The 38 Humor entries below appear with the most recent entries first. To see them displayed in the order they were written, please click here.

 November 05, 2009
Very Useful Wizards and Templates....

Many moons ago, I worked for a well known software company based in Redmond, WA where I was a software designer, creating feature specifications for their flagship office productivity suite.

At one point during my days at the aforementioned software company, I was responsible for coming up with a list of new "Wizards and Templates" that would enable users to easily create various kinds of documents. I recently stumbled upon my brainstorming list of wizards and templates that I'd generated, just to get the ball rolling.

Wouldn't it be cool if, when you started up your favorite office productivity suite, you had the ability to start creating the following with just a click of the mouse?

  • Marriage Certificates
  • Parking Tickets
  • Moving Violation Tickets
  • Search Warrants
  • Jury Duty Notices
  • Divorce Decrees
  • Green Cards
  • Drivers Licenses
  • Passports
  • Liquor Licenses
  • Police Credentials
  • Ivy League Diplomas
  • Dollar Bills
And, lastly, these two would be available in the US versions only:
  • Gun Dealer License
  • Permit to Carry a Concealed Weapon

I seem to recall that, in the end, the patent application would have taken too long, so we settled for photo albums and the like, instead.

What wizards and templates do *you* think would be fun for your office productivity suite?

Posted by at 05:32 PM in the following Department(s): Humor , Technology , Tidbits II | Comments (1)
 March 27, 2009
Defining Genre Fiction

Recently, a fellow writer on one of the writers' networks lists I'm on posted a question about the delineation between different genres. I wrote up the guide below off the top of my head. Since apparently some other writers occasionally peruse my blog, I thought I'd include it below for your edification:

Allan Rousselle's Partial List of Genre Definitions

  • Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. That's romance.
  • Boy meets girl, girl offers her honor, boy honors her offer, it's honor and offer all night. That's porn.
  • Boy meets girl, boy and girl talk a lot. That's chick lit.
  • Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy (or girl) dies. That's tragedy.
  • Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy saves the world from alien invasion. That's science fiction.
  • Boy meets dame, dame brings nothing but grief into boy's life. That's crime noir.
  • Boy meets girl, boy goes off to war, boy dies. That's a Lifetime movie.
  • Boy meets girl, boy or girl is a vampire/werewolf/ghost. That's paranormal romance.
  • Boy meets girl, boy and girl speak with British accents. That's Jane Austen.
  • Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, car eats boy. That's Stephen King.

I hope this helps all of my fellow aspiring writers out there. A friend on the list had a great addition; I'll ask for his permission to include it here. Do you have any additions *you* want to make? Please add them via the comments.

--Allan

Posted by at 11:38 AM in the following Department(s): Humor , Writing | Comments (4)
 December 03, 2008
Obama Humor That Tastes Bad

Well, we have a new President-Elect. And yes, I'll continue my earlier promised (serious) political discussion soon. In the meantime, it's time to recognize that humor will never be the same now that we have Barack Obama as our newly elected President-to-be.

In the spirit of getting the ball rolling, I present to you my list of...

Top Ten "How Many President-elect Obamas Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?" Jokes As Told By...

  • Barack Obama: "One. And I'll set up the committee to look into that change on Day One."
  • John McCain: "One. That One."
  • Hillary Clinton: "None. He's not experienced enough to change a lightbulb."
  • Joe Biden: "One. But he'll need my help."
  • Sarah Palin: "All of them!"
  • George W. Bush: "It's too early to talk about numbers for lightbulbification."
  • The Cast of Saturday Night Live: "Shhh! We can't make jokes about the Chosen One!"
  • Bill Clinton: "I did not screw in that light bulb. Or anywhere else, for that matter."
  • Rush Limbaugh: "You see? Barney Frank *broke* that light bulb in the first place!"
  • Gloria Steinem: "THAT'S STILL NOT FUNNY!"
Now it's your turn. Got any to add?

MORE...
Posted by at 06:02 PM in the following Department(s): Humor , Tidbits III | Comments (1)
 November 20, 2008
Local Weather

Seattle Weather.Here is the weather forecast for the greater Seattle Metropolitan area:

This morning and afternoon, cool with light rain showers. Highs in the lower 50s.

This evening and overnight, cooler with light rain showers. Lows in the mid to lower 40s.

Chance of precipitation one hundred percent.

Extended outlook:

Tomorrow: the same.

The Day After Tomorrow: the same.

The Rest of The Week: the same.

The Rest of the Month: Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

The Rest of the Year: the same, with highs slowly dropping to the mid-40s and lows to the mid-30s. Some snow in higher elevations.

Long-Range Forecast:

From early January through mid-April: the same, with highs eventually increasing to the mid-50s and lows to the mid-40s. Snow in higher elevations will taper off in mid-March.

Posted by at 10:29 AM in the following Department(s): Humor | Comments (1)
 February 19, 2008
The Mattress Fund is Back

My partner-in-crime behind "The Mattress Fund" recently posted our collaborative effort (under the name "Mutually Exclusive Productions", or, "MutEx") on YouTube.com:

One of these days, James and I are going to have to work together on another project.

Posted by at 12:25 AM in the following Department(s): Humor | Comments (0)
 August 09, 2007
Christmas to be held in November

Thanksgiving Considers Move to October

by ALLAN ROUSSELLE, Permanent Press Writer

NORTH POLE - Saint Nicholas and the Fraternal Union of Christmas and Kwanzaa Elf Machinists (FUCKEM) announced today that Christmas this year would be held on November 25th.

"The union is still considering what to do about Kwanzaa, but Christmas definitely had to move," said the jolly old elf. "It's bad enough with the ongoing War on Christmas, but now having to contend with the US Presidential primaries is just too much."

The world's most famous toy distributor referred to the cascading effect that the 2008 US Presidential elections are having on scheduling. When California moved their state primaries to February 5th, 2008 in an effort to increase their influence on the candidate selection process, the South Carolina GOP was compelled to move up their primary to January 19th. This led to New Hampshire setting their primary for early January in turn, and then Iowa, in accordance with state law, rescheduled its state caucuses to mid-December 2007.

"How can toy ads and good will toward men prevail against negative campaign ads and mudslinging political debates?" a flustered Saint Nick said. "Besides, nobody really knows when Jesus was born, anyway, so it's not like December 25 is set in stone."

Butterball and similar stocks have dropped precipitously on speculation that, in order to maintain its standing as the official start to the Christmas shopping season, Thanksgiving will likely have to move to the fourth Thursday of October. "There's no way we'll be able to meet the demand this year if the holiday season is pushed up," said company strategist Valerie Plame, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

A spokesman for Halloween indicated that the popular October closer was taking a wait-and-see attitude. "It's too soon for us to pick a new date, although you can be sure Halloween won't come after Thanksgiving," he said. "But Nevada still hasn't weighed in on their plans, and California may choose to retaliate against South Carolina. Until the primaries are set, I don't think the fall and winter holidays can be locked down."

