Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Raising Funny Kids 40: Things My Mother Taught Me

My mother taught me about WEATHER.

"Your room looks like a tornado hit it."

My mother taught me about RELIGION.
"You better pray that comes out of the carpet."

My mother taught me about TIME TRAVEL.
"If you don't straighten up I'm going to knock you into the middle of next week."

My mother taught me about OSMOSIS.
"Shut your mouth and eat your supper."

My mother taught me about the CIRCLE OF LIFE.
"I brought you into this world, I can take you out."

My mother taught me about GRATITUDE.
"There are millions of less fortunate children in the world who don't have wonderful parents like you."

My mother taught me about RECEIVING.
"You are going to get it when we get home."

My mother taught me about GENEALOGY.
"Shut that door... Were you raised in a barn?"

My mother taught me about JUSTICE.
"One day you'll have kids... I hope they turn out just like you!"

My mother taught me about LOGIC.
"Because I said so, That's why."

My mother taught me about STAMINA.
"You'll sit there until your brussel sprouts are gone."

My mother taught me about IRONY.
"Keep crying. I'll give you something to cry about."

*Contains explicit language


Monday, July 29, 2013

Wit and Humor of the Bible

Wit and Humor of the Bible, published in 1892 by Marion D. Shutter, is an indispensable resource for exploring humor studies, as well as theological inquiries, and clearly demonstrates that humor permeates the Scriptures. The humorous verses and situations collected in this volume of work belong to numerous categories of humor: sarcasm, irony, wordplay, humorous imagery and exaggeration, and humorous situations. It is evident that humor brings God closer to the mind of man, which further attests to the fact that humor brings people together. 

In the preface, Shutter explained that while many have taken on the pathos and sublimity of the Bible, few have investigated its humor. Shutter claimed that he originally shared his work in an article published in an Eastern review, but that since had delivered a course of lectures on the subject to students at Lombard University, Galesburg, Ill. Shutter further explained that "it would be presumptuous to claim that these few pages exhaust the subject" and that "further research would no doubt bring to light instances that have escaped him." His intent, as he shared, was to "awaken interest in a long-neglected side" of the wisdom writings from the Bible. 

Shutter noted that "the highest literature should be found to contain" humor and that "we should expect to find it everywhere". 

Shutter began by addressing the presumption that there would be "many persons" who would consider the title of his book alone as "flat blasphemy!" offered by a "flippant rogue" in "godless folly." He continued by immediately stating that it was not his intention to "cheapen or degrade sacred things" or to "depreciate the moral currency." 

While Shutter stated that "the Bible is not a collection of jests", he did explain that "it is a mistake to suppose that humor is incompatible with seriousness, earnestness and solemnity." 

"In human nature, the sources of laughter and tears lie close together, and the highest literature must express that nature in its entirety." 

Quoting Whipple, Shutter added, "It is an understood fact that mirth is as innate in the mind as any other original faculty. The absence of it in individuals or communities is a defect." 

"He who laughs," says the mother of Goethe, "can commit no deadly sin." 

"Bread of deceit is sweet to a man, but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel."  Notably, if we came across such sentences in high literature, we'd consider them "instances of genuine wit." 

Wit and Humor of the Bible is a fascinating read. As a pleasure book, it is deserving of many re-readings. As a resource, it is invaluable. On a personal note, it provides us with a glimpse of what people considered funny, or not (and why) in the early 1900s. It leaves no doubt as to why Shakespeare was said to be indebted to the Bible for much of his own satire. 

A reproduction of this book is available on Amazon

* This joke is too funny not to tell: 

God's last name is not Dammit... Unknown

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Catharsis of the Heart

Catharsis of the Heart
A philosophical explanation on the nature of love and hate

Someone once said that it is better to be hated for who you are, than to be loved for someone you are not. The question of which is more powerful – love or hate – takes us on a journey of self-discovery, contemplating the very nature of the human condition and whether or not we can escape from this catharsis of the heart.

Aristotlean theory describes how experiences bring to surface personal subliminal responses from the depths of our being. However, unless an individual has personally experienced either one of these emotions, the notion would appear strange if not downright irrational.

Irrational is often times the word most commonly associated with both love and hate. When immersed in either one of these emotions, we aestheticize our self in another, feeling only the emotions that confirm or deny our internal experience. Given that both feelings must be brought to the surface by some external stimuli, the importance one places on either may be a matter of biological functioning.

Hate, a brute emotion, crystallizes when conflict and angst from the deepest levels of our being are stirred. Evidence of aggression in our earliest ancestors indicates that hate might be biologically hard-wired into us, supporting the evolutionary concept: 

Survival of the Fittest.

