Nothing Has To Be Done

I have been reading a rare book of humor from the old Soviet Union. It is The Anti-Soviet Soviet Union by Vladimir Voinovich, who, for his pains, was expelled from the Soviet Writers’ Union in February 1974. Unable to make a living as a writer in Russia, he naturally fled to the West. The following excerpt from the book describes an amusing visit to the KGB (Soviet State Security) in Moscow.

During my last years in Moscow, a beginning writer would visit me from time to time when he was in town from the provinces. He’d complain of not being published and gave me his novels and stories, of which there were a great number, to see what I thought of them. He was certain that his works weren’t being published because their content was too critical. And indeed they did contain criticism of the Soviet system. But they had another major flaw as well: they lacked even the merest glimmer of talent. Sometimes he would request, and sometimes demand, that I send his manuscripts abroad and help get them published over there. I refused. Then he decided to go to the KGB and present them with an ultimatum: either they were immediately to issue orders that his works be published in the USSR or he would leave the USSR at once.

Apparently, it went something like this.

As soon as he had entered the KGB building, someone walked over to him and said: “Oh, hello there. So you’ve finally come to see us.!”

“You mean you know me?” asked the writer.

“Is there anyone who doesn’t?” said the KGB man, spreading his hands. “Have a seat. What brings you here? Do you want to tell us that you don’t like the Soviet system?”

“That’s right, I don’t,” said the writer.

“But what specifically don’t you kike about it?”

The writer replied that, in his opinion, there was no freedom in the Soviet Union, particularly artistic freedom. Human rights were violated, the standard of living was steadily declining—and he voiced other critical remarks as well. Good for about seven years in a camp.

Having listened politely, the KGB man asked: “But why are you telling me all this?”

“I wanted you to know.”

“We know. Everyone knows all that.”

“But if everyone knows, something should be done about it.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. Nothing has to be done about it!”

Surprised by that turn in the conversation, the writer fell silent.

“Have you said everything you wanted to?” asked the KGB man politely.

“Yes, everything.”

“Then why are you still sitting there?”

“I’m waiting for you to arrest me.”

“Aha, I see,” said the KGB man. “Unfortunately, there’s no way we can arrest you today. We’re too busy. If the desire doesn’t pass, come see us again, and we’ll do everything we can to oblige you.” And he showed the writer out.

The writer visited me a few more times before he disappeared. I think he finally may have achieved his goal and gotten someone to give him the full treatment for dissidence.

Thank You, George Santos

George Santos (R,NY)

Thanks to George Santos fictionalizing his past and winning a New York congressional seat, I have decided to go into politics. If George can do it, so can I. Naturally, I will run as a Republican, because that party seems more friendly to liars and fabricators.

I feel I am uniquely qualified to represent California’s 33rd Congressional District. Although I see myself as a Never Trumper, I admire theex-President’s record of mendacity and fraud, which I will attempt to emulate in my own unique way.

What are my qualifications?

  1. I am an ex-Navy Seal who was directly involved in the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.
  2. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from Dartmouth College, I attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in Law.
  3. In my sophomore year, I won the Heisman Trophy as a soccer-style kicker for the Big Green’s football team.
  4. I am married to the lovely Taylor Swift, with whom I have three sons (Huey, Dewey, and Louie) and one daughter (Hermenegild).
  5. I speak twelve languages fluently, including: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Armenian, Syriac, Latin, Sanskrit, Iñupiat, and Choctaw.
  6. My personal fortune is worth $100 billion, mostly as a result of my investments in cryptocurrencies and block-chain technology.
  7. I invented the Internet.
  8. A talented jazz musician, I play the saxophone, French horn, bassoon, and harmonica.
  9. Currently, I am ranked third in the world in chess based on my Elo Rating.
  10. I have published numerous books on constitutional law in the United States, Moldova, and the Seychelles Islands.

As you can see, I am a shoo-in for any political position that requires skill, judgment, and giant whoppers.

