MODERN WISDOM: AMERICA’S ONLY HUMOR MAGAZINE
Copyright 2018 Francis DiMenno
1. NOIR MISFORTUNE COOKIES
251. Like all chumps, you had to play the big shot for a frail.
252. Grifter, your fitted suits now hang baggy on your wasted frame.
253. You were young once. You will not live to be wise.
254. They will write songs about you. Murder ballads, evil one.
255. She will have Champagne eyes–and a cocaine heart.
256. Even a dog knows how to circle round three times and lay down.
257. Jesus died for the sins of all mankind–but you are no man.
258. You are not an inflatable clown–stay down when they slug you, Punchy.
259. Your wife is a model of rectitude–in your bed.
260. Like most Americans, you do not tip the vindictive Chinse Buffet server.
261. You were beaten in a beauty contest by a Jack O’Lantern.
262. Parce que vous ne pouvez pas lire ceci, vous devez mourir.
263. Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again. But you won’t.
264. The collector of souls ignores you. For yours was sold long ago.
265. Shadow man, don’t you know the truth is the light?
266. You will eat bitter bread and even salt shall lose its savor.
267. You never got over it. It has gotten over on you.
268. Gambler, you’ll never win. In Hell the horses will bet on you.
269. Why doth the heathen rage? Probably because of you.
270. Nothing makes sense anymore, least of all your career.
271. Don’t worry. You’ll pay off your debts. In thirty years. Then die.
272. Many ways to nearly die: You will experience them all.
273. The train leaves at noon. But you won’t live that long.
274. Your face is healed; your mannerisms–betray the Mark of the Squealer.
275. Apologize all you want. The Big Man wants his money yesterday.
276. The contract on your life has been cancelled, for you’re quickly killing yourself.
277. Those speedballs you’re so fond of have killed younger men than you.
278. The only medicine that keeps you sane is no longer being made.
279. You are never alone but are haunted by evil thoughts.
280. Your new boss’s nickname is “No Excuses Man”.
281. Three things cannot long be hidden: The sun, the moon, and your treachery.
282. At the Big Man’s feast you will unwittingly eat your last meal.
283. Buddha was The Enlightened One. You are the enfrightened one.
284. Man is wolf to man, but you are merely a stupid fox.
285. Men of means build castles in the air. You build a sewer.
286. You don’t care if the world caves in. You live in a cave.
287. Poe is your Shakespeare and your Milton is Lovecraft.
288. In the word desire you will find the word “die”.
289. If only someone had loved you. But you are the unlovable one.
290. Halfwit, you have eaten the husk and thrown away the tamale.
291. You have lived on scraps for long enough. Soon you must starve.
292. You call it ‘wit’. But they call it ‘shit’.
293. The fugitive you harbored will kill again and you’ll be blamed.
294. That dog you stole belonged to the Police Chief’s daughter.
295. You keep the Big man’s books. But there’s no accounting for death.
296. Some men have greatness thrust upon them–in prison.
297. America’s most wanted psycho knows where you live.
298. Caution: Acts of God Are Closer Than They Appear
299. The world has meaning. Your life alone is meaningless.
300. Prison is where you act the best and are treated the worse.
2. ALL POLITICAL FANATICS MUST IMMEDIATELY BE DESTROYED!
Bob Hope, confronted by protesters at the 1971 Miss World Pageant,
remarked, “Anyone who wants to disrupt something as beautiful as this
must be on some kind of dope. The perpetrators will pay for this.
Upstairs will see to that.”–Gerard J. DeGroot, “The Sixties Unplugged,” p. 288.
I MUST HUMBLY CONFESS that I am steadily growing to strongly dislike
all people who see every single thing as some sort of excuse to have a
Surely you must know the types–common, everyday nobodies–folks who
somehow feel like they deserve some kind of an award for not being a
Sanctimonious, self-righteous bastards, refusing to work for Hitler
Incorporated and declining to fuel the Amerikkkan death machine.
I long to smash in all their smug faces.
Always babbling about such archaic notions as “individual choice” and
“the freedom to refuse.”
They must be forced to break stones for the new economy until they
collapse into a numbed stupor.
No time clocks, indeed!
Who do these filthy hippies think they are?
