MODERN WISDOM: AMERICA’S ONLY HUMOR MAGAZINE
Copyright 2018 Francis DiMenno
1. NOIR MISFORTUNE COOKIES: SECOND SERIES
551. You call yourself an Irish Storyteller but really you are a drunk.
552, They’ll deport you to where they kill people like you on sight.
553. Empty beer bottles will not finance your need to get high.
554. You are a crooked man in a crooked shack, and here comes the rain.
555. You bullied the parents; now their children jeer at you.
556. Piker, where have all your big-shot buddies gone off to?
557. You realized too late that your Guru is insane.
558. Only the most fawning parasites pretend to desire your company.
559. You followed your dream and it led you straight into an open manhole.
560. The Bulls plan to clear their casebook by framing you for everything.
561. Every agreement you hold sacred will be broken repeatedly.
562. Women find you too needy to tolerate for more than five minutes.
563. Seduced by cheap hoodlums, you will end your days in the gutter.
564. You have seen behind the mask and it has driven you insane.
565. Your night terrors persist more and more into your empty days.
566. Your father taught you to steal but he didn’t teach you very well.
567. Stay? they will find you. Flee? They will find you. Surrender–NOW.
568. They’re not listening. You might as well be boasting to an empty room.
569. You will not carry on. For you are carrion.
570. We were born to love one another. But nobody loves you.
571. If Will Rogers met you he would hate you on sight.
572. Even your own relatives have little faith in your wild promises.
573. You think you’re a great detective. But you’re only a schizophrenic.
574. You shouldn’t drink Canada Dry. Start small–with British Columbia.
575. Wipe that grin off your pan, Laughing Boy–the boss don’t like it.
576. You went from Happy Valley to Madport in one precipitiously easy step.
577. You have a million crazy ideas–not one of them will pan out.
578. Is it possible that The Big Man controls your very thoughts? Yes.
579. You will eventually be reincarnated–as a loathsome toadstool.
580. Your temperature and your favorite radio station is 101.4.
581. The truth is not in you for you’re living in a lie.
582. Don’t worry about the Indian, my little man. Worry about yourself.
583. Your baby sister will be corrupted by a loathsome pimp.
584. Most people live in pampered misery. But you’re in real hell.
585. You have the ambition of a giant–and the mind of a midget.
586. Someday very soon they will name a loathsome disease after you.
587. Your mother traded you for a car. A Yugo.
588. Your worship of a stupid strongman will prove your undoing.
589. Everyone avoids you, for your opinions stink of the looming grave.
590. Your stuffy wife divorced you. Now you live in a stuffy room.
591. Junkie, the venal pawnbroker will buy your swag for pennies on the dollar.
592. Lush, the Drunk Train ends up only at Terminal Station.
593. All your grandiose opinions are merely dressed-up received opinion.
594. No matter where you travel, the lonely place is in your heart.
595. You had ideas above your station. Now you’re stranded at the crossroads.
596. You are a small man. The world of big affairs is not for you.
597. Fat, stupid, and ugly–the trifecta of your loneliness.
598. Poor stupid man–you cannot even keep a poor stupid woman.
599. Loser, they won’t even let you join the Failure Club.
600. A frog-faced sexless doughboy like you can never excel.
2. FAILED CAR NAMES
The Ford Pomeranian
The Volvo Cunny
The Chevy Backstabber
The Hyundai Kismet
The Ford Dachau
The Volvo Mantra
The Dodge Ram Make Up Your Mind
The Saturn Chronos: “It will devour your children!”
3. PAPA WAS A ROLLING STONE: THE LOST VERSES
Folks say Papa used to often wore a
Stupid feather-in-the-sweatband Fedora
Folks say Papa had a string of foxy whores
That kept him busy tending to his chores
When it come to lovin’ he must of held a Master’s
Because he fathered ’bout a dozen bastards
Mama I’m dependin’ on you
To tell me the truth
4. LYRICAL HALLUCINATIONS
Cuss me for a fogbound galoot, but I just can’t figure out what in
tarnation our so-called modern troupadours are jawin’ about in their newfangled self-styled “compositions”. Maybe I’m just some sort of relic, but as far as I’m concerned, popular music makers make absolutely no sense a-tall.
I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill…
(An entire hill made of delicious blueberries stretches plausibility. Wouldn’t the blueberries rot? Or be eaten by hungry bears?)
