MODERN WISDOM: AMERICA’S ONLY HUMOR MAGAZINE
1. SPURIOUS PROVERBS
The fear of death is to be dreaded as the fountain
Love, and a cough, soon dies.
Fear is the parent of happiness.
Beware the tyranny of will power.
A poem should be more fun than a drinking spree in New
100,000 men and 100,000 dollars are never wrong.
The devil is a hero.
Free will is neither will nor free.
Hunger is better than a laugh.
The world is a playground where madmen grow dizzy.
Self control is the opiate of the bourgeoisie.
Spelling equals morality.
The man who prays the loudest is the most pious.
In their secret heart of hearts, most dentists know
that flossing is a waste of your precious precious
Look to your aunt, thou sluggard.
Jesus was actually a werewolf.
Chess would be more fun if all the pawns were queens.
What the world really needs is more folk singers.
It takes a village to build a prison.
Discussing the antics of self-indulgent jet-setters
makes life worth living.
Fat people have a good deal to be jolly about.
Immigrants are mostly imbeciles.
Radioactivity is all in your mind.
Without air conditioning and taco sauce, life would be
Tradition is what gets in the way.
We will all have free will if only we submit ourselves
to God’s word.
Rectify the fucking language.
2. IRISH-ITALIAN RESTAURANTS
Jack Klugman’s Oscar Madison reincarnated as a ranting
nitwit coroner, whose every other breath was used to
shout, “I’m going to get to the bottom of this if it’s
the very last thing I do!”
Actually, Jack Klugman was cool.
It’s just that this truly vile 70s show was the
template for every
gimmicky, loud, pointless, self-righteous, loud,
brassy, lousy, gratuitously spooky,
mostly brain-dead medical examiner and forensic
pathologist show ever devised
by some of the most heartless hacks to ever crank out
on behalf of
the suits upstairs
with fuck-you money
who like to violently roger self-loathing white trash
with beat-me pouts
and all for the indubitable delectation of
sitting at home
stuffing their hog maws with General Cho’s chicken
and coconut butter-slathered popcorn
and all-butterfat-and-carageenan cheap-ass store-brand
and washing it all down with generic diet “cola”
that tastes like billygoat piss in tin cans.
But Oscar was cool.
4. THE SUBURBAN MIND
I am so happy, especially now that I can live through
the accomplishments of my children.
Pondering the amusing televised antics of sports
figures and Hollywood celebrities occupies a
significant portion of my time.
I love finding an inexpensive restaurant in
Collegetown so I can have PhD-level peons wait on me
hand and foot. Who’s the smartie NOW??
I feel vaguely threatened by anything that I’m not
likely to see on television.
I hate to admit it, but when repairmen come to my
home, I hide, because I’m afraid of those burly men.
Pictures o’ cute l’il pups and kitties gives me a warm
‘n’ huggy feeling inside.
It’s really not funny, you know, to make sport of the
Gee, work sure does stink, but at least my fellow
employees are a friendly bunch. All except for this
Did I tell you about the cute little poopie that my
puppy left in the rose bed?
Oh! Those crazy big-city drivers!
5. “BEM” MAKES THE SCENE
The inestimable boulevardier, flaneur, and all around
agent provocateur known as BEM is largely forgotten
now, but in his heyday he ws as potent a change agent
as Abbie Hoffman, Benjamin Spock and Joe Namath put
Please do not attribute my love for the BEM saga as
mere random genre spoofery. If any aspect of the 60s
deserves to be preserved in its unalloyed full-color
glory (and remember that, for the most part, this
and utilitarian B&W) it is BEM. (Recall too that in SF
circles, BEM also stood for “Bug-Eyed Monster”—thus,
BEM is also a sci-fi to hi-fi melding that anticipated
retro-revivalist kitsch such as Mike Allred’s RED
ROCKET 7 (1997) by a good 30 years!).DC comics commits an act of semiotic ju jitsu in the
very first panel of this ageless saga. Who are the
three individuals hankering to make “a hit” at “this
party” (which is a curious blend of 50s blah and
high-fashion sixties voom—for instance, note the
wasp-waisted girl in the ponytail silhouetted in the
background)? None other than a Dilton Doiley
simulacra (Brains), an Archie/Jughead amalgam
(Emotions), and a Big Moose cut-out (Muscles).We immediately note the curiously effete and feminine
expression on the big-nosed Brains–rather like a
puerile George Wills if the truth be known, with his
castrato’s bowtie, suffering eyes, and archaic and
curiously anhedonic Elvis-era bouffant.We also note the enormous jug-handled ears of
Emotions, his disheveled collar, his dreamy and
somewhat crazed expression, and his Beatlesesque
mop-top, a bird’s nest of colored-outside-the-lines
hirsuteness. He bears an uncanny resemblance to
Boston-area impresario Billy Ruane.
