Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Heffalump in the Room -- Popcorn by The Colonel #34

   Always one to cave in to requests, The Colonel has brought back the ever-popular unrelated nonsense paragraph openers. 

    Gallimaufry Salmagundi Spondee. In the Webster Bank branch at 163 Main Street, there is a clock high on the wall. It has Roman numerals around its face, but no hands -- “Zen alarm clock” style. (“Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care about time?”). Another feature of interest: the first four hours are shown as progressively fatter rectangles instead of as distinct numbers. Do the schools still teach Roman numerals? Do the schools teach analog time?

    Hiram Tick marries Melissa Borne and they become the Tick-Bornes. Although the usual form of "four" in Roman numerals is “IV” (one short of five = four), on clocks four is often shown as “IIII,” supposedly to avoid possible confusion between “IV” and “VI” when both are arranged in a circle.

    Most of all, I remember Mama. Pop quiz (subject: speculative alternative history): Which of the following would have done the most to save (or slow the decline of) the Western Roman Empire? Give the reason or other good-faith motivation for your answer.

(a) Arabic numerals, which would have allowed multiplication and long division, making Roman armed forces invincible;

(b) double-entry bookkeeping, which would have made profitability transparent, enabling smarter, nimbler deployments of investment capital;

(c) casualty insurance, which would have made commerce less risky and so spurred economic growth,  

(d) tax reform, so that crushing land-based taxes wouldn't have encouraged abandonment of land and depopulation of Imperial borderlands, encouraging barbarian incursion and settlement;

(e) honest coinage instead of gold debased with cheaper metals;

(f) political reform to replace military dictatorship with something more sustainable;

(g) greater coordination with the Eastern Roman Empire, seated in Constantinople, which lasted a thousand years after the fall of Rome, so it apparently had a clue or two;

(h) the conquest of Ireland and the dispersion of the Irish throughout northern Europe to sow confusion among the unsuspecting barbarians;

(i) more bunga-bunga to keep the population up;

(j) a Martial Plan to encourage the hurling of epigrams at the enemy;

(k) much more ruthless and systematic suppression of heresy;

(l) return to the worship of the Olympian gods under whose protection the Empire first came to be, and  whose sulking may have accounted for the adverse turn of Imperial fortunes;

(m) mass conversion to monotheistic Judaism, combined with redirecting to border defenses the savings from no longer paying retail for togas;  

(n) improving morale by dropping mandatory Latin from the curriculum.

      If you have to ask, you don’t wanna know. Did you know that the English word “slave” and the Italian salutation “ciao!” have a common derivation? Hint: the hello/goodbye “ciao” originally meant something like “your servant.”

    His toaster works, but the slots are empty. Have you heard about the Harvard disease, Veritis? It’s the itching, burning sensation caused by contact with uncomfortable truth. The symptoms of the Yale disease are even worse: Flux and Veritis.

    My ’and was made strong by the ’and of the Halmighty. A reader writes: “My name’s Ed. What’s yaws?” Yaws is a contagious disease caused by bacteria that enter skin abrasions. They give rise to small crusted lesions that may develop into deep ulcers. Give it a miss if you can, but keep the definition in mind, because your drinking companions will doubtless ask you the question from time to time.

    Like islands inundated by storm waves, the subjects of these essays are licked all over by the wet tongue of a single fluent consciousness. Scurvy, of course, is not yaws. It's another matter, as are most things. Scurvy is a noncontagious disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Scurvy features swollen bleeding gums (The Colonel’s favorite oath, by cracky!) and the opening of previously healed wounds. Scurvy particularly affected ill-nourished sailors until the end of the 18th century, when sailors became limeys. 

     Couth, Kempt, Gruntled & Heveled. As an adjective, “scurvy” means “contemptible or worthless,” as in “ye scurvy knave.” It is slated to become the next hip slang word for “good,” replacing the tired "anonymous," “bad,” “cool,” “f’shizzle,” “old school,” “phat,” “retro,” and others that The Colonel is too clueless, meshugge, or unscurvy to know.

     The angels wanna wear my red shoes. The next Popcorn may be delayed because The Colonel has to make a sudden trip to the Vatican on business. He's a sub pectore cardinal archbishop elector and apparently something big has come up. Mum's the word.

    “The attempt at humor was about as good as Seth McFarlane's on Oscar night. Mean spirited and fell flat.”  Someone was overheard to say, "Publicly I had to pretend to be amused, but anonymously I poured out my wounded heart. Don't worry, though -- The Colonel will never return from his trip to the Vatican." Is that an election prediction?

     If you combined the best traits of Stephen Devoto and Ed McKeon into one person, what would you get? Steve McQueen.


Ed Mc said...

I'd like to be known as the Steve McQueen of The Great Escape Era, though I know Devoto is handier on two wheels.

Catherine Johnson said...

Colonel: This was a delightful column! I appreciate the insight. You've given me personally a great deal to think about.

Some tangential comments:

"Ole!" came from the Moors crossing over the Straits of Gibralter with their "Allah!"

You say, "Worshipping Olympian gods," but really, only greeks worshipped Olympian gods. Romans worshipped Roman gods, who were housed in the Pantheon.

In the 1000 years after the fall of Rome, the recipe for concrete was lost. It sounds like a Polish joke, I know, but
it's true. Such expansive buildings of classical Rome were not built anywhere in Western Europe until the dome of the Florence Cathedral, 15th c. Brunelleschi went down to sketch ruins in Rome and studied the Pantheon (which was not ruined), and discovered the secrets to spanning great distances.

Yet another good reason for not knocking down every single old building.