But more importantly, the movie is a dead-on satire of the interconnected debasement of America’s politics, pop culture, conventional media, social media, spectacle, tech and corporate elite—and of how the corruption of each element corrupts the other, feeding the general cynicism and the craving for a fascist savior, political or corporate.

Credit goes to the director, writers, and producers: Adam McKay, David Sirota, Kevin Messick, and Ron Suskind. The public seems to grasp what this movie is about more than many critics.

Don’t Look Up is the top Netflix hit, so no spoiler alert is needed: A graduate student (Jennifer Lawrence) discovers that a comet is headed directly for Earth, where it will wipe out human life. She and her professor (Leonardo DiCaprio) meet with the president (Meryl Streep), who is torn between denial and acting decisively to save the planet (Trump and vaccines?).

The president has a demented chief-of-staff son (the Trump kids). I am told that the opportunistic Streep character was intended as three parts Trump and one part the Clintons.

The president, after dithering, initially orders NASA to send a nuclear weapon to explode in space and deflect the comet. But here comes the best part of the movie.

A tech billionaire, played by Mark Rylance, realizes that the comet contains trillions of dollars’ worth of rare minerals. So he devises a rival mission, blessed by the president, to break the comet into bits that will fall into the ocean to be profitably harvested. The mission fails.

In a formidable cast, Rylance steals the show. The Rylance character is the CEO of BASH Cellular, a data-mining company that can read people’s thoughts and predict their futures.

Rylance was actually a late addition. At one point, DiCaprio was to play both the scientist and the billionaire, and the billionaire was a more conventional business thug. Rylance, soft-spoken and new-agey, has created a character who perfectly captures the creepy, messianic allure of Musk, Zuckerberg, Bezos et al., as well as their hypocrisy and willingness to sacrifice humanity.

As a Rylance obsessive, I have seen him, live, playing an astonishing range of roles from Richard III to a Minnesota ice fisherman, and this could be his most inventive and true creation of a character ever.

One of the movie’s many grace notes is the send-up of manic happy-news talk shows. Here, the co-hosts interview the scientists but want only an upbeat story. Even the good-guy scientist of the piece (DiCaprio) ends up corrupted, promoting the comet’s commercial potential and having a cheesy fling with the talk show co-host (Cate Blanchett), whose character is as cynical off camera as she is giddily upbeat on TV.

Those who have dismissed the movie as too much of a downer, or too obvious a parody of science denial, miss the point. Don’t Look Up is far richer as an excavation of the codependency of corporate and political fascism, enabled by the distraction of spectacle, social media, and tech.

The takeaway: If we are doomed, it is not mainly because of climate denial.
~ ROBERT KUTTNER

Andy Borowitz is a humorist who writes for The New Yorker. His jokes get their bite by being so close to reality that they are almost plausible. The magazine now labels them as humor because apparently so many people apparently believed they were true. He recently posted his best jokes of the year. Here are my favorites.

AUSTIN (The Borowitz Report)—A new bill moving swiftly through the Republican-controlled Texas legislature would institute a strict statewide dress code for women.

Governor Greg Abbott, a vehement supporter of the bill, said that the dress code would benefit women because “it will give them one less thing to think about when they get up in the morning.”

“I believe in the sanctity of human life, and the best way to protect that life, in the case of a woman, is to free her from the stress of having to choose what to wear,” Abbott said.

Abbott summarized the new dress code, which bars women from wearing skirts above the knee, sleeveless blouses, and most varieties of pants.

“Slacks are fine as long as they have cuffs,” he said. “However, if a woman is caught wearing jeans or dungarees, she will be sent home.”

Abbott dismissed comparisons between the state’s proposed dress code and that imposed by the Taliban, which has required women to wear burqas. “We are strongly opposed to masks of any kind,” he said.

In addition: ”Trump Taxes Reveal He Claimed Ted Cruz as Dependent.”

QAnon Fears that Greene’s Obsession with Jewish Space Lasers Is Distracting Her from Battling Baby-Eating Cannibals.”