But while the shopping season is relatively short for Halloween, the nation's economy is heavily affected by the run-up to Christmas. "Wouldn't it be ironic," lamented Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, "if California's Republican governor and the South Carolina GOP were the ones who killed Christmas?"

Canadian pop star Alanis Morissette could not be reached for comment.

Posted by at 11:05 PM in the following Department(s): Humor , Tidbits III | Comments (0)
 April 03, 2007
So, this blonde suicide bomber walks into a club...

Am I still allowed to reference blond[e] jokes, even though my hair is getting darker?

This just in: blonde suicide bomb attack leaves one dead...

Wish I'd thought of that one myself.

[Addendum: I just re-discovered where I first found that idea. It's on topfive.com.]

Posted by at 12:03 AM in the following Department(s): Humor | Comments (0)
 October 14, 2006
Quote of the month

I absolutely love this line. Raymund Eich, on the advantage of having an Independent candidate to vote for:

"It's great. I get to throw my vote away without having to waste it on the Libertarian."

I'm laughing just thinking about it.

Posted by at 01:03 AM in the following Department(s): Humor , Tidbits III | Comments (0)
 September 04, 2006
Alternative Energy Source

Hey, Al Gore! How's this for cheap, clean, environmentally friendly energy that won't contribute to global warming? Try this:

Wrap two spools of copper wire around the casket that holds the remains of Edward R. Murrow, and put a big magnet inside his coat pocket. Starting at 5:30pm Eastern Time on Tuesday, September 5th -- that's when Katie Couric begins broadcasting the national news on CBS -- the spinning inside that grave should provide enough electricity to keep a city the size of Toledo, OH in lights indefinitely.

Yee-ha!

Posted by at 10:46 PM in the following Department(s): Humor | Comments (0)
 May 19, 2006
What we have here...

This thought just occurred to me...

The Catholic Church is getting into all kinds of trouble because not only did some of their priests molest children, but then the organization kept these men in the priesthood even after these assaults became known to higher ups.

So, what we have here... is a failure to ex-communicate.

[Thank you. Thank you. Please tip your wait staff. I'll be here all week.]

Posted by at 12:22 AM in the following Department(s): Humor | Comments (3)
 July 26, 2005
The California Condor Story

A friend of mine claims to have come up with this story on his own:

A fellow was brought before the judge because he had been caught cooking and eating an endangered California condor. The man threw himself upon the mercy of the court.

"Your honor, I know what I did was wrong. I was out hunting, and I shot the condor before I realized what it was. You can imagine how horrified I was when I discovered what I had done. I panicked. I prepared a fire and cooked the bird, thinking maybe I should just eat the evidence. I wasn't thinking straight. I am so sorry for what I've done."

The judge considered. The man had a completely clean record and was an upstanding member of his community. He hardly seemed likely to become a menace to society.

"Son, the court is willing to overlook what you did this one time. Case dismissed." After banging his gavel, though, he motioned the man over to the bench.

"I do have one question, speaking as one sportsman to another."

"Yes, your honor?"

"What did the condor taste like?"

The man smiled and offered an aw-shucks shrug. "Well, your honor, it tasted kinda like a cross between a bald eagle and a spotted owl."

Posted by at 07:27 PM in the following Department(s): Humor | Comments (0)
 June 25, 2005
Notes from my Grandfather

As noted earlier, my last surviving grandfather died early in April this year. My sister and I are, along with our parents, sorting through his stuff and tidying up what he has left behind.

My grandfather was a Methodist minister who, like his grandson, had (or, in my case, *has*) a profound love of books. In going through his library, I have come across an old book of quotations, humor, and anecdotes for public speakers. (As a Methodist minister, his was quite the public speaker.) He starred and underlined the following passage:

After his return from church one Sunday a small boy said, "You know what Mommie? I'm going to be a minister when I grow up."

"That's fine," said his mother. "But what made you decide you want to be a preacher?"

"Well," said the boy pensively. "I'll have to go to church on Sunday anyway and I think it would be more fun to stand up and yell than to sit still and listen."

Posted by at 11:14 PM in the following Department(s): Humor | Comments (0)
 October 03, 2004
Lucas Changes Star Wars... Again!

Perhaps one of the biggest thorns in the sides of science fiction movie fans is the fact that George Lucas has modified his "Star Wars" movies each time they were re-released. Each of the several re-releases to theaters, including one revision that was so obvious it was actually called the "Special Edition", featured a number of nips and tucks here and there.

With each release to video (and now, DVD), all previous versions became commercially unavailable. Thus, if you have a videotape of the movies from when they first aired on HBO, for example, you have a very different movie from the subsequent video releases... and a collector's item at that.

Now Lucas has finally released the movies on DVD, and he has further modified each of the movies beyond the 1997 "Special Edition" treatment. As could be expected, a number of fans are taking issue with the tinkering. Check out the reviews on Amazon.com, for example. A number of fans wish he had simply released the original versions and let it go at that.

The changes range from correcting minor continuity errors (Han Solo's vest disappeared and reappeared in a few scenes in Empire Strikes Back, for example, and now that's been fixed), to improving the special effects (the battle scene at the Death Star in the first movie doesn't look like models anymore), to adding new scenes (the gratuitous Jabba the Hut scene in the first movie), to outright story revisionism (having Greedo shoot first in the cantina scene of the first movie). Much of the revisionism is being done to correct continuity errors with the Episode I and II movies, which were filmed *after* the first three, but what the heck. So, for example, Boba Fett's voice is limply re-looped by the actor who plays Jango Fett from the Attack of the Clones movie, while the original emperor in Empire Strikes Back is replaced with the actor who played him in Return of the Jedi (and Episodes I and II).

The reviews on Amazon are interesting because, while the major bone of contention is whether Lucas should have released the "original" versions as opposed to retooled versions, there is also a minority contingent whining that some scenes that were deleted from the original release (and that were later re-added for a few of the commercial releases) are deleted still (or again, or whatever) from the new release.

While the fanboys bicker about whether this or that change should have been made in the DVD version, I'm surprised nobody has complained about these other changes:

* In the first movie, when Luke and Han take Chewbacca on the elevator to the detention level, you can now here Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass' version of "A Taste of Honey" in the background.

* The infamous "pair of sneakers" space ships that appeared in Return of the Jedi have been switched from Nike to New Balance.

* One of the pilots in the Death Star battle scene in Return of the Jedi is clearly recognizable as "fat Elvis", while a "skinny Elvis" is seen getting into an X-Wing fighter in the first movie.

* A photo of Jar-Jar Binks can be seen on one of the milk cartons in the kitchen scene in the first movie.

* We learn in Return of the Jedi that the Emperor is actually Vader's father, which means that he is also Luke's grandfather.