Mel & Tim:
Backfield in motion/I’m going to have to penalize you…
(Difficult–if not, in fact, anatomically impossible.)
Little Peggy March:
I will follow him
Follow him wherever he may go….
(There is at least one type of public facility where it would be
socially inappropriate for Miss March to follow “Him”.)
I’m a big girl now, I’m five.
(Sadly, Miss Streisand is deluding herself. The age of five is at
least three years prior to the age in which a girl can, by popular
consensus, be considered “Big”.)
Nat Gonella & his Georgians:
The music goes round and round…
(Impossible. Music does not travel in a circular pattern.)
Stop! in the name of love
Before you break my heart….
(Medical science has conclusively proven that no instrument short of a metallic bandsaw would be capable of literally breaking apart the involuntary striated musclature of the myocardium.)
Melting the anger to stone oh ho
(Anger is a feeling rather than a physical entity, and, therefore,
cannot quantitatively be affected by enhancements of the ambient
temperature. Furthermore, it has been conclusively demonstrated that, in institutional settings, colors considered “cool” are those most conducive to ameliorating anger.)
Daylight licked me into shape.
(The Sun does not have a tongue. Furthermore, were the sun capable of extending a tongue-like flare some 93 million miles across space, its heat would probably incinerate the earth’s atmosphere, and, consequently, all sentient life on the planet. Far from licking one into shape, such a grotesque phenomenon would undoubtedly prove catastrophic.Furthermore, “light” as described here, does not occupy physical space (as a solid, liquid, or gas might) Therefore, even if a solar flare of catastrophic proportions such as this, it would not, in fact, be light that licked you.)
And when you realize how they tricked you this time
And it’s all lies but I’m strung out on the wire
In these streets of fire
(Assuming a mixture of concrete composed of one part cement and two
parts sand, with added lime and aggregate, the melting point of said “street” would be about 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, which would cause visible destruction of human skin at the site of contact.)
Reverend Gary Davis:
“And the bees made honey in the lion’s head”
(Even allowing for the fact that bees have a decided preference for
constructing their hives in a dark and enclosed space, there would
probably not be adequate room in the skull of a recently deceased lion to fashion a hexagonal structure of the requisite size and shape.)
Philadelphia freedom put me knee-high to a man….
(Actually, not so impossible at all….)
5. A FUNNY JOKE
Strange to say, different nationalities have different notions of what’s funny.
Northern Europeans tend to love anal humor.
A bear and a rabbit are shitting in the woods. The bear says to the
rabbit, “Does shit stick to your fur?” The rabbit says no. So the bear wipes his ass with the rabbit.
One source (which attributes it, almost certainly inaccurately, to
A bear and a rabbit are taking a shit in the woods, the bear turns to the rabbit and says, “Do you have a problem with shit sticking to your fur?” The rabbit says no and the bear wipes his ass with the rabbit.
This, by the way, is a fairly standard old tale–possibly centuries
old, since something similar was cited in GARGANTUA AND
PANTAGRUEL–that appeals to the Anglo-Saxon proclivity for shit jokes.
(For more on this topic, see Gershon Legman, who has written a
two-volume work titled THE RATIONALE OF THE DIRTY JOKE which provides an exhaustive classification of joke motifs.)
Even within the U.S. there are regional tastes in humor. Southerners
go in for incest jokes. Back in 1987 I was doing a set at the Funny
Farm in Louisville Kentucky. The guy who followed me, a policeman (!) told this one and laid ’em in the aisles:
Q: What’s a hillbilly gal say on her first date?
A: “Git off me, Paw, you’re crushin’ my smokes.”
Further South, they seem to go in for bestiality jokes:
Two fellers sittin’ on a porch. Hound dog’s layin’ there, lickin’ his balls. Young Merle says, “I sure wish I could do that.” Old Earl says, “Get to know him, first.”
Underage sex gags are also popular. This is one cited by H. Allen
Smith in his book RUDE JOKES:
Guy and a girl is a motel. Guy casually asks the girl how old she is. She tells him. The guy grabs his clothes and flees. Girl sits on the bed and says, “MEN! They’re so SUPERSTITIOUS!”
6. POPSICLE DAYS AND FUDGSICLE NIGHTS
RNC Drafts Proposal to Make Popsicle Brand Quiescently Frozen Treats the Official National Dessert.
(AP) Washington, DC.