The expression on the grimly clenched and anal Muscles
is perhaps most terrifying of all—a vulgarian in a
gray turtleneck, eyes as soulless as a raven’s, with
suspiciously dark black brows surmounted by a crewcut
head of Nordic blonde master-race hair as trimly
manicured as the patch of lawn in the interior
courtyard of the Pentagon.
Of the three, Muscles is the one who is most likely
headed for a bad end—while Brains seems destined for a
drab life of bachelorhood, and Emotions will likely
become a shock-therapy candidate, drug-addict, and
homeless misfit minstrel idiot boy spouting bad mad
verse on the streets of some odious Podunk State
College town, it is the mindless, broken-nosed golem
Muscles who will be deemed physically fit (and dumb)
enough to fight in Vietnam, where he will doubtless
either bleed his life and sanity away in a stinking
Tiger Cage or incautiously step on a shit-covered
punji stick and have his football-kickin’ gangrenous
foot amputated at the knee. There goes that swell job
at his father’s Cadillac Dealership (“Jesus, Son, you
know I don’t mind—but your crutches make the customers
In the shorthand of 1966-era DC comics, what
subsequent panels (2-4) tell us about 60s courtship
rituals is quickly summarized by the position of the
woman’s mouth. Brains is obviously chaste and
old-fashioned and favors a long, drawn-out engagement.
He is evidently keen on kissing, but no tongues,
please. It is equally plain that the impulsive
Emotions likes to sweep-her-off-her-feet and elope,
then check into a cheap hotel as newlyweds and assault
her Doggie-style. However, date-rapist Muscles is an
old-fashioned hitter who clearly fancies a bit of the
old in and out—he’s not above a bit of
fascistic-sadistic rough stuff—he likes “to love like
the lumberjacks love.” (What has happened to the
nameless girl’s eye? Has Muscles already given her a
Plainly, their archaic sexual strategies are all wrong
for the nameless hoyden whom the three of them are
implausibly stalking simultaneously. It is here that
the Mind Kontrol aspect of this meticulously rendered
fable kicks in. In Panel Six, some kind of
ego-effacing mind-battle occurs between these three
characters, and they combine into one monster-mind—the
emotion-jacketed, Muscle-headed, insufferably
egotistic and brainy BEM—a pre-programmed pimp
simulacrum for the emerging Master Race, who will
effortlessly sweep aside the putative future attempts
of “groovy” hippies like so much chaff. What callow
doxy wouldn’t prefer this soulless pretty-boy Freud
with his fascistic black arm band (and hey, what the
fuck is up with THAT?)? After all, isn’t he “so smart,
so understanding, so strong”? Note from the blindingly
smug expression on his face that BEM just knows that
he has utterly hypnotized this brown-haired thrush
with the grateful, toothless mouth, and that a trip to
heaven via the fellatio express is in the offing (as
foreshadowed by the silhouette of the clarinet-playing
musician in the background).
Quite aside from the tiresome faux-Freudian banalities
of the Id-Ego-Superego triptych, ultimately, what this
powerfully archetypal fable of BEM is telling us is
that all men are different but all women are alike;
this is, in fact, the very same Mechanical Bride motif
so successfully explicated by Gershon Legman (in his
1947 monograph “Love and Death”), and, later, Marshall
McLuhan, and both, incidentally, by way of Walter
Benjamin and Germany’s Frankfurt School– though,
given DC Comics’ then-popularity among unreconstructed
rednecks and hillbillies, we might better refer to
this implicit critique-cum-manifesto as perhaps
belonging more to the Frankfort School of Kentucky.