* In the Sarlaac pit in Return of the Jedi, you can see an Ewok impaled on one of the lower rows of teeth.

* When Darth Vader and his two wing ships engage the X-wing fighters during the Death Star battle scenes in the first movie, you can hear the boom-boom-boom of a sub-woofer as they fly by.

* Darth Vader's voice has been over dubbed by Bill O'Reilly. I'm guessing that this is because the voice of CNN isn't quite as menacing as the voice of Fox News Network.

Were there any other changes that I missed?

Posted by at 06:33 PM in the following Department(s): Books/Movies/Music , Humor | Comments (0)
 September 07, 2004
Ripping off a friend's joke

I am shamelessly ripping off a joke from a friend of mine, and re-writing it to suit my own sense of irony. Barry -- please forgive me!

Ripped from Today's Headlines: Florida has been ravaged by two (so far) hurricanes, wreaking havoc with electricity, cable, phone, and other infrastructure utilities. Fortunately, however, the computerized results from the upcoming election have already been backed-up.

Posted by at 09:58 PM in the following Department(s): Humor , Tidbits III | Comments (0)
 July 07, 2004
A Brief History of Time

I've been going through some very old piles of paper in my office. I found this on a note I'd written a few years ago:

A Really Brief History of Time

7000 BC -- Time is invented, but it runs backwards.

1 BC -- Running out of time, developers reengineer it to go the other way.


Posted by at 05:46 PM in the following Department(s): Humor , Technology , Tidbits | Comments (1)
 June 08, 2004
Your Chinese Zodiac Horoscope

The following was first published to this site on April 24th, 2000. However, that was just before I had this handy content management system, and the original pages were tossed about three and a half years ago. I had written this piece for a parody web site founded by my friend Eric Francis, along with an article that pathetically tried to defend the superiority of the Chinese Zodiac against the more popular Astrological Zodiac. Since that parody web site has come down, I've decided to post it here again. That, and a friend of mine was making a comment about horoscope parodies....

"Semi-exclusive to Planet Wavering Zodialogical Society:"

RAT (1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996)
It's pretty mind boggling when you stop to think about it: all of your life has been leading up to this one particular moment. Everything you have done has prepared you for exactly where and what you are right now. Your entire history has converged upon this one nexus in time. What will you do with this golden opportunity? Answer quickly -- you will be killed in a random act of violence before the day is over.

OX (1937 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997)
"Platitudes are the Sundays of Stupidity." I don't recall who said that, but they were talking about you at the time. Don't be taken in by any aphorisms today. The free advice you hear will be worth exactly what you paid for it. Instead, trust your gut. Chart your own course. Be your own man (or, in this day of political correctness, be your own woman, if that's your kind of thing). Remember: you are unique. Just like everybody else. You must destroy anyone who tries to tell you otherwise.

TIGER (1938 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998)
Good news! That rash is finally going to clear up. Maybe not today, mind you, but soon. Odds are that the negative side effects from that topical ointment you've been using won't be noticed for some time. You still should have seen a doctor about that, but you wouldn't listen to me, would you? No, you wouldn't. That's the problem with you Tigers: you're too damned smart for your own good. Why do I even bother writing an entry for you?

RABBIT (1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999)
If you happen to know any Oxen, today would be a good day to offer them advice. Let's face it, we all need a little guidance from time to time, and you are just the kind of person who can help them make sense of it all. Your natural tendencies as a teacher will shine through today. Unless, of course, you were born in 1999. That would be stupid. If you encounter resistance to your advice, keep at it. The results will be well worthwhile.

DRAGON (1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000)
Happy Birthday! Or, twelfth anniversary. Or, twenty-fourth. Or, whatever. Oh, nevermind. Why bother? You probably read those other zodiacs, don't you? Those lunar calendars with their stupid little star charts and their "House of Uranus" and all that. Whatever, man. Look, just because the Chinese didn't have cool names for their signs, like "Aries" or "Gemini", doesn't mean the Chinese Zodiac is any less cool. I mean, hey, you guys are fuckin' Dragons. Everyone else is a stupid Monkey or Rat or something. So, show me some respect, okay?

SNAKE (1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989)
Your professional career is poised on the launching pad, and today is the day that the ignition is switched on. Can you here the automated voice counting down to lift off? Be sure to get as far away as you can by T minus Zero, because when that sucker goes off, it's going to evaporate everything within a twelve mile radius. You should have proofread that e-mail to your boss/teacher/probation officer before you clicked 'send'. Idiot.

HORSE (1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990)
I had a dream about you last night, Horse. In the dream, you were standing naked in front of your fourth grade class, trying to recite the words to Robert Frost's "Stopping by a Woods on a Snowy Evening." Normally, this kind of dream bothers me, but since you were the one standing naked in front of the class, and I wasn't, the dream didn't seem so bad. Nice birthmark.

SHEEP (1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991)
Whether we study physics or philosophy or Batman Comic Books, we're inevitably confronted by a singular truth: that no matter how good or bad a life we lead, the sun will explode in about a few hundred million years and wipe out the entire solar system. Pretty cool, huh? So, really, what's the harm if you had another twinkie after lunch today? When you put things in perspective, you can ascertain their true worth.

MONKEY (1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992)
Remember the movie Thelma & Louise? Remember that part where they drive off the edge of the cliff at the end, and into the grand canyon? Remember the movie Presumed Innocent and how we found out at the very end that the wife did it? Remember how the Kevin Spacey character in The Usual Suspects turned out to be Kaiser Souze all along? I'd tell you what's in store for you today, but I know how you hate it when someone spoils the surprise for you.

ROOSTER (1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993)
One of my contemporaries, who writes for that other zodiac, somehow keeps tying his forecasts to sexuality. Hey, sex sells. Unfortunately for me -- and you -- the odds are pretty good that you're either too young (1993) or too old (1969, 1957, 1945) to enjoy sex. But, to boost my ratings, I've got this tidbit for you Roosters in the middle there (1981): this year will be a pretty good year for you to have sex.

DOG (1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994)
It's been a very turbulent time for you, but the shake-ups are about to end. The only question is, will you land on your feet, or on someone else's? As a palm reader friend of mine once told me, similes stick out like a sore thumb. That's why I've been using metaphors, instead. This may not make things any clearer for you, but it sure beats shaving your wrists with a potato peeler.

BOAR (1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995)
Jealousy is one of the most potent emotions, capable of ruining a life in a single stroke. Make sure it doesn't ruin yours. By the way, your mate has been cheating on you. With a Rat. Think about it. The signs have been there, all along. You know who I'm talking about, don't you? Remember what I said: don't let jealousy ruin your life. Turn those destructive natures loose on those cheating bastards, instead. Today.