In an emergency press conference this morning, RNC head Ronna Romney McDaniel has recommended that the Popsicle Pops brand of frozen confections be designated our “national dessert.”
“I see this as a bipartisan issue,” said McDaniel. “Because everyone loves delicious Popsicle Brand frozen treats. Even Democratic Socialists. They are an American Classic.”
In a recently-announced rebuttal, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) countered what he referred to as a “cynical gambit” by proposing that Eskimo Pie Brand Ice Cream Sandwiches be designated as the nation’s official dessert. “The Klondike Bar,” said Sanders, “Recalls our ugly record of imperialism and genocide and oppression by the Republican National Socialist Party. But Eskimo Pies,” Sanders added, “Are a Wonderland in Every Bite.”
Both politicians have strenuously denied that intensive lobbying by
representatives of Unilever and Nestle have had anything to do with
7. LYRICAL HALLUCINATIONS, PART TWO
Well, I’ll be switched if’n the overwhelming amount o’ mail from yew galoots–egg-zactly none–didn’t inspire me to explore further the wonderful world of These Kids Today and their downriot DOUR
lyrico-musical outpourin’s, off-scrapin’s, and effusions. Seems to me that back in the Good Old Days the Moon-June-Spoon school was good enough for when Paw was courtin’ aw and was even popular with the sprats and sprouts. But nowadays anymore, all this here recent talk about detachable umnetionables and ladies of easy virtue with advanced cases of στεατοπυγία is–wal, it’s enough to–pardon my French–gag a maggot. Anyhoo, here are some more examples of the consarned, dadgummed, dodblasted, higglety-piggelty, flibber-te-digits and their lowbrow, highfaltin’, so-called “music”.
Does anybody really know what time it is?
Does anybody really care?
I do, assholes
Sunday, Bloody Sunday.
Impossible. Days of the week do not bleed.
“While the Pope owns 51% of General Motors…”
No, he doesn’t.
“I don’t have a gun”
Well, actually, you had at least one, and that, apparently, was one too many.
“So pay respect to the black fist
Or we’ll burn your store right down to a crisp.”
Contrary to Mr. Cube’s rather gruesomely strenuous asseverations, it would be impossible to configure an act of arson in such a way as to guarantee the reduction of a Korean merchant’s establishment to the state of a “crisp”.
“Someone saved my life tonight/ Sugar bear.”
What in hell does poor SUGAR BEAR have to do with it???
“Don’t let the sun go down on me.”
Even assuming the sun’s proclivities were in that direction, I suspect that noshing on Reg Dwight’s ding-dong would not be high on that celestial body’s list of things-to-do.
“He was born a pauper to a pawn on a Christmas day
When the New York Times said God is dead
And the war’s begun
Alvin Tostig has a son today”
1) The New York Times did not say “God Is Dead”. It was Time Magazine, and the cover line was “Is God Dead?”
Incidentally, Nietzsche said it too–in 1882.
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?
BUT ALSO SEE:
2) No wars began during the week in which that cover came out (April 6, 1966), although the United States invaded the Dominican republic later that month.
3) What in blue blazes does the Earl of Wessex have to do with anything?
“(I Just) Died in Your Arms Last Night”
Although the narrator in this case may have been speaking
metaphorically, and referring to what is traditionally known as “le
petit mort” (the little death) of the orgasmic experience,
nonetheless, impressionable children might be given the mistaken
impression that it is the ever-present but little-spoken-of
sex-and-death nexus traditional to American mass entertainment since the post-1945 era that is being referenced.
Such a conflation of sexual activity with violent death has been shown by commentators (M.McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride; G. Legman, Love and Death; F. Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent) to be a prime mover in the creation of a warped sexuality which leads, inexorably, to a society of passive spectacle and the disintegration of the nuclear family.
“Every breath you take, I’ll be watching you”
Clearly, the narrator is Santa Claus. (“He sees you when you’re
sleeping/He knows when you’re awake….”)
“Jesus, Take the Wheel”
Even in the unlikely event that the mummified 1,976 year old corpse of the historic Jesus of Nazareth still actually existed, it would, it goes without saying, be of little use in averting an automotive
Incidentally, the enormous popularity of this song has led to several, little known, sequels:
Jesus, Assist Me With My Taxes
Jesus, Help Me Hammer in the Nails
Jesus, Help Me Geeze the Spike
Jesus, Show Me How To Use Windows Vista
I’m Sorry, Jesus, But I Have to Put You On Hold
8. PLEASE DON’T HATE MY GOOD FRIEND JESUS
I say unto the skeptics: There is no reason to hate Jesus, my friends.