Looking at this fascinating testament nearly 50 years
after the fact still begs the question: Is this a
study in how to capture and keep the Hausfrau of your
sick-and-twisted fantasies, or is it (as I suspect)
merely the wet-dream of an eternally frustrated sexual
6. JUMPING THE SHARK
Time was when people say that such and such a
phenomenon was passé or had “peaked” or was “[way]
past its prime” or was “increasingly irrelevant”.
Perhaps this was during that olden era when junk
culture hadn’t yet thoroughly permeated ever cell of
our polity right down to the molecular level.
Now they say it has ‘jumped the shark’.
I blame Mondale. His 1984 crack about Gary
Hart–“Where’s the beef?”–was the first time the
mindless parroting of an ad slogan was treated by the
media solons as political wit of the highest order.
A far cry from John Randolph’s retort to one of his
detractors, who said that it was fitting and just that
a monster such as himself should be impotent and
therefore could not have children.
“You pride yourself, Sir, on a faculty in which your
slave is your equal, and your ass is your superior.”
Most of the things that people use that expression for
were never really very good to begin with. I mean,
We are free to ignore such trash.
Epictetus said it best:
He is free who lives as he wishes to live; who is
neither subject to compulsion nor to hindrance, nor to
force; whose movements to action are not impeded,
whose desires attain their purpose, and who does not
fall into that which he would avoid. Who, then,
chooses to live in error? No man. Who chooses to live
deceived, liable to mistake, unjust, unrestrained,
discontented, mean? No man. Not one then of the bad
lives as he wishes; nor is he, then, free. And who
chooses to live in sorrow, fear, envy, pity, desiring
and failing in his desires, attempting to avoid
something and falling into it? Not one. Do we then
find any of the bad free from sorrow, free from fear,
who does not fall into that which he would avoid, and
does not obtain that which he wishes? Not one; nor
then do we find any bad man free.
Perhaps I sound elitist.
But such elitism is a luxury.
There was only a brief period in history in which what
we call literature was appreciated by large numbers of
That would have been between about 1820 and (roughly)
The movies began to trivialize the culture by the
1920s and television finished it off in the 50s.
What amazes me, is the number of people who are
willing to argue about popular culture so
passionately. It puts me in mind of magpies scapping
over bits of brightly colored glass and old cigar
I spent years researching the origins of popular
culture for my history thesis, and I hardly think that
stating a bald fact about the peak years of
near-universal literacy among English-speaking peoples
(documented in, among other sources, ‘The Popular
Book’) makes me an elitist.
I guess what I’m trying to say was that at one time
the reading of books was an integral part of the
dialogue surrounding popular culture, but that for
about the past fifty years, with very rare exceptions,
that is no longer the case.
My father’s father came over in about 1921, and for
many years spoke of how he “worked on Mussolini’s
railroad.” I was the first person on either side of my
family to even so much as attend college.
Finally, I don’t think that the refusal to wallow in
regurgitated pap is necessarily a sign of
snobbery–though I am well aware that in an ostensibly
democratic society it may be considered the very
height of elitism to point out just how many of the
icons cherished by the credulous mob are mere idols of
brass, not gold.
Puking on your date.
Exterminating the Kulaks?
Right. Jumped the shark.
Admiring your date’s purse?
Purchasing a book on Gnosticism?
Eating cabbage soup?
Now you’re in the groove!
7. LIFE IN THE 2000’S
The next time you are cleaning nuclear waste from your
genitalia and grousing about how your testicles have
shriveled, think about how things used to be some 500
years ago. Here are some facts about the 2000s:
Most people got “married”, meaning a man and a woman
were supposed to live together for the rest of their
long and miserable lives. They did so year-round
because the fools fancied they were “free to make
their own decisions.” Ha! Pitiful animals!!
Decontaminant baths were primitive, and usually
consisted of a great deal of bleach and some
scrubbing. Pitiful, and nearly useless in removing
radioactive wastes and preventing their accumulation
in the thyroid gland.