Love - that smile of the mind - is considered by most to be healthy behavior. Loving feelings “move mountains” as they say, but they might instead stem from a more primal, evolutionary aspect of self where love is merely part of the process of natural selection.

On the surface, it seems that a radical difference exists between love and hate, and yet, when you look deeper into your self for the origin of where these feelings arise, it feels as if there is only a fine line between them. This is because both experiences stem from the core of human functioning where feelings reverberate in our entire beingness; where our deepest perceived sense of self comes alive, carried away by either tragic or aesthetic enjoyment.

Whether biological or imaginational, it would seem that we are hardwired with a readiness for both experiences, which need only a single trigger to imbue any object with fantasized perfection or demonized imperfection. Seeing love or hate in the dynamic unfolding of life is largely dependent upon the balance of emotional needs we hold within us, revealing that the power we give either emotion says more about us than it does about the nature of love or hate. 

Distinguishing which one is more powerful is as personal as the experience itself. It is in this revelation that we understand Shakespeare: “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”

Saturday, July 27, 2013


In my previous post on selected Epitaphia from the Anecdota SCHOWAH Number One, I selected some of my favorite epitaphs to share. 

An epitaph is a short text honoring a deceased person that is inscribed on their tombstone or plaque. Some epitaphs are in poem verse, though most are brief records of the person's life, death, and notable achievements or relationship to family members. 

An Epigram is a brief, witty statement. 

"There is little difference between epigram and epitaph. Both genres aim at brevity; both frequently employ heroic couplets; both allow either serious grace of thought or pointed wit (i.e., Greek Anthology)." Peter Thorpe, Eighteenth century English poetry. 

The name epigram is derived from the Greek word for "inscription." 

In 18th century literary circles, epigrams were often given as gifts to patrons or published for pure enjoyment as entertaining verses. Samuel Taylor Coleridge defined an epigram: "What is an Epigram? A dwarfish whole; its body brevity, and wit its soul." 

Pericles' Funeral Oration

Epigrams and inscriptions on funeral monuments date back to the classical and Hellenistic epoch of ancient Greece when funerals included joyful elements such as games, competitions, dancing, and even carnal acts intended to recreate life and restore balance to the earth in response to a belief that nature was dying. 

These festivals represented a combination of mourning for the dead followed by a celebration of new life. In ancient times, the Earth's fertility was related to a woman's fertility, so naturally it was presupposed that human death was correlated with the dying of nature.

Marcial. Epigrammata. 1490.

Roman epigrams were more satirical than Greek ones, and at times, used obscene language for effect. Latin epigrams were more like graffiti, though not in the modern sense of social and political unrest. 

"The enjoyment in the food, good mood and laughter that followed, fits into the interpretation of eating as an act of confirmation and manifestation of life." Plato, Republica, 2, 363, c. Aristophanes, Fragmenta, 488,6.

The relationship between the grave and food is also notated in Roman sources. Culina initially referred to the place where the meal was sacrificed for the dead. From this word, we derived culinary, and all the words group around the same family that in many modern languages denote skills of cookery and many concepts related to gastronomy. 

The main source for Greek literary epigrams is the Greek Anthology, a 10th century AD compilation of older editions of epigrams from the Hellenistic period through the Imperial period and Late Antiquity into the compiler's own Byzantine era - a thousand years of short elegiac texts on every topic under the sun. The Anthology includes one book of Christian epigrams as well as an amorous book of epigrams called "The Boyish Muse." 

Connecting comedy (applied humor) to myth and ritual is not new. The original convergence of early attitudes toward life and death, laughter and tears, and comedy and tragedy, resulted in two separate concepts: celebratory and tragic humor. The act of laughing at a funeral was the first sign that mourners were returning to the reality of living. 

Death and humor can therefore be seen as two aspects of the same phenomena, with one of those aspects always representing the parody of the other. The humor of our ancestors was a hubristic, defiance directed toward the gods, an exercise in the early concepts of free will and our ability to affect our environment, even if only by our ridicule of it. 

In this respect, tragic moments expressed in epigrams, transformed tragedy into something humorous. While, applying humor to tragedy does not make tragedy funny, the history of the funeral rite gives us insight as to how the two became linked. 

Our ancestors transformed tragic moments into small festivities - into the carnival - challenging and reinforcing the forces of life and our innate ability to laugh in the face of death. 