“Trump Orders Kevin McCarthy to Go to Prison in His Place”

Alexandra Petri writes humorous articles for the Washington Post. She wrote this column in response to a furor in the governor’s race in Virginia. Democratic candidate Terry MacAuliffe asserted that parents should not tell teachers what to teach, and Republicans are outraged by his statement. They say that parents should have that power. Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin released a commercial featuring an angry mother complaining that her son in an AP class was required to read Beloved by Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison.

Petri writes:

Hello, everyone! We’re going to have a great year! Some minor, barely noticeable adjustments to the curriculum have taken place since Glenn Youngkin took office. This is a college-level class in which we’re supposed to be tackling challenging material. But you may remember the Glenn Youngkin commercial starring the mother who was trying to stop “Beloved” from being taught in her senior son’s AP English class on the grounds that he thought it was “disgusting and gross” and “gave up on it.” Anyway, he supported that kind of parental control over the curriculum, so we’ve had to tweak just a couple of things!

Below please find our reading list new and improved reading list after being forced to bend to every concern from a parent:

“The Odyssey” mutilation and abuse of alcohol, blood drinking

Brideshead Revisited” not sure what’s going on with that teddy bear; house named after something that should be saved for marriage

“The Handmaid’s Tale” everything about book was fine except its classification as ‘dystopia’

“The Catcher in the Rye” anti-Ronald Reagan somehow though we’re not sure how

“The Importance of Being Earnest” includes a disturbing scene where a baby is abandoned in a train station in a handbag and the people in the play regard this as the subject of mirth

“Candide” buttock cannibalism

“Don Quixote” makes fun of somebody for attacking a wind-or-solar-based energy source

“Great Expectations” convict presented sympathetically

“Les Miserables” see above

“King Lear” violence and it’s suggested that there are scenarios where parents actually do not know best

“The Sun Also Rises” offensive to flat-Earthers

“Death of a Salesman” features a White man to whom attention is not paid

Okay, well, I’m sure there are still some books we can agree on even if they aren’t at the college level! We can probably extricate meaning from these.

“Charlotte’s Web” valorizes someone who uses her hindquarters to communicate

“Matilda” suggests that the tyranny of school administrators can create a stultifying environment for their children

“Harold and the Purple Crayon” contains The Color Purple which we have been told is badStory continues below advertisementnull

“Clifford the Big Red Dog” communist???

“The Snowy Day” several concerns, most to do with CRT

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” this gave my son a nightmare

Nope, sorry, we aren’t reading anymore. A parent complained that the books on the reading list transported them to different times and places against their will and forced them to imagine the lives of people different than themselves. This is like kidnapping and probably also brainwashing, and we can’t possibly read any texts that do this.

We’re looking forward to engaging with complex, challenging texts that will teach us to read critically, write compellingly and look at the world with new eyes sitting here staring at the wall thinking about what it might have been like to read books all semester long!

In this delightful column, Garrison Keillor muses about the Cleveland Indians’ decision to change their name to Cleveland Guardians. As a boy, he wanted to be an Indian when the kids played cowboys and Indians.

He begins:

It’s okay by me that the Cleveland Indians will be the Cleveland Guardians even though “Guardian” is a colorless term and they might’ve done just as well with Employees or Tenants. And “Indians” is hardly a slur. I grew up admiring Indians as a boy and trying to imitate them — I had no desire to be a cowboy, I was an Indian, and I can see how my Indianness was a natural step in wanting to be a writer and not a cog in a corporation. To me, then as now, the real insult is the title “vice president.” My Ojibwe friend Jerry uses the word “Indian” freely because, as he says, “There are too many tribes for even an Indian to keep track of.” I’ve never heard the words “native American” come out of his mouth.

It’s fine for the Washington Redskins to rename themselves, and I suggest, thinking of Washington, that Lickspittles would be appropriate or Filibusterers. As for Minnesota, I was never fond of Twins as a nickname but it’s an improvement over Gophers. The gopher is a rodent, a cousin of the squirrel and rat. There are more distinguished rodents, such as the porcupine or beaver, but the gopher is near the bottom of the gnawing order, along with the hamster. No athletic team will be named the Hamsters. Count on it.

Open the link and read the rest.

Peter Smagorinsky recently retired as Distinguished Research Professor in Language and Literacy Education at The University of Georgia.. His plans in retirement are ambitious, to say the least. I hope they include writing more essays like this one. I almost burst my stitches laughing out loud. As a citizen of Georgia, he is deeply knowledgeable about Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s thinking about the needs of education.

