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Category Archives: humour

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r479205_2430568Tim Madden, ABC (linked)

 

Reading Jasper Fforde

A couple of years back my former Sydney University boss Ken Watson recommended Jasper Fforde to me.

fforde

Now at last I have read one of his amazing books, The Well of Lost Plots.

Imagine Little Britain meets the Cambridge Companion to English Literature + literary theory. Hilarious. The Wuthering Heights anger management day is just one gem of many.

 

Busy day, late – and last archive pick for a while

Though I may add some on Ninglun’s Specials later. I do have around 40 Mb of archive to choose from.

Today’s was a “lighten up” post in July 2004.

*****

I went searching, just to lighten up, for some really nice gay jokes. You know, not filthy or demeaning… Um… Well, there is this, with the usual apologies if you’ve heard it…

What a drag it is getting old…

When I went to the bar tonight, I noticed this old boy about 75-80 years sitting all alone in the corner and he was crying over his cocktail.

I stopped and asked him what was wrong.

gaysold He said: "I have a 22 year old lover at home. I met him a month or so ago, right here in this very bar!" He continued; "He makes love to me every morning and then he makes me pancakes, sausage, fresh fruit and freshly ground, brewed coffee."

I said: "Well, then why are you crying?"

He said: "He makes me homemade soup for lunch and my favorite brownies and then he makes love to me half the afternoon."

I said: "Well, so why are you crying?"

He said: "For dinner he makes me a gourmet meal with wine and my favorite dessert and then he makes love to me until 2:00 am."

I said: "Well, for goodness sakes! Why in the world would you be CRYING!"

And he said: "I CAN’T REMEMBER WHERE I LIVE!"

Then there’s this site, whose owner states: First of all, I’m gay, so you know there aren’t going to be ANY anti-gay jokes here. Second, if you’re under the age of 14, get off the net, so I don’t have to censor my page. Third, these are all pretty clean, but still; proceed at your own risk, you’ve been warned. I’ll let you explore that on your own. He has "I support John Kerry" banners as well…

 
 

China, the USA, the car, and the environment

Two good items from Monday’s Arts & Letters Daily.

1. P J O’Rourke, The End of the Affair. Provocative and ironic as usual…

The phrase “bankrupt General Motors,” which we expect to hear uttered on Monday, leaves Americans my age in economic shock. The words are as melodramatic as “Mom’s nude photos.” And, indeed, if we want to understand what doomed the American automobile, we should give up on economics and turn to melodrama.

Politicians, journalists, financial analysts and other purveyors of banality have been looking at cars as if a convertible were a business. Fire the MBAs and hire a poet. The fate of Detroit isn’t a matter of financial crisis, foreign competition, corporate greed, union intransigence, energy costs or measuring the shoe size of the footprints in the carbon. It’s a tragic romance—unleashed passions, titanic clashes, lost love and wild horses…

The American automobile is—that is, was—never a product of Japanese-style industrialism. America’s steel, coal, beer, beaver pelts and PCs may have come from our business plutocracy, but American cars have been manufactured mostly by romantic fools. David Buick, Ransom E. Olds, Louis Chevrolet, Robert and Louis Hupp of the Hupmobile, the Dodge brothers, the Studebaker brothers, the Packard brothers, the Duesenberg brothers, Charles W. Nash, E. L. Cord, John North Willys, Preston Tucker and William H. Murphy, whose Cadillac cars were designed by the young Henry Ford, all went broke making cars. The man who founded General Motors in 1908, William Crapo (really) Durant, went broke twice. Henry Ford, of course, did not go broke, nor was he a romantic, but judging by his opinions he certainly was a fool…

2. Jacques Leslie, The Last Empire: China’s Pollution Problem Goes Global.

…The emergence of China as a dominant economic power is an epochal event, as significant as the United States’ ascendancy after World War II. It is in many ways an astonishment, starting with the ideological about-face that enabled it, the throwing over of Maoist values for plainly capitalist ones starting in the late 1970s. So thorough is the change that the 19-foot-tall portrait of a stolid, potato-faced Mao Zedong that still looms over traffic-choked, commerce-suffused Tiananmen Square looks paradoxical, even startling, in seeming need of an update in which Mao winks—or sobs—in blinking neon. Meanwhile, inside Beijing’s Forbidden City, the heart of old China, buildings with such intoxicating names as Hall of Preserved Harmony and Palace of Heavenly Purity bear signs reading, "Made Possible by the American Express Company."

The grander astonishment is the most massive and rapid redistribution of the earth’s resources in human history. In a mere two and a half decades, China has awakened from Maoist stagnancy to become the world’s manufacturer. Among the planet’s 193 nations, it is now first in production of coal, steel, cement, and 10 kinds of metal; it produces half the world’s cameras and nearly a third of its TVs, and by 2015 may produce the most cars. It boasts factories that can accommodate 200,000 workers, and towns that make 60 percent of the world’s buttons, half the world’s silk neckties, and half the world’s fireworks, respectively.