Posted by at 01:39 AM in the following Department(s): Humor | Comments (0)
 February 06, 2004
Learning to Quit

One of my character traits that has been dogging me for years is that of tending toward overcommitment. I'm not what some people refer to as a "joiner" -- I don't go around joining clubs just so that I'll be a member of a lot of clubs. Rather, I'll commit myself to performing various tasks or roles to the point where I don't have the time to do them all.

[In case any of my new co-workers are reading this: this negative trait of mine is only in my personal life, and it doesn't apply to my work habits. At work I'm very careful not to overextend mysel-- wait a minute. That doesn't sound too good, either. Hmmmm.]

Overcommitment a different kind of insanity from being a joiner, but not by much. These days, I've got a monthly open mike (open mic?) night at a local coffee shop that I emcee, I'm on my homeowners' association board, I'm webmaster for a couple of non-profits, there's writing workshops and critique groups, trying to be active in my local political party of choice, and never mind regular (and firm) commitments with Alexander (doctor's visits, lessons, playgroups) and the daily commitment to my employer.

Additionally, I have writing goals I'm trying to make and chores around the house that require regular attention. And so on, and so on.

Some of these commitments come about out of necessity, but many come about either because I'm passionate about it (writing; public performance) or because I have some sense of "should" about it (civic participation, and taking a shower *at least* once a week).

Then there's watching ER on Thursday nights, which isn't a formal commitment, but it just works out that way.

I frequently entertain the (false) notion that I used to not be overcommitted -- that I used to live up to all of my obligations. If I were to be honest with myself (it happens, but only rarely), I'd acknowledge that I've been overcommitted since at least elementary school. Cello practice? Who has the time!? Yearbook staff meeting? I'm too busy to make it!

I used to think that I wanted to "be a writer", until I finally wised up to the fact that what I really wanted was to have written. I didn't want to write a novel; I wanted to have written one. Well, I wised up, and decided to become a writer, and then I wrote a novel.

A lot of my commitments are going south because many of them are things I want to have accomplished, rather than because they are things I want to do. Worse, there are a number of things I *should* accomplish that I'm not doing because I'm spending so much time on commitments that I neither should nor want to do anymore. I have stuck out of a sense of duty rather than out of any real need or desire.

If I learn how to quit some of these commitments -- just walk away from them -- then I can take the newfound free time and... blow off my other commitments with less anxiety.

A few months ago, in a rare moment of insight (and free time), I wrote in my private journal that I needed to quit a few of my commitments. I chanced to pick up my journal again recently, and noticed that from that long list of expendable commitments, I'd released myself from exactly one of them. How pathetic.

Clearly, I'm not committed to quitting my commitments.

So, what do I do? When I commit myself to quitting, the first commitment I quit is the commitment to quit commitments. Ack!

I believe there's some organization like a "joiners anonymous." Although, by its very nature, wouldn't all the members really just be posers? I mean, by joining such an organization, aren't you defeating the whole point of getting that joining monkey off your back? So, by extension, there's probably no *valid* sort of "overcommitters anonymous", because the very idea of going to meetings regularly would defeat the purpose of trying not to commit any more.

[sigh.]

I should just be committed.

Posted by at 01:25 AM in the following Department(s): Essays , Humor , Tidbits | Comments (0)
 January 05, 2004
Revelations

This just in: Pete Rose is going to announce in his autobiography, with excerpts to be published this week, that he bet on baseball games while he was manager of the Reds.

Other revelations expected in the next few weeks:

O. J. Simpson admits he is the "real killer."

Britney Spears admits that she had a boob job.

The National Enquirer admits that Elvis is, in fact, dead.

Posted by at 10:51 PM in the following Department(s): Humor | Comments (0)
 May 07, 2003
Mattress Fund Makeshift Fix

The mock commercial that James Osborne and I put together for "The Mattress Fund" is now working for visitors using Windows as well as those using Mac. We have a makeshift fix for the problems we've been having with Windows Media, so there are separate links for the Windows version and the Mac version. It's a temporary fix, until we can get a more elegant solution.

Never doubt for a moment that comedy is hard work.

Please e-mail me or post a comment if you still can't view the movie. Thanks!

Posted by at 06:33 PM in the following Department(s): Humor | Comments (1)
 March 02, 2003
The Mattress Fund

I love to sing solo, but I also love to harmonize. Singing with a group or with accompaniment offers a different kind of enjoyment from performing on your own. You have to be attentive to different things, more in tune with your fellows, which in some ways can limit where you can go but in other ways expands the reach of your performance.

Writing solo and writing collaboratively is much the same. I find writing alone to offer unlimited possibilities, but the discipline of writing with someone else helps me to hone skills that might otherwise go undeveloped. I've been fortunate to enjoy several strong writing partnerships in the past, so when a friend of mine who writes screenplays asked if I'd like to collaborate on a project, I said, "Yes."

Jamie and I mapped out a show "bible" and pilot episode for a proposed television series based upon some concepts he'd been wanting to explore. The work we did on the screenplay was a fantastic learning experience. Jamie and I squashed each others' weak points (mine is a tendency toward exposition, in case you couldn't guess) and played off each others' strengths. We were both happy with the results, as were a number of readers whose judgement we trust.

We had such a good time that now we're exploring the possibility of working together on a novel. We're also working on some humor projects together. While working on the television script, Jamie also pulled me into a project he was developing that pokes fun at the high-tech stock bubble and the current state of mutual funds.

We posted the finished product on a web site: The Mattress Fund. We're in the process of putting together a smaller version that will stream faster, but if you have a good connection and a few minutes to kill, please check it out and let me know what you think. Oh, and if you have any problems downloading, please let me know that, too.

Posted by at 10:39 PM in the following Department(s): Humor , Writing | Comments (2)
 December 09, 2002
A Joke I Saw...

I like this one.

There are 10 kinds of people in the world. Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

Posted by at 03:51 PM in the following Department(s): Humor | Comments (0)
 November 28, 2002
News Flash

We put the rabbit ears on the ol' tele to tune in NBC so as to see a grainy rendition of this year's Macy's parade. During a local station break, our crack news team broke in to tell us:

"Pickpockets on the streets of Seattle, Friday at 7."

So, naturally, we've decided not to go shopping in Seattle on Friday anytime near seven (in the morning *or* evening). I'm glad they warned us. If we hadn't tuned in, we wouldn't have known.

Hopefully, this tip from the local news will make it easier for the cops to catch them!

Posted by at 11:16 AM in the following Department(s): Humor , Tidbits | Comments (0)
 November 27, 2002
The Cure May Kill You

First of all, let me apologize for the lameness of my posts lately. I'm not only not posting very often, but I feel that my posts these days don't say very much. I assure you, it's not a function of having a kid in the house. I think it's the result of a number of things, including (but not limited to) being in a generally crabby mood these past couple of months, being overworked, underfunded, etc., etc.