These baths essentially consisted of a glorified
shower. Workers were actually trusted to bathe
themselves, thus ensuring that many would skip one or
more crucial steps and spread their radioactive
Primitive stone houses were held together with mortar,
made from common dirt, and, unbelievably, some houses
were actually made of wood–precious wood! Unlike our
modular houses made of plastic byproducts, these
primitive cave-like hovels were often hot in the
summer and cold and draughty in the winter, instead of
being suffused with a warm green glow year-round.
There was nothing to stop insects from entering the
dwellings of these savages. Even mice, rats, raccoons,
birds, bats, and other unspeakable pests were a
Many floors were actually made of wood. Precious wood!
(I swear that all of this is true.)
In those olden times, they actually cooked raw meat
and vegetables, sometimes with the dirt still clinging
to them. You may find it hard to believe that these
primitive animals actually devoured with relish such
“grub” as loathesome root vegetables and reeking meat
and fish, but it’s a fact. Many people had at least
heard of powdered nutrients, but they were regarded as
a novelty; “something the astronauts would eat.”
Sometimes they would even eat pork. Filthy pork!
Those with money would indulge in a ritual called
“eating out”, where filthy strangers would actually
physically handle food cooked in kitchens of dubious
hygiene. People known as “health inspectors” were
forced to regularly close down such places due to
health violations so egregious that even these
primitives could not tolerate them.
People regularly ate staple, water-intensive crops
such as wheat and corn, and even rice. Valuable rice!
They would often intoxicate themselves to
near-insensibility with crude, dangerous stupeficants,
which would, of course, only serve to radically weaken
their immune systems, which made them especially
susceptible to cancers, viruses, radiation poisoning,
Back then, the United States was still considered
vast, and much of it was even thought of as
“underdeveloped.” So it was that the authorities
looked, for the most part, with a lenient eye towards
swarms of alien interlopers who swarmed in from the
far shores of the teeming planet, bringing with them
incurable diseases and exotic customs even more
unspeakably barbaric and primitive than those of the
“native born” Americans. These people were actually
provided with food, jobs, and health care, and in some
instances were even provided with a free education.
All this money spent on harboring fugitives and
interlopers– while the radiation spread and nothing
was done about it!
Sure, today most of us live underground in vast
subterranean cities, and will pass or entire short
existences from hatching to disintegration without
knowing the feeling of sunshine on our cranial
extrusions. Nevertheless, to live in that savage era
when blood ran dripping red down the mouths and chins
of these unspeakably hairy and smelly men and women is
a fate no right-thinking humanoid would wish upon his
If we ever expect long-lasting change, we need a
viable third party.An independent candidate elected or put in place
without party support would be a disaster.Think Tyler. Andrew Johnson. Carter.It’s a sad fact of American politics that the
President can accomplish relatively little without the
backing from some coalition of party stalwarts and
independence-minded opposition party members.
We should look to our past to see how lasting
political changes are made in our polity.
Lincoln and the Republican Party arose out of the
failed Whig party.
Between FDR and LBJ, the modern Democratic Party
evolved from a party that catered to racists to a
party that built its coalition out of a combination of
liberals and minorities.
In both cases, a literal or figurative “new” party had
to arise out of the failed remnants of an old, failed
However, I believe that the Democrats have so
thoroughly compromised themselves in order to remain
viable that if any party is going to “recast” itself,
it will be the Republicans.
And I don’t see that happening for a long, long time.
Therefore, a new party will need to arise that will
appeal to the broadest possible fraction of the
Anything less will cast this putative third party into
the role of a ‘spoiler’ in the electoral arena.
The last viable third parties we had were in the teens
and twenties. In 1912, TR’s Progressives came in
second with about 27% of the vote.
In 1924, La Follette racked up an impressive total in
terms of electoral votes and popular vote.
But even these comparatively successful politicians
were merely spoilers in the two-party race.
Look to Thurmond and Wallace’s 1948 run. Truman pulled
it out in spite of two spoilers in the race, but if
Dewey hadn’t been such a stiff and if Truman’s machine
hadn’t been able to mobilize urban blacks, Truman
would have lost.
Look to Wallace’s run in 1968. He very nearly cost
Nixon the election.