I’ll bet they’re be sorry when the boys upstairs get wind of their shenanigans.
These bohemians and their left-handed cigareets make muh haid spin.
Listen, you parasites: I got news for ya.
Some people see things as they are and say, “Why?”
I see things that never were and say, “Die, you blood-sucking freaks–die!!!”
Maybe if some of you beatniks took a cold bath, you might wake up out
of your wacky tobaccy stupor and earn an honest living instead of
mooching off my hard-earned tax dollar and gumming at the teat of
God speed that day.
3. CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS FOR MESSAGE BOARDS
GOOD BANK ROBBING STORIES
MY GIRLFRIENDS ARE UGLIER THAN YOURS
BURLY MEN WHO FRIGHTEN ME
SCIENCE FICTION MAKES ME TIRED
HUNTER S. THOMPSON WAS OVERRATED
PHILIP K. DICK IS JUST ANOTHER HACK
AYN RAND HAD SOME INTERESTING IDEAS
I BLAME THE COMMUNISTS
I AM GIVING AWAY ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS
CDS SOUND BETTER THAN VINYL
ROCKTOBEARFEST: WHO’S GOING?
UNCLE PRIEST MADE MY TONSILS HURT
BABY CRIES, MAMA BUYS
I COULD BE LIKE JESUS
COMEDOS–PRO AND CON
THE LAFFTER OF DEAD KLOWNS
MY GHETTO WAS MORE IMPOVERISHED THAN YOURS
HOW TO DIE IN THE WOODS
I SUFFER FOOLS GLADLY
THE BEAUTIFUL LONELY OLD CAT LADY
4. WHY CAN’T YOU BE LIKE THE REST OF THE WORLD AND SHUT UP?
Walk it off and quit yer blubberin’, chief.
Man up, Cowboy. We all got a hard row to hoe.
Get some seeds.
Buck up, Bucko.
Wipe the water out from behind your ears and get biz-zay.
Suck it up, Bohunk. The world will turn without you.
Less Talkee, More Workee, Cabin Boy.
Get a clue, Lifer. Let your hair down.
Sleep in the grave, Noddy. Hustle hustle hustle!
Quit slurpin’ them onion rings, Lard, and get a move on.
Hit it or quit it, L7.
Unglue your ass from that sofa and get your shit together.
And remember: Coffee is for closers only.
5. POLITICAL SATIRE
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find “G. Gordon Liddy, Agent of C.R.E.E.P.”,
from the October 1973 issue of National Lampoon, with its immortal
line, “Smoke this, Hippie!”
Speaking of political views:
Satire is intrinsically conservative. By definition, it seeks to
rectify what the satirist perceives as folly.
I’ll not bore folks here with distinctions such as Horatian and
Juvenalian satire, but you can look it up.
I recently read this passage from Saul Bellow’s Herzog:
“I took a list of the traits of paranoia from a psychiatrist
recently–I asked him to jot them down for me…. It read, “Pride,
Anger, Excessive ‘Rationality,’ Homosexual Inclinations,
Competitiveness, Mistrust of Emotion, Inability to Bear Criticism,
Hostile Projections, Delusions. It’s all there–all!” (77)
Again, this seems to me a nearly letter-perfect description of Maoism.
Specifically, that right thar is a classic depiction of a
paranoid Maoist totalitarian state, replete with bureaucracy and
And of all totalitarian states.
It’s funny how certain narratives resonate for decades after their
vogue has passed.
Take, for instance, Theodore Dreiser’s 1925 novel An American Tragedy.
What is it, after all, but the dark lady/fair lady archetype?
And what is, say, Archie Comics, but merely the comedic version of An
All this stuff seems, and is, I’m quite willing to concede, peripheral.
But just as “nature loves to hide,” so do these patterns and archetypes.
They pervade the stories we tell each other.
And the narratives that politicians spin.
We don’t think logically. True, we are partially civilized. We have,
on the one hand, partially evolved beyond our basest fight-or-flight
instincts and are capable of planning for the future.
And yet, when it comes to making choices, we mostly remain enslaved by
our gut reactions.
Because we’re still swayed by emotional responses to what should be
calculated cost-benefit analyses.
All these light/dark, rich/poor, conservative/liberal arguments are
reductive and irrational.