One contribution to my crabby mood in the past two weeks in particular has been an ear infection. I blame my last post on the ear infection. (I mean, really, all I wanted to do was post a picture of the kid, but I found it necessary to speak vaguely about "family" without actually saying anything meaningful. Sad, sad, sad.) The earache was painful. So painful that it hindered my enjoyment of talking (something you know I love to do). Chewing was a problem. Even eating M & M's was problematic.

No, not problematic. It HURT.

The doctor prescribed ear drops. The pain got worse. He prescribed pain killers. The infection continued to worsen. He prescribed antibiotics and steroids. Things have gotten better.

But you might get a kick out of the "Cautions" for one of the drugs he prescribed for me. After reading this, I wasn't sure if the cure was better than the problem:

DO NOT STOP TAKING THIS MEDICINE without checking with your doctor. Stopping this medicine suddenly may cause serious side effects. KEEP ALL DOCTOR AND LABORATORY APPOINTMENTS while you are using this medicine. BEFORE YOU HAVE ANY MEDICAL OR DENTAL TREATMENTS, EMERGENCY CARE, OR SURGERY, tell the doctor or dentist that you are using this medicine. THIS MEDICINE MAKES YOU MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO ILLNESSES, especially if you take it for an extended period of time. Prevent infection by avoiding contact with people who have colds or other infections. If you are exposed to chickenpox, measles, or tuberculosis (TB) while taking this medicine or within 12 months after stopping this medicine, call your doctor. Report any injuries or signs of infection (fever, sore throat, pain during urination, or muscle aches) that occur during treatment and within 12 months after stopping this medicine. Your dose may need to be adjusted or you may need to start taking this medicine again. CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE HAVING IMMUNIZATIONS (VACCINATIONS) while you are using this medicine. BEFORE YOU BEGIN TAKING ANY NEW MEDICINE, either prescription or over-the-counter, check with your doctor or pharmacist. [pregnancy warnings omitted]

...and this was before listing possible side effects, which included: difficulty sleeping, mood changes, nervousness, increased appetite, indigestion, swelling of feet or legs, unusual weight gain, black tarry stools (whatever that means), vomiting material that looks like coffee grounds (I'm not making this up), severe nausea or vomiting, headache, muscle weakness, and prolonged sore throat, cold, or fever.

I'm pleased to say that I feel much better now. Today should be my last day on *that* particular drug, which is also a good thing.

Posted by at 03:08 PM in the following Department(s): Essays , Humor | Comments (0)
 November 17, 2002
The State of the American Sitcom

Many people I know spend a great deal of time lamenting the deterioration of our society. The news has shifted from reporting to opining and entertaining. Politicians are sleazier and sleazier. Crime is up. Education is down. And our popular culture is dumbing America noticeably.

As one who was trained as an historian, I often find it necessary to point out that these things come and go in cycles. That the so called "news" today may be bad, but the same kind of scandal-centric infotainment was all the rage back when Hearst's papers inspired the term "yellow journalism." That Clinton was hardly the first President to be accused of inappropriate liaisons while residing in the White House... nor the first to be re-elected with that reputation. That crime is always going up... and down... and up... and down. That Johnny, by and large, can read. That our pop culture is just as varied in its quality today as it ever has been... but that the good selections from the past have survived in our memories while the inane selections have been conveniently forgotten.

I stand by these observations. By and large, the world is a better place today than it was ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred, a thousand years ago. A hundred years ago, the average life span in America was what, forty-eight years old? It's now in the seventies. Sure, AIDS is bad and cancer worse, but so were polio and TB and smallpox back in the days of our grandparents and great-grandparents. The world political situation is a bit edgy these days (is that a gross understatement?), but do you remember the cold war and fears of nuclear armageddon a not-too-distant decade-and-a-half ago? Not so long ago, we were taught to "duck and cover" because we lived in a world gone mad. The world may not be sane right now, but my point is that not all things are always getting worse. We simply don't always acknowledge to ourselves where things have gotten better or are getting better.

Still, every once in a while, I find something to remind me that in some respects, we are in a "trough" for various quality cycles. Take television writing, and sitcoms in particular. Sure, there have always been bad shows and good shows, relatively speaking. But the writing for the past ten years has been arguably awful, and there's little sign of improvement (for now).

I want to take a moment here to talk about the Dick Van Dyke Show.

What is the best written sitcom today? I'm going to go with "Frasier." Formulaic, certainly, just like any sitcom must be. But, there's a lot of cleverness that manages to come through even within the constraints of the formula. Do you think there's better writing in a sitcom today? Please comment below, as I'd love to know.

During a recent trip along the West Coast, my family and I were staying at a hotel and we chanced to watch some television one night. We don't have a television feed at home (long story), and haven't had one for about three years. There is something very liberating about not having television at home. Something isolating, as well. So, for the first time in a while, we surfed through what cable had to offer, and found the Dick Van Dyke Show on Nick at Night.

The episode involved a golf outing where Rob (Dick Van Dyke) encountered a fellow who used to date Rob's wife Mary (Mary Tyler Moore) back in college. Unbeknownst to Rob, the fellow is now a priest. The priest doesn't realize that the Mary he talks about is the Mary who is married to Rob. As the episode unfolds, Rob confronts Mary about the priest (neither one knows that he's a priest, remember), Mary invites the priest over for dinner, Rob invites his female officemate to dinner as a blind date for the priest, and much hilarity ensues.

This is sitcom plot number five. There are only seven, I'm told. This plot is the comedy of insufficient information and incorrect assumptions.

I was expecting the withheld information (the priest's identity, Mary's identity, et al) to be kept from the participants for the duration of the episode, which is a common ploy these days. But instead, the characters figured out the errors of their respective ways pretty quickly, which was both MUCH more believable and MUCH more funny. Everyone copped to their various mistakes, and moved forward while still providing a great deal of laughs at a ridiculous-but-plausible situation. The writing was positively brilliant.

The episode then threw me for another loop in the epilogue, when Mary brings out an old shoebox of letters and poems that the priest had written her back in college. She reads Rob a sonnet. Here I was expecting the sonnet to be particularly bad or humorous. Instead, it was... beautiful. Touching. A completely non-funny, totally romantic love poem. And Mary makes a very interesting observation about the sonnet that is also not funny, but appropriate. The result? A sitcom episode that was both hilarious and deep. It was moving as well as entertaining.

And this was a typical episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show. This wasn't a "Very Special Episode, in which Rob Discovers He Has the Disease of the Week." While Frasier (or the sitcom of your choice) may have writing that is above average for today's television drivel, the characters are all caricatures. They react neither the way we would react, ourselves, nor the way we would hope we would react. As a result, they don't engage us. Without engagement, there is no tension. Without tension, the humor is forced.

(Why do I hear the voice of Yoda in the back of my head just now, saying "pain leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering, suffering leads to pain, pain leads to codependency," etc., etc.?)