As for Nader and Buchanan in 2000–well, that’s been
discussed to death. The fact is, historians will
probably agree that the Florida election results were
suspect, and Gore got some very bad advice regarding
how to challenge the results.
So. What we need, I think, is a viable third party
structure that will place third party candidates in
Congress. That way, when a President from that party
runs, he can’t be cast as a “mere” spoiler. And, when
that President is elected, he or she will have a party
infrastructure in place that will facilitate
legislative accomplishments and well as the
9. THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
At the risk of sounding like a poor man’s Charles
Peters, I suspect that we don’t need a President. We need a
Pope. Someone of irreproachable moral stature who could rule by fiat
and make this country swallow some bitter medicine.
Hmm, let’s see….
He or she would thereby be able to:
Eliminate the home mortgage interest deduction.
Cut radically back on Pentagon spending and the space
Restore 1960-era tax rates on the wealthy.
And use those savings to:
Forgive third world debt.
Nationalize health care.
Develop clean wind, geothermal, and solar energy
Develop alternatives to the internal combustion
Work on the problem of factory emissions.
Pass an Agriculture bill.
Build up the infrastructure with a WPA-like program
that would employ the underclass (‘steada using them
for cannon fodder).
Build the price of auto insurance into the price of
gasolene, so that the more you drive, the more you
Perhaps this Godlike leader could also break the power
of the Teacher’s unions and get some more classroom
instructors into those schools where they are most
And then break through the tangled morass of special
interest groups and announce that thenceforth those
people who are working to make this country healthy
will be favored, and all others will be forced to wait
their turn at the end of the line. So we bump
environmentalist groups to the front and the NRA all
the way to the back of that line.
But who am I kidding? The American people have
historically always rejected statism except for a
brief period between 1933 and roughly 1938, during a
national emergency so severe that even farmers were
dumping their milk into the streams rather than sell
it for less than what it had cost them to make.
I suspect that most Americans would rather wallow in
their own shit than be compelled in any way to clean
up their act.
Maybe if we could implement these reforms one state at
a time there would be a chance, but there would always
be some holdouts, and, yes, I do mean the Old
Note to people who are still nostalgic about Ross
DO YOU NOT RECALL THAT THE MAN DROPPED OUT OF THE ’92
PRESIDENTIAL RACE BECAUSE HE CLAIMED THAT MEN IN BLACK
HELICOPTERS WERE TRYING TO DISRUPT HIS DAUGHTER’S
That he selected Admiral Stockdale (“Who am I? What am
I doing here?”) as his running mate?
Thet he entered the race largely due to a 20-year old
grudge against George H.W. Bush?
That he claimed he dropped out of the Naval Academy
due to all the “excessive cussing” he was being
That while at IBM, all his employees had to wear blue
shirts? (OK, that actually makes some kind of sewnse
next to the first four items).
Seriously–the man did not play well with others. His
political judgment was highly questionable. His
presidency would most likely have been an unmitigated
disaster. He would have had no standing among
Democrats or Republicans, no political base, and would
likely have gone off like a flash the second he was
criticized in the press. He would have been more
ineffectual than Carter and more paranoid than Nixon.
Speaking of whom, it was good ole Pat Buchanan who
wrote speeches for Nixie and his running mate, Agnew.
When Spiro referred to the Press as “an impudent corps
of effete intellectual snobs” he was using Buchanan’s
rhetoric. Like “cosmopolitan,” I suspect this was code
for “Jews.” Ohh, Nixon and Agnew were pipperoos, all
right. You might not remember how Agnew had the
charming habit of referring to folks as “Polacks” and
Yes, say what you will about the glorious
accomplishments of those colorful political figures of
the early 1970s, folks like Perot and Buchanan were
legendary for their crudity and poor political
Ohh, but here’s the piece de resistance. Earl Butz,
Sec’y of Ag under Nixon and Ford, told a joke on a
plane to some of his confreres.
“What are the three things a black man wants most?
Loose shoes, tight pussy, and a warm place to shit.”
It was none other than John Dean who ratted Butz out
to the Press and Butz was forced to resign!
Funny though–nobody seems to be very upset over the
salty joke that John McCain told about Chelsea
Q: Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?
A: Because she’s the daughter of Hillary Clinton and