He begins:

Marjorie Taylor Greene now represents my home state of Georgia in the U.S. Congress. Unfortunately, radical far-left transgender communists in the Deep State have revoked her appointment on the Education and Labor Committee. To make up for this regrettable decision, I have developed in her honor The Greene New Deal for Education. It will finally help answer the question originally posed by George W. Bush: “Is our children learning?” Or more to the point, “What is our children learning?”

The Greene New Deal will emphasize the teaching of science. The sheeple have had their minds warped by fake “science experts” who say that “global warming” is increasing fires. That’s ridiculous. It snowed in Minnesota last January. As the real winner of the stolen election, President Donald J. Trump, has told us, dead leaves are the primary cause of forest fires.

This points to a simple plan of action: rake the forest floors down to the dirt. The Greene New Deal includes prison education. Rather than funding Operation Clean Sweep with some socialist taxation hoax, this plan issues inmates rakes at their own expense, and has them do “experiential learning.”

But that’s only the earth-bound part of the problem. George Soros’s space lasers still leave our forests vulnerable to giant fire-beams ignited by a massive space menorah. In the Greene New Deal Science Curriculum, students will work on ways to extinguish these lasers with gigantic space-based hoses, which will double as crucial weapons in the Space Force.

Gender studies are a major emphasis of the curriculum. In contrast to the propaganda spread by the Antifa-inspired Me Too movement, students will memorize Mrs. Greene’s finding that white men are the most oppressed group in the U.S. Our children and youth will learn about the challenges that white men face in society, and how to help them finally have equal opportunities for success…

When you think of the late 1940s, do you think about President Truman?

Here is an educational film from 1947: “Are You Popular?” The lesson: Don’t park in cars with boys.

These short films were called “social guidance” films. They were shown to students in schools.

John Merrow has written a spoof of learning loss laments and diatribes. Perfect for April 1.

He writes:

“Learning Loss” is mutating, and today an astounding 16 different and uniquely challenging manifestations have been identified.  To save their students, our teachers will need to acquire a specific skill set that will enable them to identify, diagnose, and treat this dizzying array of “Learning Loss.”  

Not only are there 16 varieties; there are also degrees of “Learning Loss.”  Unfortunately, some so-called experts rate “Learning Loss” as First Degree, Second Degree, and Third Degree without specifying whether they are using the BURN scale or the MURDER scale. That’s confusing because, while a First Degree Burn is mild, First Degree Murder is the most extreme charge.  Similarly, a Third Degree Burn is life-threatening, while Third Degree Murder is the least serious murder charge (though the victim probably doesn’t care about the distinction).  

Amidst all this confusion, there is good news: Teachers can be trained to recognize and treat “Learning Loss.”  This must be our nation’s first priority in the battle against “Learning Loss.”   As in the fight against COVID-19, we must first inoculate schooling’s front-line workers, the teachers.  

Lucky for the nation’s teachers, Dr. Merrow has a catalogue of cures for sale, at a handsome profit, of course.

Fortunately for America’s students, the educational equivalent of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is now available for teachers.  A wonderful new video series demonstrates how to undo the damage done by “Learning Loss.”  With their practical content and easy-to-follow procedures, these videos put the joy back into teaching….and enable teachers to rescue our children...

The traditional standardized test–a blunt instrument–simply cannot be trusted to pick up either “Literal Learning Loss” or the more subtle “Latent Learning Loss.”  What’s needed is the specific but teachable skill of ‘Listening for Learning Loss.”  With the help of this remarkable video series, a competent professional can master these techniques in a matter of days. 

Full disclosure:  I am the creator and host of the trademarked, patented video series, “Learning Loss Lessons.”  Those who purchase it will learn about the 16 varieties of “Learning Loss” as well as two important general skills, “Labelling Learning Loss,”and “Limiting Learning Loss.” 

The specific forms of “Learning Loss” covered in the series include two language arts deficits, “Literary Learning Loss” and “Lyrical Learning Loss” and four that are specific to the realm of mathematics and scientific reasoning: “Logarithmic Learning Loss,” “Logical Learning Loss,” “Linear Learning Loss,” and “Literal Learning Loss.”

