Sunday, January 6, 2013

Popcorn by The Colonel #24: "Who Let the Dogs of War Out?"

Epigraph: "Fruit flies are the nanotechnology of the fear industry." --Bucky Katt

"It's good to enjoy the world's esteem, better to be underestimated." --Mark Bowden

"Vowels are really very important." --Tree Fanatic

Retaliatory plagiarism: "What's source for the goose is source for the gander."

Why put on mascara every day when you're in a mental hospital?

"General consensus" is redundant, but outranks The Colonel.

Lovely simile: "as discreetly silent as Scheherezade when she saw the dawn appear."

(Safire: "Let a Simile Be Your Umbrella.")

Lovely metaphor: "a gentle tributary of conjecture flows from [a gap in the history of the numeral zero]."

("Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a metaphor?" --Marshall McLuhan)

Lovely almost-the-right-word: "Fomenting at the mouth."

From the list of celebrity siblings: Tab Hunter's brother Vampire.

"Melancholia Enshrines All Triumph" --Iain Banks

"Pinheads love to throw bowling balls into the abyss at the end of the lanes." --Bill Griffith

"One for my master, one for my dame, one for the little boy who cries down the lane." (Emphasis added.) The Colonel's English Nana (b. Liverpool, 1875) recited "Ba-Ba Black Sheep" with that ending, but in the oldest attested version and the modern version, the little boy lives down the lane. Nevertheless, the third oldest attested version says "none for the little boy who cries in the lane." "Cry" used to mean "hawk, peddle, (loudly) offer for sale," a sense that survives in auctions, as in "The Crying of Lot 49," the title of a book by Thomas Pynchon. (In auctions, a "lot" is one or more articles offered as an item for bidding.) So the crying boy may have been not a weeper, but a vendor, perhaps kin to Sweet Molly Malone, who wheeled her wheelbarrow through streets wide and narrow in Dublin's fair city. 

The State of Connecticut no longer issues barber's licences -- existing ones are grandfathered. That's one reason you don't see young barbers.

The ionosphere is not our only protection from cosmic rays. The solar wind also provides a little.

A human tossed into the vacuum of space would probably not suffocate from lack of air, but explode like a sea-bottom life form brought to the surface too quickly. So wear your gol-dang space suit when you step outside your space ship.

Appealing song lyric: "I knew you were trouble but I had to have you anyway."

To the question "Where did everything come from?" three basic answers exist: (1) singularity (creation); (2) infinite regression (turtles all the way down); and (3) cyclical circle (daisy chain). The modern mind dislikes all three, as well as two others: Parmenides' position that the principle of noncontradiction rules out the possibility of all change and motion, which must therefore be illusory, mere penumbrae of eternal stasis, and Herakleitos' seemingly opposite view that "everything flows" and "you can't step into the same river twice."

"And this little turtle cried 'Whee! Whee! Whee!' all the way down." Could this be the battle cry of those who believe that everything came from Turtle Splat?

The pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Herakleitos has long been known as "the dark one" for lots of reasons, one of which may be that we haven't any copies of his work, only quotations in works of others, so we are left to reconstruct his philosophy. This wouldn't account for why his contemporaries called him "the dark one," nor would it distinguish him from other ancient authors known only through fragments, quotations, and comments. In a way, calling him "the dark one" is terribly unfair. He was the very model of openness and transparency, depositing his tripartite magnum opus "On Nature" (nature, politics, theology) into the great temple of Artemis (the Artemisium, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world) where anyone could come and read it without filing a freedom of information request. There it stayed for centuries, much consulted and so accessible that apparently nobody made a copy, so it suffered the fate that the only manuscript of Beowulf just barely dodged.

Wikipedia tells the story of his demise thus: "Heraclitus' [Romanized spelling] life as a philosopher was interrupted by dropsy. The physicians he consulted were unable to prescribe a cure. He treated himself with a liniment of cow manure and baking in the sun, believing that this method would remove the fluid. After a day of treatment he died and was interred in the marketplace." Unfortunate use of the word "interred," one thinks, but let it pass, let it pass.

Okay, don't let it pass: 

"There was a young fellow named Hyde

Who fell through an outhouse and died
His unfortunate brother
Fell through another
And now they're interred side by side."

"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die." --Mel Brooks

"It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose yours." --Harry Truman. Great minds think alike?

Doctors in nursery rhymes: 

"I do not like thee, Dr. Fell

The reason why I cannot tell
But this I know and know full well
I do not like thee, Dr. Fell." 


"Doctor Foster went to Gloucester

In a shower of rain
He stepped in a puddle up to his middle
And never went there again." 

The latter item offers evidence that "rain" and "again," and "puddle" and "middle" used to be rhyming pairs. One wonders whether "puddle" was pronounced like "middle" or vice versa.

On the theory that this far down the column is the functional equivalent of after 10 p.m., here's an old joke: A man is in line to buy airline tickets. The airline representative is a generously endowed young woman, and the man says, "I'd like two pickets to Tittsburgh, please." At once he turns beet red and says, "I'm so sorry, I meant no offense, it was a slip of the tongue." The young woman assures him that she took no offense. The second man in line comforts the first, saying, "Pal, don't think twice about it -- it happens to us all from time to time. Why just this morning at breakfast, I meant to say to my wife, 'Please pass the butter,' but to my chagrin, what came out of my mouth was, 'YOU RUINED MY LIFE, YOU BITCH!'"

According to a fragment of an ancient pyramidic scroll, that joke originated with Herakleitos, only it involved two admission tickets to the Artemisium to see the special "Falling Turtles" exhibit. Had to BCE to be believed.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Bobrick said...

Fun fact:

"I Do Not Love Thee, Dr. Fell" was inspired by a short poem by the Roman author Martial (born c.40 AD, died c.100 AD). He is considered the master of the Latin epigram.

As Martial would never say, here ya go:

Martial I, 32:
Non amo te, Sabidi;
nec possum dicere quare.
Hoc tantum possum dicere:
non amo te.

Literal translation:

I do not love you, Sabidius,
nor can I say why.
This much I can say:
I do not love you.

And yes, Tree Fanatic, bowels are very important. Consonants, too.