The Medicine of Bow-Returning

An Excerpt from a Short Story by Mary Austin

Some of the best books about the American West were written by Mary Hunter Austin (1868-1934). In the last year of her life, she published a collection of short stories entitled One-Smoke Stories, in which the following appears:

So Taku-Wakin, who was afterward called Bow-Returning, went toward the mountain called Going-to-the-Sun for his fast, and as he went he felt the thoughts of his mother push him. He went far, climbed the high mountains and bathed in the sacred lakes, keeping holy science. On the mountain, when by fasting he was removed from himself, his eyes were opened. He saw all the earth and the sky as One Thing, even as the bow is one thing and the cord of the bow which draws it. Even so he saw the thoughts of men pulling at the corners of the world as the cord pulls at the bow, and the bow bending and returning. In the silence he heard in his heart the One-Who-Walks-in-the-Sky talking.

‘This is true medicine, Taku-Wakin. All things are one, man and the mire, the small grass and the mountain, the deer and the hunter pursuing, the thing that is made and the maker, even as the bow and the cord are one thing. As the bow bends to the cord, so all things bend and return, and are opposed and together. The meaning of the medicine is that man can hurt nothing without also hurting himself.’ Thus said the One-Who-Walks-in-the-Sky to Taku-Wakin….

After long seeking he heard the voice of the Sky-Walker. Then said Bow-Returning: ‘This is my medicine, that everything is One Thing, and in this fashion I have kept it. Meat I have taken for my needs according to the law of food-taking, but I have hurt no man. Neither the flower in the field have I crushed, nor trodden on the ant in my pathway. How is it, then, that my wife is dead, my son given to another, and my medicine is gone from me?’

Then said the One-Who-Walks-in-the-Sky to Bow-Returning, ‘Did I not also make woman?’

When Scientists Go Awry

The following is from an exhibit at Honolulu’s Bishop Museum of humorous attempts at classifying plants and animals. The surnames of the scientists involved appear in parentheses.

Abra cadabra (Eames & Wilkins) 1957 – A variety of clam

Hebejeebie (Heads) 2003 – A genus of flowering plant that must give people the creeps

La cucaracha (Blesynski) 1966 – A moth that reminds one of a cockroach

Ba humbugi (Solem) 1983 – A snail much beloved of Ebeneezer Scrooge

Ittibittium (Houbrick) 1993 – A mollusc genus even smaller than genus Bittium

Heerz lukenatcha and Heerz tooya (Marsh) 1993 – Two wasps you would rather notencounter

Riga toni (Evenhuis) 2013 – A fly for pasta lovers

Ytu brutus (Spangler) 1980 – Beware the Ides of March!

Medioxumous?

Image of God Terminus: “I Yield to No One”

My first real job was an odd one: Over a period of a year, I had to proofread and edit two dictionary databases. In the process, I began to collect strange words such as septemfluous, rotl, crwth, and medioxumous. The last of these means of or relating to the middle class of deities. This post comes from Philip Matyszak’s amusing book The Classical Compendium. It consists of some classical deities of which you have likely never heard:

Viriplaca. The goddess who reconciled wives with their husbands after a quarrel.

Vervactor, The god who ensured a favourable first ploughing of fallow land.

Vallonia. As you might expect, the goddess of valleys.

Terminus. The god of boundary stones.

Sterculinus. The god of manure spreading [and of Fox News?]

Rumina. The goddess who protects nursing mothers.

Nona. The goddess who, with Decima, presided over the final months of pregnancy.

Meliona. The goddess of bees and honey.

Laverna [and Shirley?]. The goddess of thieves and conmen.

Worse Than Murder?

Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859)

To put it simply, Thomas De Quincey was an opium addict. There were times when he wrote like an angel. Other times, reading him could be heavy slogging. Oft times you will find both in the same book, or even in the same essay. I have just finished reading his long essay “On Murder, Considered as One of the Fine Arts.” His description of the crimes of serial murderer John Williams is detailed and ghastly. Yet earlier in the essay is the following light touch:

For, if once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing, and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination. Once begun on this downward path, you never know where you are to stop. Many a man has dated his ruin from some murder or other that perhaps he thought little of at the time.