It would be very noble of you not to further hurt the feelings of our Saviour.
But we are all human, and are sometimes tempted by the forces of chaos.
And so was He.
Forgiveness is yours, if you will seek it.
Just as Christ healed the lame, so Easter shows there is salvation for even the most crippled soul.
For truly, we live in two worlds: the world of logic, and the world of the unseen.
And truly, we must not blame ourselves for any evils which may befall us, and will not do so once we realize that we are all dust and are therefore merely a very small part of a much larger plan.
Even so, my friends, always remember that there are certain things
that are too sacred to be mocked by self-styled “rebels”.
You may choose to mock Jesus, but remember this: He was beaten to a
pulp for you.
I address myself in particular to the skeptical younger crowd.
Remember: Jesus was “cool”.
You might even say that He was the original “punk rocker”
His piercings were his crown of thorns.
He allowed himself to be mutilated.
He sought to see the truth behind the lies.
And He bravely spoke out against all the big authority figures.
There is such a thing as karma, my friends. There truly is. Even for a Saviour.
His karma is to be despised by those who cannot fathom the karmic
wheel of reward and retribution.
Let us conclude by concluding.
Oh, His plan is far more subtle than we can fathom.
Remember, my rash friends: there is no reason to despise the messenger
For, “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country”.–Matt. 13:57
9. AN OPEN LETTER TO THE ALPHA HOBO OF HARVARD SQUARE
Clearly, Sir, you are an eater of Ramen noodles with perpetually bloodshot eyes who parrots Rush Limbaugh, buys booze in bottles with plastic handles, pays for sex, owns a post office box to receive clandestine porn, harbors plates of food under your ratty sofa that you dug from a trash heap, sleeps 15 hours a day on a mattress on the floor, wears elastic waist jeans, sports an ironic beard, and never misses his daily viewing of “The Yogi Bear program”. I am sure you are the semi-homeless man I saw digging food from the trash can in the dumpster alley near where the Tower Records store used to be. You also have extensive personal experience with the phenomenon known as cock burn,
My guess is that you are also an eater of Beefaroni straight out of the can, you always scratch your balls in public whether any “pretty ptitsas” are watching you or not, and you think that Howard Stern is totally original and “really out there” and wil divulge this fascinating information to anyone who cares to listen.
For a treat, you raid convenience store “leave a penny-take a penny” bins until you have accumulated eleven cents, and then you gather up 36 discarded empty bottles, then take the ensuing funds and invest in one stick of store brand butter ($0.74), and, for solace, late at night, spread it inches thick on day-old store brand white bread ($1.17), and then lay back in bed, slowly chewing, in an ecstasy of starch and fat.
Your favorite song is “Theme to ‘Wally Gator’,” and you never miss your daily reading of The Boston Herald, which, to your infinite credit, you always contrive to fish out of a trash can. You are also known to go trolling around the hidden dumpster at Finagle a Bagel and retrieve bag-fulls of the day’s leavings. On a rainy day you examine closely the bin books at Goodwill on the off-chance that someone might have left a twenty-spot in one of them.
10. TO A SPYMASTER DYING OLD (1)
“Spargere voces in vulgum ambiguas.”–Vergil (2)
Not long from the Merry Maypole, nor far
From where he spent his childhood and his days,
Director Hoover (3) crossed the bourne of life
The second morn of May. (4) Condolences
Varied. “Jesus Christ! That old cocksucker!”
The President replied. (5) And “Are you sure?” (6)
But pundits, solons, hangers-on agreed:
“The ending of an era.” Pep was gone. (7)
Speed had run his race. (8) King Pandion
Was dead–and all his friends were filled with dread. (9)
(1) An allusion to A.E. Housman’s “To an Athlete Dying Young,” which begins:
The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.
For the full text SEE:
(2) Translation: “To scatter doubtful rumors among the common people.”
(3) “The Director” was the long time nickname of FBI Director J.Edgar
Hoover. See Gentry, et al.
(4) May first, traditionally known as “May Day”, was a Communist
Holiday. The irony could not have escaped Hoover as he lay dying on
the evening of May 1st.