China has also become a ravenous consumer. Its appetite for raw materials drives up international commodity prices and shipping rates while its middle class, projected to jump from fewer than 100 million people now to 700 million by 2020, is learning the gratifications of consumerism. China is by a wide margin the leading importer of a cornucopia of commodities, including iron ore, steel, copper, tin, zinc, aluminum, and nickel. It is the world’s biggest consumer of coal, refrigerators, grain, cell phones, fertilizer, and television sets. It not only leads the world in coal consumption, with 2.5 billion tons in 2006, but uses more than the next three highest-ranked nations—the United States, Russia, and India—combined. China uses half the world’s steel and concrete and will probably construct half the world’s new buildings over the next decade. So omnivorous is the Chinese appetite for imports that when the country ran short of scrap metal in early 2004, manhole covers disappeared from cities all over the world—Chicago lost 150 in a month. And the Chinese are not just vast consumers, but conspicuous ones, as evidenced by the presence in Beijing of dealers representing every luxury-car manufacturer in the world. Sales of Porsches, Ferraris, and Maseratis have flourished, even though their owners have no opportunity to test their finely tuned cars’ performance on the city’s clotted roads…

 

The American Dream – Vanity Fair, Howard Fast, and some right-wing flummery…

Very late on Sunday night ABC1 ran an old documentary on US communist writer Howard Fast, best known these days for his novel Spartacus, on which the movie by Stanley Kubrick was based. Since Fast died in 2003 the doco had to be quite old; it included extensive interview material. Fast left the US Communist Party – which he had been in and out of – in 1956 following Kruschev’s revelations about the Stalin years and other events of 1956 in Europe. He was quite a man though, first published at the age of 19 and last published in 2000. His life is a neat alternative history of the USA. There is a good site on his work. Until seeing the documentary I hadn’t realised Howard Fast wrote crime fiction under a pseudonym – especially during the years of internal exile in the Cold War days. And during World War II – while a communist – he virtually was the Voice of America.

When I was a boy, I developed a passion for Howard Fast’s novels, and read all I could find in my school library. Then, one day, I no longer found his books. Fast was blacklisted for being a member of the American Communist Party…

"…in May 1952 The New York Times reported intimidation of librarians across the nation by Legionnaires, by Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, by Minutemen in Texas and California. School texts showing city slums, UNESCO material, all books by such threats to the free world as Howard Fast were purged from school libraries."   (Victor Navasky, "The Social Costs," in Naming Names, Viking Press, New York, 1980)

Citizen Tom Paine, formerly used as a school text, was banned from use in NYC schools. In 1956 Fast broke with the Communist Party, and published his rationale in 1957 as The Naked God. His 1990 memoir Being Red goes more deeply into the issue.

So with that in mind I read with interest (via Arts & Letters Daily) Rethinking the American Dream by David Kamp in Vanity Fair. It is a good example of the introspection going on post-Bush.

…Whatever your opinion of [Norman] Rockwell (and I’m a fan), the resonance of the “Four Freedoms” paintings with wartime Americans offers tremendous insight into how U.S. citizens viewed their idealized selves. Freedom from Want, the most popular of all, is especially telling, for the scene it depicts is joyous but defiantly unostentatious. There is a happily gathered family, there are plain white curtains, there is a large turkey, there are some celery stalks in a dish, and there is a bowl of fruit, but there is not a hint of overabundance, overindulgence, elaborate table settings, ambitious seasonal centerpieces, or any other conventions of modern-day shelter-mag porn.

It was freedom from want, not freedom to want—a world away from the idea that the patriotic thing to do in tough times is go shopping. Though the germ of that idea would form shortly, not long after the war ended…

…what about the outmoded proposition that each successive generation in the United States must live better than the one that preceded it? While this idea is still crucial to families struggling in poverty and to immigrants who’ve arrived here in search of a better life than that they left behind, it’s no longer applicable to an American middle class that lives more comfortably than any version that came before it. (Was this not one of the cautionary messages of the most thoughtful movie of 2008, wall-e?) I’m no champion of downward mobility, but the time has come to consider the idea of simple continuity: the perpetuation of a contented, sustainable middle-class way of life, where the standard of living remains happily constant from one generation to the next.

This is not a matter of any generation’s having to “lower its sights,” to use President Obama’s words, nor is it a denial that some children of lower- and middle-class parents will, through talent and/or good fortune, strike it rich and bound precipitously into the upper class. Nor is it a moony, nostalgic wish for a return to the scrappy 30s or the suburban 50s, because any sentient person recognizes that there’s plenty about the good old days that wasn’t so good: the original Social Security program pointedly excluded farmworkers and domestics (i.e., poor rural laborers and minority women), and the original Levittown didn’t allow black people in.

But those eras do offer lessons in scale and self-control. The American Dream should require hard work, but it should not require 80-hour workweeks and parents who never see their kids from across the dinner table. The American Dream should entail a first-rate education for every child, but not an education that leaves no extra time for the actual enjoyment of childhood. The American Dream should accommodate the goal of home ownership, but without imposing a lifelong burden of unmeetable debt. Above all, the American Dream should be embraced as the unique sense of possibility that this country gives its citizens—the decent chance, as Moss Hart would say, to scale the walls and achieve what you wish.

