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  • feedwordpress 08:01:22 on 2018/03/14 Permalink
    Tags: , humor, , , , ,   

    “All numbers are by their nature correct. Well, except for Pi, of course. I can’t be doing with Pi. Gives me a headache just thinking about it, going on and on and on and on and on…”*… 


    It’s Pi Day!

    In celebration, a few amusing– and illuminating– links:

    The history of pi

    Pi day magic revealed

    10 stunning images show the beauty hidden in pi

    The history of Pi Day

    How to Memorize Pi if You’re a Word Person (from whence, the image above)

    * Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys


    As we enumerate endlessly, we might pause for a piece of pi(e)…


    … in celebration of Albert Einstein’s birthday; he was born on this date in 1879.


    “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”


  • feedwordpress 08:01:39 on 2018/03/12 Permalink
    Tags: , humor, Internat Archive, , powerpoint, , ,   

    “If you like overheads, you’ll love PowerPoint”*… 


    Military Industrial Powerpoint Complex is  collection created as a special project for the Internet Archive’s 20th Anniversary celebration in 2016, highlighting IA’s web archive.  It consists of all the Powerpoint files (57,489) from the .mil web domain, e,g,:

    Plumb the depths at The Military Industrial Powerpoint Complex.

    * Edward Tufte


    As we hold our heads in our hands, we might recall that it was on this date in 1989 that Tim Berners-Lee submitted a proposal to CERN for developing a new way of linking and sharing information over the Internet.  It was the first time Berners-Lee proposed the system that would ultimately become the World Wide Web, so this date is oft cited as the “Birthday of the Web.”  But his pitch was a bit vague, and got no traction.  He resubmitted a second, more detailed proposal on November 12, 1990– on which CERN acted…  so many consider this later date the Web’s inception.



  • feedwordpress 09:01:29 on 2018/03/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , Hamlet, Hamlet: Prince of Pigs, , humor, Richard O'Brien, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Sarah Boxer, ,   

    “A little more than kin, and less than kind”*… 


    Sarah Boxer explains:

    What, another Hamlet? There must be a zillion already: Slang HamletFirst Folio HamletCompressed HamletNo Fear Hamlet. Into this field, I toss Hamlet: Prince of Pigs, a Tragicomic. Why a comic? Because comics and plays are twin arts. Both use visual cues as much as words. Both have abrupt breaks between scenes. And their words are mostly dialogue.

    Why a pig? In the name “Hamlet,” I hear little ham, little pig. And the pig pun fits! In Shakespeare’s day, if you wanted to mock the king, you’d put on a pig mask. The “swine-snouted king” was a stock figure of fun.

    Once Hamlet’s species was set, I hewed to a one-family, one-species rule for the rest of the cast. Thus Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, the murderer, “the bloat king,” is a big fat pig. Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, is a pig with lipstick. Ophelia is a cat because cats don’t do well in water. So her father, Polonius, and her brother, Laertes, are cats, too. For minor characters, I followed a one-profession, one-species rule. Gravediggers are dogs because dogs are excellent diggers. The players are mice because their play is “The Mousetrap.” The sentries, including Horatio, are rats because, well, rats look handsome in helmets.

    You’ll see that Hamlet: Prince of Pigs has been stripped of all fat. And tragedy minus many words is comedy. A pared-down Hamlet is a funny Hamlet

    Sample her work at “Hamlet, My Prince of Pigs“; dive into the full comic here.

    * Hamlet (on Claudius); Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2


    As we wonder what’s behind the arras, we might recall that it was on this date in 1975 that The Rocky Horror Picture Show opened on Broadway.  An import from London (where it ran from 1973 to 1980), it bewildered critics and theater-goers in New York, where it ran through only its three previews and 45 performances (despite being nominated for a Tony and for three Drama Desk awards).  Broadway cast members Tim Curry, Meat Loaf, and Richard O’Brien (who also wrote the book and composed the score for the show) went on to star in the film version, released later that same year– which became, of course, one of the most successful cult classics of all-time.