My ground-breaking series also identifies subtle forms of “Learning Loss” that are related to the increasingly important realm of social and emotional skills, including “Listless (or Lethargic) Learning Loss,” “Lukewarm Learning Loss,” “Laconic Learning Loss,” “Likeable Learning Loss,” “Lapsed Learning Loss,” and (most difficult to overcome) ‘Lunchroom Learning Loss.”

You will not want to miss the list of “videos” that are available to bring teachers up to full readiness to combat the many forms of “learning loss.” They are produced by a company called BullShit.com.

This is one of John’s finest pieces. Laugh out loud kind of funny.

This is not an April Fools Day joke. It is just a great story.

While searching for something on the web, I came across this intriguing story. It’s the story of a remarkable horse named Beautiful Jim Key, raised and trained by a man named Bill Key, who was born into slavery and became a free and very successful man. The story is told by David Hoffman, who bears a slight resemblance to Bernie Sanders.

The story is too complicated to summarize in a few sentences, but suffice it to say that the horse was exhibited many times to audiences of thousands to demonstrate his amazing intelligence and his seeming ability to count and spell.

I went to Wikipedia, where I found this entry:

Beautiful Jim Key was a famous performing horse around the turn of the twentieth century.[1] His promoters claimed that the horse could read and write, make change with money, do arithmetic for “numbers below thirty,”[2] and cite Bible passages “where the horse is mentioned.”[3] His trainer, “Dr.” William Key, was a former slave, a self-trained veterinarian, and a patent medicine salesman.[1] Key emphasized that he used only patience and kindness in teaching the horse, and never a whip.[4]

The horse became a celebrity thanks to the progressive promotion of A. R. Rogers. The horse performed at large venues from Atlantic City to Chicago.[1]

Beautiful Jim Key and his trainer periodically toured the United States in a special railroad car to promote the fledgling cause of the humane treatment of animals. They performed in venues in most of the larger American cities, including New York’s Madison Square Garden. The horse was among the most popular attractions at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Beautiful Jim Key was supposedly intelligent enough that he could calculate mathematical problems, possibly even trigonometry.

President William McKinley saw Beautiful Jim Key perform at an exposition in Tennessee and declared, “This is the most astonishing and entertaining exhibition I have ever witnessed.” The President also commented that it was an example of what “kindness and patience” could accomplish.[5]

The horse was made an honorary member of George Thorndike Angell‘s American Humane Association.[6] He also got 2 million kids to gather to pledge never to be mean to animals.

This is an education blog. The story is about the education of a horse.

Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center and professor of education at the University of Colorado in Boulder, writes here about the “testing pods” created by enthusiastic parents. Welner recently published a book of satirical essays called Potential Grizzlies.

Parents Rush to Form “Testing Pods”

Throughout the nation, anxious parents are worried that the pandemic will prevent their children from being sufficiently subjected this spring to the usual battery of state assessments. Some of these parents are taking the initiative and forming “testing pods” with neighbors and friends.

The pods typically include a testing proctor hired by the parents, who is tasked with ensuring that the students sit still, don’t interact with one another, and quietly focus on the days-long succession of test questions.

The nation’s children themselves have been fretfully yearning to experience testing again, after last spring’s cancellation of the incomparable experience. “These miserable children!  I know the testing-pod option isn’t available to all parents,” said Mindy McLean. “But we can’t ignore our own kids’ needs. Last spring was so traumatic for Billy when they heartlessly pulled the testing away.”

This spring, the challenges remain enormous, and there’s almost no possibility that the test results will be useful for measurement or accountability purposes. But the U.S. Department of Education has nonetheless told states that blanket waivers to the ESSA testing requirement are out of the question. 

The situation has left apprehensive parents like McLean in a state of limbo. “Do I trust that the state will come through, or do I take the initiative? Maybe I’m overreacting, but what if I trust the state and they end up cancelling again?”

The testing pod formed by McLean has already begun meeting,in order to begin the enriched-learning experience of weeks of test-prep. The children fill their days with practice tests, readpassages narrowly as test prompts, and dream of the time when they can once again relish the genuine testing event.