Humor, when applied independently, is a communicative (verbal or physical) device that is adaptive in nature and can be applied to either celebration or tragedy. In this way, humor is an ancient adaptive tool employed during natural cycles of life and death, providing a balance against tragedy.

Humor is, therefore, an adaptive inherent trait that is maintained and evolved by means of natural reaction and selection. Humor intensifies the absurdity of everyday problems that preoccupy people, in relation to the shortness of life and its termination. Accordingly, it can be applied to celebration or tragedy. Humor, applied to tragedy, shifts the realism of it into an extreme metaphysical truth, comically confronting the end of life, which gives "black humor" its power to oppose anything and anyone (anarchist humor). 

The development of humor is a natural reaction.  It allows us to laugh in the face of death. We laugh at tragedy, we laugh at changes in our environment, and we laugh at changes in ourselves. Laughter, as such, is a conscious action. 

Historically, mourning came first, whereas humor was a corrective that resulted from our collective desire to put back into balance what was perceived as imbalanced. 

Orator, lawyer, politician, philosopher
(106BC - 43BC)


Selected Epitaphia from the 
Anecdota SCHOWAH Number One: 


Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs.
Richard II, Act II, Scene ii

The Body 
Benjamin Franklin, 
(Like the cover of an old book, 
Its contents torn out, 
And stript of its lettering and gilding,) 
Lies here, food for worms. 
Yet the work itself shall not be lost, 
For it will, as he believed, appear once more, 
In a new
And more beautiful edition, 
Corrected and amended
The Author. 

Let there be no inscription upon my tomb; 
let no man write my epitaph.
Robert Emmet

Here lies the body of Johnny Haskell, 
A lying, thieving, cheating rascal; 
He always lied, and how he lies, 
He has no soul and cannot rise. 

Here, reader, turn your weeping eyes, 
My fate a useful moral teaches; 
The hole in which my body lies
Would not contain one half my speeches. 

Here lies the body of Jonathan Stout. 
He fell in the water and never got out, 
And still is supposed to be floating about. 

Here lies the body of Mary Ann Bent, 
She kicked up her heels, and away she went.

Here lies a man that was Knott born, 
His father was Knott before him, 
He lived Knott, and did Knott die, 
Yet underneath this stone doth lie. 

It wasn’t a cough that carried him off, 
It was a coffin they carried him off in. 

Here lies my wife in earthly mould, 
Who, when she liv’d, did naught but scold; 
Peace, wake her not, for now she’s still, 
She had, but now I have my will. 

As I am now, so you must be, 
Therefore prepare to follow me. 
[Written under:]
To follow you I’m not content, 
How do I know which way you went? 

Here lies Sir John Guise: 
No one laughs, no one cries:
Where he’s gone, and how he fares
No one knows, and no one cares. 

On the twenty-second of June
Jonathan Fiddle went out of tune. 

Grim death took me without any warning, 
I was well at night, and dead at nine in the morning. 

Here lies a bailiff who oft arrested men, 
And for large bribes did let them go again,
Now seized by death, no gold can set him free, 
For death’s a catchpole proof against a fee.

Reader pass on, ne’ever waste your time
On bad biography and bitter rhyme;
For what I am this cumbrous clay insures, 
And what I was, is no affair of yours.

Here I lie, and no wonder I am dead, 
For the wheel of a wagon went over my head.

Here lies Jane Smith, 
Wife of Thomas Smith, Marble Cutter. 
This monument was erected by her husband
As a tribute to her memory
And a specimen of his work. 
Monuments of this same style are
Two hundred and fifty dollars. 

The manner of her death was thus: 
She was druv over by a Bus. 

Since I was so quickly done for, 
I wonder what I was begun for. 

A jolly landlord once was I, 
And kept the old King’s head, hard by; 
Sold mead and gin, cyder and beer, 
And eke all other kinds of cheer; 
Till death my license took away, 
And put me in this house of clay; 
A house at which you all must call, 
Sooner or later, great and small.

Copies Printed
Here lies the Grabhorn Press. 

Historically, jokes have been related to human frailties and their close relationship to our subjective lives, shifting abruptly from realism to metaphysical truth. Humor allows us to overcome the feelings of helplessness in the presence of death, reducing everything to the absurdity felt in self-awareness, which allows us to laugh and may indeed be the only antidote for living. 

“If I did not laugh I should die.” 
Abraham Lincoln

(Anecdota SCOWAH no. 1) San Francisco: 
Privately printed for members of the Roxburghe Club, April 1, 1962.
Courtesy The Schmulowitz Collection of Wit & Humor, 
San Francisco Public Library