  • feedwordpress 09:01:18 on 2018/02/24 Permalink
    Tags: Billy Glason, comedians, , Fun-Master Gag Files, Henny Youngman, , humor, one-liner,   

    “The gods too are fond of a joke”*… 


    The monthly Fun-Master newsletter, which cost a few dollars per issue, contained sometimes as many as 20 pages of jokes, broken up into subsections such as “Stories,” “Insults—Squelches—Sarcasm,” and “Humorous Views of the News.” The jokes and gags within ran the gamut from cleverly convoluted yarns to snappy one-liners:

    “I know a Texan who rides on a solid gold saddle. Every time he hits a bump, he strikes it rich!”

    “Last week I played golf on a real crummy golf course. It had holes in it!”

    “He’s a real hypochondriac. When he goes to a cocktail party, he stirs his drink with a thermometer!”

    Thanks to Glason’s constant back-page advertising, the newsletter became a well-known industry resource. Famous comedians including Flip Wilson, Dick Gregory, Bob Hope, and Johnny Carson reportedly subscribed, or otherwise got jokes and training from Glason—even if not all of them wanted to admit it. “Jackie Gleason didn’t want to be on record as buying the Billy Glason gag files, so he had his writer, Harry Crane, buy them”… “It was the writer who bought them, but it was Jackie Gleason who ended up with them.”…

    It wasn’t only comedians who took advantage of Glason’s jokes. The newsletter was also bought by ventriloquists, DJs, and magicians. Anybody who needed some jokes in their act.

    The Fun-Master newsletters were also often representative of the comedy of the day, for better and for worse. Jokes about nagging, controlling wives—or marriage as a prison sentence for men—abound, along with a number of ethnic stereotypes… At the same time, during his career, Glason maintained a staunch insistence on working clean. “It used to really make him angry when people used profanity for the sake of getting a shock laugh”…

    The remarkable story of Billy Glason and his “Fun-Master Gag Files,” which influenced the joke industry– and indeed, comedy at large, for decades: “Rediscovering the Newsletter That Inspired a Generation of Comedians.”

    * Aristotle


    As we ponder punch lines, we might spare a thought for Henry “Henny” Youngman; he died on this date in 1998.  A comedian (and violinist), he was crowned by Walter Winchell “The King of the One-Liner.”  At a time when many comedians told elaborate anecdotes, Youngman’s routine consisted of telling simple one-liner jokes (of the sort in which Glason traded), occasionally with interludes of violin; a typical Youngman stage performance lasted only 15 to 20 minutes but contained dozens of jokes in rapid-fire succession.  He’s perhaps best remembered for the gag that became his trademark: “Take my wife … please.”



  • feedwordpress 09:01:13 on 2018/02/08 Permalink
    Tags: , Eli Rezkallah, , , humor, Kate Chopin, , , ,   

    “Women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid”*… 


    Last Thanksgiving, I overheard my uncles talk about how women are better off cooking, taking care of the kitchen, and fulfilling “their womanly duties.” Although I know that not all men like my uncles think that way I was surprised to learn that some still do, so I went on to imagine a parallel universe, where roles are inverted and men are given a taste of their own sexist poison…

    From Eli Rezkallah, a series of fictional images, recreated from real ads in the Mad Men era, that question modern day sexism: “In a parallel universe.

    * George Carlin, When Will Jesus Bring The Pork Chops?


    As we check our privilege, we might send path-setting birthday greetings to Kate Chopin; she was born on this date in 1850.  A writer of both short stories and novels, she was highly-regarded in her time and in the decades following her death (in 1904).  Probably best remembered today for her novel The Awakening, she is considered an important forerunner of American 20th-century feminist authors.



  • feedwordpress 09:01:09 on 2018/02/05 Permalink
    Tags: Carlyle Circle, Great Man theory, , humor, , , , simile, the simile museum, Thomas Carlyle,   

    “A metaphor is like a simile”*… 


    “Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.”

    -Virginia Woolf

    Just one of the “exhibits” in “an ongoing collection of the world’s most likable literary device”:  The Simile Museum.