I do not subscribe to the philosophy that everything is getting worse all the time. Nor will I go so far as to say that television writing is on a one-way slide into oblivion. Except when it comes to Saturday Night Live. Nonetheless, I think television humor has become substantially less sophisticated in recent years. "Edgy" or "cynical" is not the same as sophisticated.

One thing about being in the trough, though... things will get better. Someday soon, this may even be said of the Great American Sitcom.

Posted by at 11:40 PM in the following Department(s): Books/Movies/Music , Essays , Humor | Comments (3)
 October 09, 2002
The Worlds Funniest Censorship

Paulette recently sent some friends and me a link to an article on abc "news" dot com about research into the "World's Funniest Joke." While I'd hardly call this news, it certainly fills the infotainment genre that ABC, CNN, and others call news. I was very infotained, as several of the jokes listed were quite fun.

The winning joke, as quoted by ABC:

"Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other man pulls out his phone and calls emergency services.

He gasps to the operator: "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator in a calm, soothing voice replies: "Take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead."

There is a silence, then a shot is heard.

Back on the phone, the hunter says, "OK, now what?"

I like it. This would probably work better as a radio sketch than it does as a written joke, but I still like it. A friend, however, who was on this discussion thread said she had heard about the contest results on a local (New Jersey) radio station, and that the station had said that the winning joke was about New Jersey. Alas, looking at the ABC "News" article reveals nothing about New Jersey.

Then, on a lark, I checked the site of the actual contest, which revealed that the winning joke *does* mention New Jersey:

A couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing, his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps to the operator: "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator, in a calm soothing voice says: "Just take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy's voice comes back on the line. He says: "OK, now what?"

Notice that the New Jersey reference is not the only change made in the ABC "News" article.

What galls me the most, insofar as anyone can be galled by an infotainment piece about the World's Funniest Joke, is that ABC "News" presented the winning entry in quotation marks and then paraphrased it, rather than quoting it.

And, why? Why? Did ABC's rewording of the joke make it any funnier? Any less offensive to New Jersey hunters? Any less shocking to the squeamish, with the original joke's reference to his eyes being rolled back? I mean, what gives?

I'm very accustomed to the "news" getting it wrong. Misquotes are a fact of life, and always have been in infotainment. But what gives when you have the original text right in front of you to cut and paste into quotation marks? What?

Censorship isn't funny.

Say, that reminds me of a joke. How many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb? Oh, wait....

Posted by at 02:52 PM in the following Department(s): Essays , Humor | Comments (2)
 May 02, 2002
A Practical Joke

A friend of mine sent me the following message in an e-mail. I don't know if it's already made the rounds twenty times on the Internet, and I don't know who originated it, but I love it, so I'm sharing:

When Mark Shuttleworth (the very rich space tourist) returns from space, everybody dress in ape suits. It will only work if we all do it.

Pass it on.

Posted by at 07:40 PM in the following Department(s): Humor | Comments (0)
 April 06, 2002
James Bond Titles

The title of the upcoming James Bond movie is stupid beyond belief. I'd like to suggest some alternative James Bond titles:

* Die Noon

* The Dying Game

* Rose Dead

* The Hunt for Dead October

* The Thin Dead Line

* Die Honey, I'm Home

* Fast Times at Ridgemont Die

Of course, you heard that the producers of the James Bond franchise sued to stop the producers of the Austin Powers franchise from using the title "Austin Powers in Goldmember" for the movie that's coming out later this year because... well, just because, I guess. Too similar to the other James Bond titles, or too nasty, or something. The MPAA heard the appeal, and then ruled that the "Goldmember" title was "inadmissable"... not on the grounds of being to similar to previous James Bond titles, but because it's just plain naughty. Never mind the James Bond movie "Octopussy".

Octopussy! Helloooo!!!!

Well, in keeping with the theme, here's a brief list of other Austin Powers titles I'd like to see:

* License to Shag

* You Only Shag Twice

* Thunderball Buster

* On Her Majesty's Secret Cervix

* Squid Naughty Bits

Clearly, I'm overtired. Time for bed.

Posted by at 10:08 PM in the following Department(s): Books/Movies/Music , Humor | Comments (0)
 October 15, 2001
Dom Casual

So, a font walks into a bar.

The bartender looks up and says, "We don't serve your type here."

Posted by at 01:13 PM in the following Department(s): Humor , Writing | Comments (1)
 August 31, 2001
Overheard at WorldCon 2001...

Heard this at a panel on the future of the space program, and it got quite a laugh out of the audience. One of the folks on the panel is a Heinlein-style libertarian.

Q: How many libertarians does it take to stop a Nazi Panzer division?

A: None. The market will take care of it.

Posted by at 12:15 AM in the following Department(s): Humor , Tidbits III | Comments (1)
 August 24, 2001
Bumper Sticker Diplomacy, part II

I have heard it said that revenge is a dish that is best served cold. There are, however, other good ways to serve revenge.

Revenge is a dish that is best served:

* with rice

* after the entree and before dessert

* with a Merlot or similar red

* family-style

* after 11am

Posted by at 03:40 AM in the following Department(s): Humor | Comments (1)
Bumper Sticker Diplomacy, part I

So, you've no doubt seen those bumper stickers which proclaim that "A mind is like a parachute: it only works when it's open." Well, it occurs to me that there are other ways a mind is like a parachute:

* It only works when you're travelling at outrageous speeds

* It only works when it's folded properly

* It's very stringy

* People only use it as a last ditch effort to avoid becoming a bloody pulp

* It's function is to slow you down when you're already moving

* They both are effective at capturing hot air

and the number one way in which a mind is like a parachute:

* grade-schoolers sometimes pull them taut and bounce kickballs on them.

Posted by at 03:36 AM in the following Department(s): Humor | Comments (1)
 June 12, 2001
Those pesky viruses

As you may be aware, one of the most common viruses on the internet is the hoax announcement of viruses on the internet. They usually take the form of "Microsoft and McAfee have just announced on their websites that the most virulent virus to date has appeared on the internet. If you receive an e-mail entitled 'Good Times', DO NOT OPEN IT!!!!" Etc., etc.

The message will go on to tell you that it was pulled directly from the Microsoft press release (MS never issues press releases with exclamation points, by the way), that it affects everyone in your address book, and then tells you to forward the warning on to everyone in your address book.

As viruses (viri?) go, this strain is very common but not very dangerous. It spreads itself with the cooperation of the host, it takes up some bandwidth and hard disk space, but it doesn't take up enough space or bandwidth so as to be terribly damaging at any particular point in time. Sure, at any given moment there's thousands of useless messages like this clogging the Internet's arteries, but never enough to bring it down. These viri mutate as well, insofar as they are modified from time to time by the people who pass them along. ("Embellished" is the more appropriate word.) In other words, it's just like any other virus.