That’s not to say that watching all this from the perch of a
self-styled satirist isn’t enormous fun.
I knew three bullies with names almost too good to be true.
I have since been informed that the following individuals named below
were also known as bullies:
Cad? Sounds like an S.E. Hinton heavy. Rich boy, but a real shtarker.
The notion of a bully named “Buddy” is almost too painfully ironic.
The last name is almost too good. Nearly as good as Danny Boss and Rex
Mounts. Is it possible that there’s something about their names that
inclines boys to take up the occupation of bullies? Coincidentally,
only today someone told me about a horror writer with the suspiciously
eerie name of Bentley Little.
In my 6th grade at Northview Heights Elementary and Middle School
there was a bully girl named Sirlus Newton.
Then there’s Archie Comics’ “Big Moose”, based–as all the characters
were–on real people living in Haverhill, Massachusetts.
But I have to admit that the name that tops them all is:
I’ll say it again.
7. LOOK ON MY WORKS, YE MIGHTY, AND DESPAIR
“Novelists tend to be satisfied with being overestimated.”–R. Smoley
Who will be remembered in 50 years?
Possibly Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” and Norman Mailer’s “The
Plus Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian.”
Martin Amis? Salman Rushdie?
Saul Bellow? Graham Greene? Philip Roth, perhaps?
Now, some might argue that the like of Tom Clancy is far more
interesting than, say, Kit Marlowe. (Well, as far as “Tamburlaine the
Great” is concerned, they may be right. I know that play well. Thirty
years ago, as a college undergraduate, I wrote a nasty essay about the
sequel and got into a 20 minute telephone argument with a grad
assistant. Incidentally, the sequel’s even worse than part one.) Even
Marlowe’s continuing fame rests on his status with his medium; to wit,
But let’s face it–Clancy has degenerated into a fucking hack who
panders to jarheads and militia nuts. His loving descriptions of
armament are gun porn for impotent wankers.
I have no time to discuss the many aesthetic dimensions of this controversy.
But kindly name me the bestselling authors of 1958.
See what I mean?
Perhaps one or two are remembered at all.
For instance, Boris Pasternak and Vladimir Nabokov.
Anyway, for every “Catch-22” there are a hundred novels from that era
about which the best can be said is “such crap it was”.
As for 100 years ago, forget it:
What prompts these cynical thoughts?
I am looking at the current NYTBR fiction bestsellers.
And reflecting that hardly one of those people will be remembered in 50 years.
Hardly a one.
And in 100 years?
8. WHAT TO NAME THE BABY
Mistah Beefy ‘n’ Chewy
Rollo the Rich Kid
X the Unknown
Big Chief Hug ‘Em and Kiss ‘Em
9. WORST COMIC STRIPS EVER
‘For Better or For Worse’ strip to change Monday
Published Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Readers of the popular comic strip “For Better or For Worse” Creator
Lynn Johnston announced she will draw the comic strip in the style she
used 29 years ago when the Patterson family first appeared on comic
pages. Johnston will start retelling their story from the beginning,
blending half of the classic original strips with new material.
Great. Now it’ll be half mediocre drawing and half incredibly bad drawing.
Sappy and sentimental, For Better or For Worse, like Sydney Smith’s
“The Gumps,” will be all but forgotten in 50 years.
My nominees for The Worst Comic Strip Ever:
Hi and Lois.
Adam @ Home.
Hagar the Horrible.
“Pluggers,” in particular has, in the words of Eric Doberman, caused
me to unleash the fury for years.
It’s smug agitprop.
Always hated it.
That sort of anti-art has roused my ire since at least 1977.
I’m reminded of the time Groucho Marx was tripping with Paul Krassner.
Groucho said something very wise.
“I’m really getting quite a kick out of this notion of playing God
like a dirty old man in Skidoo. You wanna know why? Do you realize
that irreverence and reverence are the same thing?”
“If they’re not, then it’s a misuse of your power to make people laugh”
And right after he said that, his eyes began to tear.
If you’re on the lookout for comic strip artists who had major
neuroses, not to mention the outright space-cases, you might want to
look up Ham Fisher, Al Capp, Chester Gould , Elzie Segar and Harold
Gray, and that’s just for starters.
Fisher was a narcissist in a league all his own.