    [source of the image above]

    * Steven Wright


    As we remember that “liking” has a very long history, we might spare a thought for Thomas Carlyle; he died on this date in 1881.  A Victorian polymath, he was an accomplished philosopher, satirical writer, essayist, translator, historian, mathematician, and teacher.  While he was an enormously popular lecturer in his time, and his contributions to mathematics earned him eponymous fame (the Carlyle circle), he may be best remembered as a historian (and champion of the “Great Man” theory of history)… and as the coiner of phrases like “the dismal science” (to describe economics)

    “A well-written Life is almost as rare as a well-spent one.”   – Thomas Carlyle



  • feedwordpress 09:01:02 on 2018/01/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , , humor, , Joe Frank, Lead Belly, , ,   

    “I don’t know what this is, but I can’t stop listening”*… 


    Joe Frank passed away last Monday.  A purveyor of humorous, often surreal, radio monologues and dramas, he began his career in 1977 on WBAI in New York, then moved in 1978 to National Public Radio. producing 18 award-winning dramas for NPR Playhouse (while serving as co-anchor of Weekend Edition).  In 1986 he moved to KCRW in Santa Monica, where he produced a weekly hour-long radio program, Joe Frank: Work In Progress, until 2002 He also wrote stage plays and short stories, and saw several of his radio works used as the bases of films and television programs.

    Beloved by a loyal audience, he was never widely known.  Still, his influence has touched mass audiences:  Ira Glass (one of whose first jobs was as a production assistant for Frank) credits Frank as his greatest inspiration for This American Life; TAL contributor David Sedaris modeled his work in material measure on Frank; Prairie Home Companion drew on Frank’s approach; and filmmakers including Francis Ford Coppola, Michael Mann, David Fincher, Ivan Reitman, and Martin Scorsese have worked from stories from Joe Frank’s radio shows.

    Hear his extraordinary work on JoeFrank.com (free registration), Last.FM, and Soundcloud, among other repositoroes.

    * Ira Glass, recounting his first experience of Joe Frank


    As we lend an ear, we might send tuneful birthday greetings to Huddie William Ledbetter; he was born on this date in 1888.  Better known by his stage name “Lead Belly,” he was  folk and blues musician known for his distinctive vocals, virtuosity on the twelve-string guitar (though he also played the piano, mandolin, harmonica, violin, and “windjammer” [diatonic accordion]), and the blues standards he wrote and introduced– covered over the years by acts including Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Johnny Rivers (“Midnight Special”), Delaney Davidson, Tom Russell, Lonnie Donegan, Bryan Ferry (“Goodnight, Irene”), the Beach Boys (“Cotton Fields”), Creedence Clearwater Revival (“Midnight Special”, “Cotton Fields”), Elvis Presley, ABBA, Pete Seeger, the Weavers, Harry Belafonte, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, the Animals, Jay Farrar, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Dr. John, Ry Cooder, Davy Graham, Maria Muldaur, Rory Block, Grateful Dead, Gene Autry, Odetta, Mungo Jerry, Paul King, Van Morrison, Michelle Shocked, Tom Waits (“Goodnight, Irene”), Scott H. Biram, Rod Stewart, Ernest Tubb, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Spiderbait (“Black Betty”), Blind Willies (“In the Pines”), the White Stripes (“Boll Weevil”), the Fall, Hole, Smog, Old Crow Medicine Show, Meat Loaf, Ministry, Raffi, Rasputina, Rory Gallagher (“Out on the Western Plains”), the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Deer Tick, Hugh Laurie, X, Bill Frisell, Koerner, Ray & Glover, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Meat Puppets, Mark Lanegan, WZRD (“Where Did You Sleep Last Night”), Keith Richards, Phil Lee (“I Got Stripes”), and Aerosmith (“Line ‘Em”)…

    Lead Belly. photo by Alan Lomax



  • feedwordpress 09:01:52 on 2018/01/18 Permalink
    Tags: bookselling, bookstore, Bulwer-Lytton, Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, , humor, James Lackington, , Temple of the Muses,   