There are some destructive versions of this strain, though. Recently, I received one such message that urged me to delete a certain .dll file from my Windows directory. Of course, since I use a Macintosh, this kind of warning is pointless to me, anyway. But, the .dll file the message urged me to erase is actually a valid and necessary file for Windows to work... well, insofar as Windows works at all. The point is, it *looked* real enough, and a lot of people followed the instructions and deleted the .dll file and then forwarded the message to everyone they knew.

Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Well, recently someone did this one up a little better. You can read about it here and here. This fellow sent out a joke version of this kind of message, wherein he told the reader that there was a malignant file that was taking up 30M of hard disk space, and that the reader should look for and delete a file called 'aol.exe'.

The author of the joke then included a number of references that should have tipped off the reader. For example, the message said that failure to delete the file would result in the reader being charged a monthly fee. Hilarious.

Allegedly, some people didn't realize it was a joke and forwarded it along... and then deleted their aol.exe files.

My friends, there is a message in all of this: don't believe everything you read. Unless you read it here.

:-)

--Allan

PS: three working days left until Clarion West begins. Woo-hoo!

Posted by at 08:54 PM in the following Department(s): Humor | Comments (0)
 March 08, 2001
A True Quaker

Just a quickie anecdote here.

I was talking to this dude regarding work stuff a few days ago, and he mentioned big snows where he was. I asked for his location, and he told me that he was in Valley Forge, PA. I mentioned that I used to live near there, and he correctly deduced I had gone to UPenn, which is his alma mater.

In a follow-up e-mail, he mentioned something about how cool it was to be dealing with a fellow Quaker. For those of you who don't know, the teams at Penn are called the Quakers, as in "The Fighting Quakers". Ha, ha. I don't think about being a "Quaker" much, as I have never had much affinity for my grad school days at Penn.

Nonetheless, after last week's 6.8-on-the-Richter-Scale event here, I guess I truly am a Quaker.

Posted by at 05:04 PM in the following Department(s): Humor , Tidbits
 February 09, 2001
Comedy and Context and Unfinished Essays

Lately, I've taken to writing the beginnings of these magnum opus essays on this site, which I have then never gotten around to finishing. I finally got called on it.

A long and thoughtful e-mail took me to task for the part of an argument I'd left unfinished. And so, allow me to continue my thoughts about comedy and context. I offer no promises that this completes my thoughts on the subject, but at least I can get into it more now that I know where the dialog is heading.

The reader's e-mail begins: "You seem to imply that 'The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun' was only funny pre-Littleton."

My essay does imply this, but the implication comes from an omission on my part. Rather, the events at Littleton changed the context in which I (and others, I'm sure) receive the song, and *that* changes the nature of the humor with which it is received.

Pre-Littleton, the song is funny because it is an absurdist fantasy. High school punishes all who enters its doors -- students and faculty alike. But to the typical student, the Homecoming Queen (or Prom Queen, or Captain of the Cheerleading Squad, or whatever) appears to be the one little darling least affected. This song's humor lay in the fact that it tweaks our recognition both of the frustration that leads to such a seemingly unlikely event, and the casting-against-type of the actual perpetrator. We recognize and empathize with both the antagonist and the protagonists in the song. It's ludicrous. Impossible to imagine... and yet, it's perversely satisfying at the same time. A Homecoming Queen reigning destruction upon the previously celebratory event.

Post-Littleton, the scenario is not so absurd; not so foreign to the imagination. I agree with the reader that any reasonably intelligent person would have deduced when this song was first released in the '80's that a Littleton-style event was not only possible, but even *probable*, eventually. But, it was nonetheless outside the realm of our actual experience. The schoolyard shootings leading up to, including, and following Littleton banished that little false sense of "it can't happen here."

And, so, anyone who is familiar with the school shootings (and related events) that have taken place in the '90's receives "Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun" with a different context: the situation itself is no longer absurd; only the particular angel of vengence.

(I will remind the audience that back in the '80's, high schoolers who felt particularly frustrated with their situations tended to commit suicide rather than homicide. That, or they played Dungeons and Dragons. I'm not sure which was worse...)

I was picking apart the structure of the song to myself as I sat at the concert hall listening to it, and it really is an exellently constructed bit of humor. I won't bore you with my analysis (I'll bore you with my rant about context instead), but I agree with the reader's e-mail that the song is still funny. *However*, because the context has changed, so has the nature of the joke.

The reader goes on to state (and, I think this is the heart of the matter):

"All this being said, I probably wouldn't have bothered to write except I think the idea that context is everything is rather offensive if not mildly dangerous.

"I remember years ago I was telling you about an episode I liked of 'Homicide, Life on the Streets.' I actually agree with you about what you found offensive, but I still liked the writing and presentation. Anyway, the plot revolved around some clean cut kid who committed a murder. He got his hands on a gun, and once he held it he felt it had power over him and he had to shoot someone. That's really simplifying but it's the basic idea. You were very right in that it played to the anti-gun lobby's contention that it's guns that are bad, and the shooters aren't responsible.

"In a sense I see the same sort of danger in ideas like 'song's about molesters are only funny until you know someone who has been molested.' This implies an inability to reason from the abstract to the specific. It also gives creedence to the idea that only those who have suffered from a gun crime should be allowed to have an opinion on gun laws. Or, to speak to another of your recent essays, the idea that only those who have suffered from racism should be allowed to have an opinion on affirmative action or other laws."

[snip]

While I see the point, I believe there are two distinct issues here. The songs "Kinko the Clown" and "Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun" remain the same as they ever were, before and after the potential listener becomes involved in an outrageous event such as the ones that serve as the setting for these songs. The outrageous event in the song is absurd. The outrageous event in real life is tragic. (The same can be said for Olivia Newton-John's "Let's Get Physical," I suppose.)

But, the listener may well interpret the songs differently after having actually experienced an event such as those depicted in these songs.

Our tastes in humor necessarily change over time, and I contend that this is largely because of our expanding library of context. Many people I know find the old Warner Brothers cartoons much funnier once they're adults than they did when they were children, because they had more context in which to fit more of the jokes. Alas, just as context can enhance the meaning of a joke, it can also sometimes detract from a joke's effectiveness.

I, for one, have outgrown scatalogical humor, but I've found an increasing love of puns. Go figure.

But there's a different, underlying issue that the reader points to, and it is one of politics, not aesthetics. Here, we come back to my original title, "Censorship and Context".

We may agree or disagree as to whether it is appropriate to play a song for a wide public audience that attempts to be funny against a backdrop of violence (or some other potentially tragic setting). As I stated in my last essay, I agree with Dr. Demento's decision not to play "Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun" on his radio show, given the events at Littleton. And if I were still hosting a radio show of my own, I would make the same decision.

I neglected to say in my previous essay, however, that I nonetheless believe that this is and should be a matter of taste -- to be exercised by the host (or performer), and not to be imposed by the government appointed arbiters of the airwaves.