Capp’s entire career was defined by self-loathing.
Gould’s strips were unspeakably ghoulish and cruel.
Segar published some of the most hilariously vulgar stuff ever. In 1939!
And Harold Gray was such a paleoconservative that, after FDR died, he
had Daddy Warbucks come back from the dead!
(“There’s a change in the weather,” said ‘Daddy’.)
Check out Don Markstein’s toonopedia for more info on the creators of
Joe Palooka, L’il Abner, Dick Tracy, Thimble Theatre, and Little
Comics Between the Panels also dishes some of the dirt:
And this is quite possibly the best book ever written about Al Capp:
Incidentally, I wonder if Al Capp ever dropped acid?
We do know he had a fascination with mushrooms:
And what of the sinister conspiracy between Capp, Sinatra, Karloff,
Dali and Gleason?
The Dali-Gleason connection is that the former designed an album cover
for the latter. Also, Gleason and Sinatra were portrayed hanging out
together in the first (and only worthwhile) chapter of DeLillo’s
TERRIFYING ME THROUGH VISIONS
“Then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifying me through visions;
so that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my
life.”– Job xvii.,14-15.
I had an odd dream this morning.
I was in a bar in Somerville, MA.
I saw a woman working there who I knew from years ago.
She was currently in an all-female band called:
She thanked me for suggesting the name of her previous band:
THE TRAITOR ROLLS.
I left the bar and went looking for my car.
It was gone.
I tore out a portion of cyclone fence and screamed:
I HATE YOU SOMERVILLE!
I walked into a comic book store, looking for a phone to call the
police, and a friend of mine was behind the counter.
And then I woke.
11. MOVIE OF THE WEEK
TO SIRHAN, WITH LOVE
Hypnotised Palestinian assassin falls in love with saucy British high
school student. Doctor who hypnotized him brags about it afterward.
12. ERIC CARMEN ARRESTED FOR DRUNK DRIVING
You know–the lead singer for the 70s band Raspberries.
Now, let me say this: I fully acknowledge the greatness of the Raspberries.
They’re like the Beach Boys with Meth Mouth.
I say Beach Boys for the close Harmonies, and meth mouth for their
faint but omnipresent aura of white trashiness.
Because there has always been something ineffably sweet but also
faintly sordid about the Raspberries. Listening to them is like
watching Donald Duck blowing teamsters down by the docks for chump
For where they stand in the realm in cheap, infinitely disposable, but
somehow hypnotically relevant background noise gives them a tripartite
They were the soundtrack to the lives of the young boomers who were
born between 1956 and 1964 who were too young to be hippies, yet too
old to be punks.
Off in the city theirs was the perfect music for stoner drunks because
it was both sweet and lowdown, and it went down like Romilar doctored
Yet it could also serve as the theme music playing in the background
as the Hillbilly gal in the shotgun shack turned to her first date and
said, “Git off me Paw; yer crushin’ muh smokes.”
Fellow musician Tim Mungenast says “‘Go All the Way’ is stentorian in
a good way. The beef-and-taters band is an effective counterweight to
Eric’s good-but-whispy voice. As my brother said when the heavy middle
section of that song kicked in, ‘Wow, now it sounds like they’ve got a
The Rasbs are subtle.
But in an obvious way.
The arrangements are key.
You can tell they worked hard on them.
And that’s the problem.
It’s supposed to seem transparent.
Like good acting.
Scenery-chewing pleases the rubes, but the cognoscenti will always
disproportionately value restraint.
I get the same trailer-trashiness vibe from Heart.
Anyway, I’ll always have a soft spot for “Go All the Way.”
And, God help me, “Bird of Prey” by Uriah Heep. (Until the CD reissue,
it was available only on the import-only version of “Salisbury”.)
Anyway, I suspect that when accused of drunk driving, Eric leaned out
the window of the car with his whiskey breath, looked at the arresting
officer and crooned:
“It feels so right….”
13. THE STORY OF YOUR FAVORITE BAND
1) Years of struggle.
2) A few years of cult success.
3) A few years of mainstream success.
4) Several years of decline.
5) Break-up. Frontman goes solo. Years of obscurity. Reunion. Then:
a) Touring the oldies circuit, or
b) Scattering to the four winds.