Reflecting on her family’s privileged position, McLean told us that she has no regrets. “Gandhi once said, ‘Live as if you were to die tomorrow.’ That’s what I tell Billy, and that’s why he can’t be deprived of these tests once again.”

In case you were misled, April Fools’ Day!

Alexandra Petri and Jessica M. Goldstein of the Washington Post watched Oprah’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markie and they came to a sudden realization: Princesses need unions!

Alexandra Petri is a Post Opinions columnist. Jessica M. Goldstein is a contributing writer to The Washington Post Magazine and Arts & Style. 

We represent the most beloved, best-known princesses in all the lands. From the outside, our lives look glamorous and happily-ever-after. But like Meghan Markle, we have found our experiences on the job to be challenging, degrading and even painful. During Meghan’s interview with Oprah, the duchess pointed out that, when she was an actress on “Suits,” she “had a union.” But in the royal family, she had no such support. This was a wake-up call, because we, too, have been suffering. We, too, need a union.

These are our stories.

Belle: I didn’t even want to be a princess. I did want to escape my poor, provincial town, and I sang about that every single morning. But the princess thing was definitely something that happened to me, as in, I was imprisoned. My living conditions were incredibly unsanitary. I tried to leave and was immediately attacked by wolves. I had no privacy whatsoever, even while drinking tea: My teapot turned out to be a co-worker (also uncompensated) and my teacup was her son (!). The members of my former community turned on me with actual pitchforks, and I was not offered any protection except by a wardrobe.

Ariel: My boss, who is also my father, refused to allow me to travel freely. I found someone who was willing to help me, but she coerced me into signing a contract without any legal representation present. Oprah asked Meghan: “Were you silent, or were you silenced?” I can say I was absolutely silenced by this undersea witch who stole my voice and put it in a seashell, which, not to be naive, I just didn’t even know that was something she could do.

Princess Peach: I am never not in a castle. Even when I’m not in one castle, it is because I am in another castle. Sometimes I am allowed to drive, but always on a closed course. I didn’t realize how not-okay any of this was until I learned that Meghan was obliged to give her passport to her in-laws and saw Oprah’s shocked response.

Princess Leia: I was asked to dress up in a demeaning outfit at work. More troublingly, I was never given my complete genealogy, which led to discomfort in my personal life. My mother, a queen, died in childbirth, even though we live in a world where everyone has spaceships. When asked for the cause of death, the robot attending physician said she was “too sad.” This might have been tolerable a long time ago; it is not tolerable now. I demand better maternity care for space royalty.

Fiona: At work, I was forced to listen to songs by Smash Mouth.

Cinderella: I’ve never been compensated for my labor ever in my life, and my entire life is labor. I’ve endured a litany of abuses by my manager (wicked stepmother) and her deputies (ugly stepsisters). Some particularly chilling examples: I’ve been forced to live and eat in a mouse-infested attic; denied access to basic hygiene (had to allow birds to style my hair); made to work overtime and holidays, including balls.

Aurora: I was injured in my workplace by a faulty piece of spinning equipment (where was OSHA?), which necessitated decades of bedrest. I received no paid sick leave, and I was obliged to submit to an experimental medical kiss-wakening treatment to which I had not consented in advance.

Snow White: I am doing the work of literally seven men for zero pay. I was poisoned on the job by a jealous competitor. Every time I walk to work, men whistle at me.

Jasmine: I am glad I didn’t know this then, but a tiger is actually not a safe companion for a child, and every time I look at old photos of myself, I wince with terror.

Mia Thermopolis: Unlike Meghan, I did receive guidance on how to behave as a princess. But the keratin treatment I was obligated to undergo permanently destroyed my natural curls, which did not need to be straightened in order to be beautiful. What they needed was proper curl care, including a microfiber towel, a sulfate-free shampoo and a moisturizing deep conditioner, none of which was provided to me.

Rapunzel: I second the concerns on the subject of hair cruelty.

Tiana: I have worked in the restaurant industry and the princess industry, and the restaurant industry was healthier. I do not say this lightly. Like Meghan, I was grateful for the time I had spent outside the princess bubble that allowed me to understand that none of the things I was experiencing within it were normal. Also, I was transformed into a frog.

Kate Middleton: I don’t think we need a union.