    “Words cannot do justice to the pleasures of a good bookshop. Ironically.”*… 


    Today, few people are likely to remember James Lackington (1746-1815) and his once-famous London bookshop, The Temple of the Muses, but if, as a customer, you’ve ever bought a remaindered book at deep discount, or wandered thoughtfully through the over-stocked shelves of a cavernous bookstore, or spent an afternoon lounging in the reading area of a bookshop (without buying anything!) then you’ve already experienced some of the ways that Lackington revolutionized bookselling in the late 18th century. And if you’re a bookseller, then the chances are that you’ve encountered marketing strategies and competitive pressures that trace their origins to Lackington’s shop. In the 21st-century marketplace, there is sometimes a longing for an earlier, simpler age, but the uneasy tension between giant and small retailers seems to have been a constant since the beginning. The Temple of the Muses, which was one of the first modern bookstores, was a mammoth enterprise, by far the largest bookstore in England, boasting an inventory of over 500,000 volumes, annual sales of 100,000 books, and yearly revenues of £5,000 (roughly $700,000 today). All of this made Lackington a very wealthy man—admired by some and despised by others—but London’s greatest bookseller began his career inauspiciously as an illiterate shoemaker…

    The remarkable story of “The Cheapest Bookstore in the World”– and the birth of the modern bookshop: “The Man Who Invented Bookselling As We Know It.”

    * Waterstones, Trafalgar Square (a descendent of The Temple of the Muses)


    As we inhale the blissful scent of ink and paper, we might spare a thought for Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton; he died on this date in 1873.  A novelist, poet, playwright, and politician, he was immensely popular with the reading public in his day and wrote a stream of bestselling novels, which earned him a considerable fortune.  He coined the phrases “the great unwashed”, “pursuit of the almighty dollar”, “the pen is mightier than the sword”, and “dweller on the threshold.”

    But he may be best remembered as the inspiration for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, held annually by the English Department of San Jose State University.  Inspired by Bulwer-Lytton’s immortal “It was a dark and stormy night…”** (the opening line of his 1830 novel, Paul Clifford), entrants are invited “to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels” – that is, deliberately bad.

    ** The full opening sentence: “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”



  • feedwordpress 09:01:30 on 2018/01/06 Permalink
    Tags: , Count de Waldeck, , , , , humor, , Mayan Culture,   

    “All fantasy should have a solid base in reality”*… 


    One of the most notorious examples of Waldeck’s penchant for fantasy: an elephant head in this rendition of an Ancient Mayan temple

    Not a lot concerning the artist, erotic publisher, explorer, and general enigma Count de Waldeck can be taken at face value, and this certainly includes his fanciful representations of ancient Mesoamerican culture which — despite being brilliantly executed on-site at Mayan monuments like Palenque — run wild with anatopistic lions, elephants, and suspicious architecture.  Rhys Griffiths looks at the life and work of one of the 19th century’s most mysterious and eccentric figures: “Brief Encounters with Jean-Frédéric Maximilien de Waldeck.”

    * Sir Max Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson


    As we ponder a predecessor of Photoshop, we might send delightfully-drawn birthday greetings to Paul Gustave Doré; he was born on this date in 1832.  An engraver, sculptor, and illustrator– indeed, the defining illustrator of works by Rabelais, Balzac, Milton, Cervantes, and many others– Doré is probably best-remembered as the man who showed us Heaven and Hell: the canonical illustrator of Dante.

    Don Quixote, his horse Rocinante, and his squire Sancho Panza after an unsuccessful attack on a windmill.


    The Tempest of Hell in THE DIVINE COMEDY




  • feedwordpress 09:01:05 on 2018/01/04 Permalink
    Tags: , Brandon Reese, , humor, Olive Oyl, popeye, , voice actor, “Kickin” the Conga   

    “I like physics, but I love cartoons”*… 



    On December 15, 2016, internet cartoonist Branson Reese made a pact to release a new comic every day at midnight, no matter what. One year later, he has done that, which is pretty cool. The only catch is his art is really freaking strange and I mean that in the best way possible…

    Joey Cosco on why you should follow Branson Reese.

    * Stephen Hawking


    As we look forward to our daily dose, we might recall that it was on this date in 1942 that Jack Mercer and his wife Margie voiced Popeye and Olive Oyl in the new Popeye cartoon, “Kickin” the Conga.



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