Improbable Rhymes

No doubt you’ve heard of those one-of-a-kind words in English that just won’t rhyme with any other words. Well, it seems that the Futility Closet has punked three of those unrhymable words: month, orange, and oblige. Let’s have a look-see at Willard R. Espy’s poem on the subject:

Procrustes

It is unth-
inkable to find
A rhyme for month
Except this special kind.

The four eng-
ineers
Wore orange
Brassieres.

Love’s lost its glow?
No need to lie; j-
ust tell me “go!”
And I’ll oblige.

In the meantime, I’ll go searching for those four engineers wearing orange brassieres.

Biggest Goops of 2021

Nicki Minaj: This Dingbat Takes the Cake

After coming out against Year-in-Review news stories, I thought I’d contradict myself by highlighting the stupidest people of the past year. Think of it as Stupidity-in-Review, which is not quite the same thing.

NICKI MINAJ pops right up to the top of my list. During a global pandemic, she refuses to get vaccinated because of the (unnamed) cousin’s friend in Trinidad whose testicles became swollen and became impotent as a result. Well, that goes smack against the experience of my grand nephew’s proctologist’s accountant’s client who had no problems whatsoever—except for the painful anal probe when he was kidnapped by a UFO.

JANUARY 6 INSURRECTIONISTS run a close second. If most were tried for treason and executed, there would be a lot of rental units in the basement apartments of their mothers that would suddenly become available in Red States.

GWYNETH PALTROW. Speaking of Goops, there’s this actress who is actually trying to own the term without quite understanding what it means. With her belong many nabobs in the WELLNESS COMMUNITY who don’t understand that their belief systems do not deter potentially fatal viruses.

DONALD J. TRUMP who still thinks there are 70 million idiots just waiting to do his bidding. Hey, America knows how to forget losers.

QANON, yesterday’s favorite conspiracy source, has been outed thanks to an HBO documentary series, and is now running out of steam fast. (Reminds me, I need to go to the basement of the pizzeria to munch on some fresh babies.)

New Olympic Events

Get Ready for These New Events in Paris 2024

In the above picture, Moldovan women athletes are synchronously showing amazement at a random consonant, in this case the letter “T.” Below, however, are some actual events planned for the next summer Olympics:

  • Team Parcheesi. Expect the Chinese to win gold here.
  • Underwater Track Cycling. Canada and New Zealand are already gearing up for this event.
  • Low-Jump. Exactly what it sounds like: medalists must leave the ground, but only for a few millimeters. The world record is currently held by Burkina Faso at 11.68 mm.
  • Ballroom Balance Beam. Ballroom dancing with a man and a woman as partners atop a balance beam. Both are expected to stick the landing … but exactly where I am not at liberty to say.
  • Dog Walking. Contestants must walk a pack of at least ten dogs and are downgraded for the dogs’ disobedience, toilet, and sniffing stops.
  • Sand Kayaking. How fast can contestants be when they have to paddle on sand dunes of various heights?
  • Dumpster Diving. Exactly what it sounds like. The dumpsters are filled with plastic detritus from the Pacific Garbage Patch, from heights of 10, 20, and 30 meters.
  • Women’s Cubic Beach Volleyball. The same as beach volleyball, but the “ball” is an inflatable cube. What matters most, however, is the skimpiness of the bikinis worn.
  • Blind Man’s Buff. Played on a 10-acre obstacle course.
  • Weight Watchers Watch Party. Judges will look for the most vapid and overweight participants in home watch parties. The U.S. is expected to win the Lead Medal at this event during most Olympics.

Billionaires in Space

Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos

I find it amusing that two billionaire CEOs have decided to put their lives on the line and fly their own ships into space. First, it was Jeff Bezos of Amazon; then, Richard Branson of the Virgin Group.

Another “billionaire” comes to mind as a good candidate for space travel—even though his orange hair and facial coloring suggests he might himself be a space alien. Just to be sure, we can put him on a ship to Jupiter. You could click here to find out what would happen to Donald J. Trump on the largest planet in our solar system.

Perhaps sending CEOs into outer space would be a good way of thinning the herd. I’m all for that!