On the same page of Arts & Letters Daily was one of those insufferably humorous pastiches of social “analysis” some on the Right seem so fond of – rooted in a superficial knowingness, in impregnable smugness and snobbery masquerading as “conservatism” but really just marking and confirming territory – or “Aren’t I glad I’m not a prole, and neither of course are you!” You know the genre. Here in Oz we have a number of practitioners, not all of them named Tim. The case at hand is a slash at Facebook, and it gives itself away a bit by using the term “sheeple” for those who inhabit the site. Oh, and it’s in the Weekly Standard – of course. See Down with Facebook! by Matt Labash.

What nobody bothers to mention about the social-networking site is that it’s really dull–mind-numbingly dull.

Look at the outer shell–the parachute pants, the piano-key tie, the fake tuxedo T-shirt–and you might mistake me for a slave to fashion. Do not be deceived. Early adoption isn’t my thing. I much prefer late adoption, that moment when the trend-worshipping sheeple who have early-adopted drive the unsustainable way of life I so stubbornly cling to ever so close to the edge of obsolescence, that I’ve no choice but to follow. This explains why I bought cassette tapes until 1999, why I wouldn’t purchase a DVD player until Blockbuster cashiered their VHS stock. Toothpaste? I use it now that it’s clear it’s here to stay.

So I’m not inflexible. But there is one promise I’ve made to myself. And that is that no matter how long I live, no matter how much pressure is exerted, no matter how socially isolated I become, I will never, ever join Facebook, the omnipresent online social-networking site that like so many things that have menaced our country (the Unabomber, Love Story, David Gergen) came to us from Harvard but has now worked its insidious hooks into every crevice of society…

…the reason to hate Facebook is because of the stultifying mind-numbing inanity of it all, the sheer boredom. If Facebook helps put together streakers with voyeurs, the streakers, for the most part, after shedding their trench coats, seem to be running around not with taut and tanned hard-bodies, but in stained granny panties with dark socks. They have a reality-show star’s unquenchable thirst for broadcasting all the details of their lives, no matter how unexceptional those details are. They do so in the steady, Chinese-water-torture drip of status updates. The very fact that they are on the air (or rather, on Facebook) has convinced them that every facet of their life must be inherently interesting enough to alert everyone to its importance.

These are all actual status updates (with name changes): "Maria is eating Girl Scout cookies. … Tom is glad it’s the weekend. … Jacinda is longing for some sleep, pillow come to momma! … Dan is going to get something to eat. … Anne is taking Tyler to daycare. … Amber loves to dip. I can dip almost any food in blue cheese, ranch dressing, honey mustard, sour cream, mayonnaise, ketchup. Well, I think you get the point." Yes. Uncle. Please make it stop. For the love of God, we get the point…

Well OK, the article really IS funny, if also silly. What Facebook is like for you really is up to you. You don’t have to use all those gizmos it offers, nor do you have to accumulate “friends”.

You may as well rail against the telephone – and I am sure there were conservatives who did.

On the other hand – and Jim Belshaw has succumbed I see – you’ll never catch me Twittering! 😉

 

Teh Marcket as a 21st century ghoulie or phantasm…

A nice jab at one of our most habitual reified abstractions or galloping personifications.

story

Thanks to Nicholas Gruen, an economist of note, for passing this on via Club Troppo.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2008 in America, current affairs, diversions, globalisation/corporations, humour, satire, USA

 

But I have been reading comics…

… or rather a “graphic novel”. Now I have long since got over snobbery about this format, even since Maus and its sequels. That old “quality” thing can be found here as much as anywhere else. Yesterday I borrowed Freddie & Me (2008) by UK-born (1975!) artist-writer Mike Dawson, now in the USA. I have finished it already and will read it again, so delightful I found it. To quote the review linked to the book title:

Mike Dawson’s graphic memoir, FREDDIE & ME, is structured after the Queen song "Bohemian Rhapsody", and his approach to comics bears a lot of resemblance to his favorite band in more than just that overarching structure. Like Queen, Dawson’s debut long-form work is ambitious, bombastic, all-over-the-place, larger-than-life, quirky, clever, self-indulgent and ultimately irresistible…

That said, FREDDIE AND ME isn’t about Queen. We learn almost nothing about the band that wasn’t common knowledge, nor is Dawson really interested in pursuing that line of inquiry. Instead, it’s a book about memory mediated through a common reference point. The story’s central conceit is that every significant memory of Dawson’s is connected somehow to Queen. The reality is that this connection, as he notes in the end, Dawson created those connections, perhaps in part as an anchor for the memories that were most important to him. For Dawson, memory and identity are one and the same, and the loss of the former leads to the loss of the latter, and loss of identity is oblivion.

The sequence about one-third in about memory is really quite haunting; it certainly hooked me.

The style? Here, if Mike Dawson will forgive the appropriation, is one small example:

 fre2

I do commend this, so much that I am adding it to my Best Reads of 2008.

You may read more here.

A good supplementary text for anyone doing the NSW HSC’s “Belonging” module too, I would have thought…

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2008 in America, Best read of 2008, book reviews, humanity, humour, reading, Scottish, USA, writers, writing