(6) “At his death, then President Richard Nixon had Hoover’s office and its
contents sealed for several months. Reports are that Nixon’s first
reaction to being told of Hoover’s death was, ‘Are you sure?'”
(7) Allegedly, John Edgar Hoover’s nickname as a teen marching cadet was “Pep”.
(8) Another allusion to Housman. Also, Hoover’s nickname as a 12-year old grocery delivery boy was “Speed”. See Gentry, et al. Later, as assistant director of the (then) Bureau of Investigation, perhaps not coincidentally, Hoover named his beloved Cairn Terrier “Spee De Bozo.” (Experts differ on the spelling.) Terriers and Beagles were Hoover’s favored breeds. LBJ owned a Beagle he named “J.Edgar”, the dog was a gift from the Director. (“J Edgar” replaced the Presidential Beagle “Him”, who was “run over and killed on the White House grounds”.)
(9) A play on “An Ode,” a poem by Richard Barnfield (1574–1627):
As it fell upon a day
In the merry month of May…
Every thing did banish moan,
Save the nightingale alone.
She, poor bird, as all forlorn,
Lean’d her breast up-till a thorn
And there sung the doleful’st ditty,
King Pandion, he is dead…
All thy friends are lapp’d in lead…
11. UGLY POETRY
“The poetry of the 20th century is principally to be found in the
explication of the profoundly ugly.”
The process of which, in and of itself, can be beautiful.
This is also a statement regarding aesthetics.
I mean to signify, ala the Frankfurt School, that there is a quality of the 20th century which obliges artists to wrestle art and beauty from ugliness and strife.
A hasty reader might conclude that I am somewhat baldly stating that 20th century poetry is ugly.
Even I would not be so rash.
I have wandered widely if not wisely in the English poetic tradition, having studied under Robert Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Bishop.
Elizabeth Bishop was a remarkable teacher who made us actually
memorize poems. She was particularly eloquent regarding the merits of Robert Frost and Wallace Stevens. Also, Thomas Hardy.
Is the following not eminently fine? Especially “…down the
diminishing platform bore…”?
ON THE DEPARTURE PLATFORM
We kissed at the barrier; and passing through
She left me, and moment by moment got
Smaller and smaller, until to my view
She was but a spot;
A wee white spot of muslin fluff
That down the diminishing platform bore
Through hustling crowds of gentle and rough
To the carriage door.
Under the lamplight’s fitful glowers,
Behind dark groups from far and near,
Whose interests were apart from ours,
She would disappear,
Then show again, till I ceased to see
That flexible form, that nebulous white;
And she who was more than my life to me
Had vanished quite . . .
We have penned new plans since that fair fond day,
And in season she will appear again –
Perhaps in the same soft white array –
But never as then!
– “And why, young man, must eternally fly
A joy you’ll repeat, if you love her well?”
–O friend, nought happens twice thus; why,
I cannot tell!
It can be argued that 20th Century Modernism was, to some significant
degree, a reaction against Romanticism and other movements that
followed it. Romanticism in turn was a reaction, in part, against the
industrial revolution. (As was once said of Donovan: “As the world
about me rages/I’ll go back to the middle ages.” See “Magical Misery
Tour” by Michael O’Donoghue, illus. Randall Enos, in National Lampoon
#19, October 1971.)
Compare Hardy to John Clare:
I am: yet what I am none cares or knows,
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death’s oblivion lost;
And yet I am! and live with shadows tost
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
And e’en the dearest–that I loved the best–
Are strange–nay, rather stranger than the rest.
I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smil’d or wept;
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below–above the vaulted sky.
And Clare to Blake:
I wander through each chartered street,
Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet,
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.
In every cry of every man,
In every infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forged manacles I hear:
How the chimney-sweeper’s cry
Every blackening church appals,
And the hapless soldier’s sigh
Runs in blood down palace-walls.
But most, through midnight streets I hear
How the youthful harlot’s curse
Blasts the new-born infant’s tear,
And blights with plagues the marriage-hearse.
This whole wrestling-of-beauty from ugliness, din and strife is far
from a uniquely 20th-century phenomenon. But whereas some sort of
pre-Industrial Arcadia may have lingered in the living tradition of
Blake, Clare, and even Hardy, we are, I am convinced, growing ever
further away from a pre-Industrial mindset. To do so, we actually have
to travel back, if solely in our minds, because we can simply no
longer remember back.