Dr. Demento willingly refrains from playing "Homecoming Queen", although I suspect he looks forward to the chance to play it again on the radio one day. No doubt, his decision is as much motivated by business concerns as it is by any sensitivity on his part. Nevertheless, I would find it particularly offensive to have the government dictate his playlist by banning this song... just as I am offended that the government does see fit to dictate that certain other songs are stricken from the airwaves.

One of the many ironies here is that Dr. D can play a funny song about an absurd school shooting, but chooses not to, while he is prohibited from playing a lovely little ditty called "Sit on My Face (and Tell Me That You Love Me)" -- set against a pleasant backdrop of mutually consentual gratification -- but you can be certain that he'd play it if he were allowed.

How long will it be before the FCC finally regulates the thoughts we choose to express on the Internet (either on the web or via e-mail)? I shudder at the idea.

Posted by at 02:37 AM in the following Department(s): Essays , Humor , Tidbits III | Comments (3)
 February 06, 2001
Censorship and Context, part 1

As many of you know, I used to host a radio comedy show called A Night at the Asylum at WVBR-FM in Ithaca, NY. The show was largely inspired by Dr. Demento, only we focused more on comedy and less on novelty records.

Recently, one of my fellow former producers of said comedy show discovered that someone she knew was wanted by the police for child molestation. The culprit was caught, and as the facts about his predatory practices were revealed, it became clear that this very sick individual had messed up a great many people's lives... including friends who were very near and dear to her.

As we discussed this traumatic chain of events, my fellow former comedy show producers and I came around to the question of a routine we used to play on the show: Kinko the Clown, by Ogden Edsl. None of us could remember ever really liking this particular song, and we all wondered why we'd every played it. It didn't have any particularly funny lines, and it's rather insenstive to a nasty subject.

But... I've been thinking about this more and more lately. I think that, in fact, we *did* find it funny at the time; we've simply forgotten why. Our context has changed.

The reason I believe this to be the case is because I happened to see Dr. Demento in a live performance this weekend. Focusing on "things [he] can't play on the radio", the syndicated radio show host played songs and videos of a number of bits that don't (currently) pass FCC muster. Some of these items would never, ever make it, but were very funny (including an extremely rude Mick Jagger tune that he recorded with the *intent* of being so bad that the record company would never release it, simply to fulfill a contract that he wanted out of). Others used to be playable on the radio, but have since elicited fines from the FCC. This collection surprised me, in particular, because it included a number of routines we used to play all the time: Monty Python's "Sit on my Face", for example.

Then, the good doctor showed us a music video and prefaced it by saying, "This song used to be one of the most requested on the Dr. Demento show, but I haven't played it in a couple of years, given the aftermath of the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorodo." The video was for Julie Brown's, "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun."

Wow. I was stunned. This song was frequently featured on our show. And, as the video unfolded, it was so patently clear why playing it now would be so beyond the bounds of acceptable taste. Given the events that transpired in Littleton, there was no way to interpret this song as anything other than a sick and depraved acting-out.

But, the thing is... this was recorded *years* before Littleton, and it was mocking high school homecoming pagentry; it was not advocating violence. The song and video were so clearly cartoonish; the humor so obviously a coy swipe at high school's culture of popularity. Yet, in the context of a post-Littleton world, it is both mean and savage; an indictment of a culture of violence.

Watching this video on Saturday, I completely agreed with Dr. D: even if the FCC had no reason to fine you for playing it, this was one routine worth dropping from the playlist. And, yet...

And yet the fact is that, in its day, this piece was actually quite funny. It still is, in it's own juvey way, if you can overlook Littleton.

But Littleton did happen.

And there really are maniacs who go around molesting little children.

And context is everything.

Posted by at 03:19 AM in the following Department(s): Essays , Humor , Tidbits III
 December 20, 2000
Amazon's new tab

So, stores at Amazon are called "tabs". You know why? Because in order to avoid lawsuit troubles like Microsoft had recently with the Department of Breaking Up Microsoft, Amazonians must not claim to have several different "stores"; instead, Amazon is offering goods in several different "market segments". The difference between a "market" and a "market segment" is the difference between a "viable corporation" and a "chain gang of felons at a federal correctional facility."

Anyway, one of the new "tabs" at Amazon, the Livestock tab, is encountering some difficulties leading up to launch. Turns out that the packing plants (termed "Distribution Centers" or "DCs") have been making the mistake of not poking holes in the boxes before shipping out the animals. Very unfortunate.

Only a few more days 'til Christmas. I hope you all are doing well. And, I hope none of you are members of the PETA joke brigade. :-)

Posted by at 11:46 PM in the following Department(s): Humor
 November 21, 2000
Bombs away!

A funny thing happened on the way to the improv.

Giggles Comedy club was supposed to be open last night so that a bunch of us who had taken a comedy workshop could try out our newly honed stand-up skills. The owner had even been overheard talking up our pending performance. But, the time of the show arrived, and the owner of Giggle's hadn't.

Which is to say... performers and audience were all dressed up with no place to go. So, our fearless leader (David Goldman) called his buddy at the Comedy Underground downtown and got us on the bill there.

So, we all drove down and faced a very different kind of crowd. Nonetheless, we perservered (sp?), we all did well, and I now have a new kind of experience under my belt. Not quite as exhilerating (or anywhere near as fun) as bungie jumping, but worthwhile nonetheless. I reckon that I was no better or worse last night than I'd been at my first gig as announcer for the marching band back in college... which is to say, I was nowhere near the level I'd have liked to have hit. But, still. Gotta start somewhere, eh?

In other news... I'm not quitting my day job.

Posted by at 03:55 PM in the following Department(s): Humor
 November 13, 2000
To all my stalkers (I mean, fans) out there...

I spent this past weekend at a stand-up comedy workshop as a part of my never-ending quest to be a well-rounded public speaking kinda guy. The ten of us who took the workshop will be trying out our newly honed skills at Giggles Comedy Club in downtown Seattle on Mondaythe 20th.

Details have yet to be firmed up, but I think the show will start at 8pm. There may or may not be a cover charge (but, if there *is*, it'll be a cheap cover, lemme tell ya). Everyone at the workshop was quite good, and I'm given to understand that we may have past graduates also come by to perform. Of the 50 or so people who have taken this workshop in the past four years, 15 or so are now working as stand-up comedians. They get paid for this stuff on a regular basis. Ain't that cool?

I'm proud to say that my goals are much more humble.

If you'd like to cheer me on during this scary endeavor (or, cheer me up afterwards), please come on by.

Posted by at 02:31 PM in the following Department(s): Humor

Copyright (c)1998 - 2010 by Allan Rousselle. All rights reserved, all wrongs reversed, all reservations righted, all right, already.
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The author. January, 2010.
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