Check out "Boorish pickup lines inspired by the recession, paired with
rejoinders for women who don't suffer boors lightly" on Yankee Pot Roast.
If you just came from YPR, check out some of the back issues, like for instance:
Honesty in personal advertising (on The Big Jewel)
Secrets of numerology revealed
Three modern-day interpretations of Zeno's Paradox
Meet the poet (on The Big Jewel)
December 3, 2008
Notes of a food fiend in Paris
It's not exactly a humor piece, but I have an article about food up on a website called Paris Update.
December 3, 2008
True story: If we can't see anybody, no one can hear us
Our bedroom windows overlook a street that's usually
pretty busy, so when Nancy and I moved into our apartment we installed
double glazing to cut down the traffic noise. It's rare for us to be
bothered by street sounds at night, but Paris is after all a city so
once in a while there's some kind of disturbance that wakes the whole
recent one was a few months ago when we were roused from slumber
at about 3:30 am by a loud and vehement argument outside. After it had
gone on unabated for about ten minutes we figured there was no getting
back to sleep any time soon, so we got up and looked out the window.
There were two cars parked right outside our
building and five guys standing next to them on the sidewalk
having a heated discussion with lots of yelling but no apparent threat
of physical violence. Since there were always at least two of them
shouting at once it was hard to make out what they were saying, but
after a while we finally understood that the night's proposed topic of
debate was: "Who's going to drive the stolen car?"
Leading the proponents of the resolution "You do it," we had Big, Beefy
Guy with Deep Booming Voice, and in the opposite camp, putting forth the "Why
is it always me?" rebuttal, we had Tall Skinny Guy with High But
Piercing Voice. Before I summoned the presence of mind to call the
police they finally arrived at a conclusion and departed, all in one
car. Presumably the one that one of them actually owns.
So there we had five car thieves going out of their
way to make sure that anyone within earshot would know that they were
car thieves. They must have woken up at least 50 people in the
surrounding buildings, but nonetheless kept hollering away for nearly
half an hour about their freshly committed felony.
like to think that it's dumb criminals like that who keep the prisons
full, but in this case I have to admit that it was slow-witted citizens
like me who let them get away.
November 22, 2008
True story: What do you do for a living?
I live in an old building in Paris, dating from
about 1800 -- before apartments had plumbing. There are still the old
overhead-tank-and-chain WCs on the stairway landings that everyone used
to share, and communal cold water taps on the top and ground floors.
But the apartments now have toilets inside as well, of course, added
one by one over the decades. Since it requires a lot of effort and
expense to install a large-diameter waste pipe for a toilet drain in an
existing building, whoever installed the bathroom in my apartment opted
for a "sani-broyeur"
(literally "sanitary shredder"), which means a regular-looking toilet
with a big plastic box behind it containing an electrical grinder that
reduces whatever's flushed away into a puree that can flow out a
regular sized drain pipe.
It works fine, except that like all electrical
appliances it has a lifespan. Mine is about fifteen years old and is
starting to have trouble sometimes "choking it all down", so to speak.
So just to be prepared I started calling plumbing companies to see
what's involved in replacing it. I found a specialist in this type of
fixture who sent a plumber out to do an estimate. For 600 euros (say
about $750 dollars) he proposed their top-of-the-line model, which is
called the "Sani-Broyeur Pro". "Pro" as in "professional".
My question is this: Professional what? Not
the "Mormon Compound" model or the "NFL Training Camp" model or the
"Eating Disorder Clinic" model. The "Professional" model. Presumably
for people whose careers are going down the crapper...
November 16, 2008True Story: What's your pet peeve?
This happened a few months ago.
It was a nice Saturday afternoon in Paris and lots
of people were out shopping, including me. At one point I found myself
on a sidestreet with no one else around except two youngish guys
walking about 30 yards ahead of me in the same direction and having a
very animated conversation. I couldn't hear what they were saying but
they were both ardently involved in the discussion, which apparently
required lots of gesticulating, and perhaps as a result they were
walking more slowly than I was.
I gained on them, they abruptly stopped talking and one of them looked
back, glaring incandescently at me as if I should know perfectly well
that I was butting in on their private reserved members-only sidewalk.
Maybe they were plotting a murder, I don't know.
In any case, they remained dead silent until I
walked by, which took a good 15 seconds or so, and just as I pulled out
of earshot I heard one of the guys say to the other, "Goddamnit, if
there's one thing that really pisses me off, it's pedestrians!!"* *("Putain, qu'est-ce qu'ils sont chiants les piétons!!" With the word "piétons" / "pedestrians" spit out the way Ann Coulter says "liberals". And the way liberals say "Ann Coulter".)
November 10, 2008
Actual store signs near my building in Paris
I live down the street from
a specialty shop called Action Stamp Collecting (pick one, guys) and a
bit further down the street from the Fokop Business Center -- with
"business center" in English so you'd think they'd know better.
In my own building
there's a charity outreach center for the poor and needy. I think they
mostly dispense advice, but also aid in the form of food, clothing,
temporary lodging, etc., for people who have no other resources and
nowhere else to turn. When it's closed they put a sign in the window
saying, "Closed today. See you real soon!!" (à très bientôt!!")
Across the street is
a hardware store that has a poster in the window showing all the models
of a particular brand of kitchen trash can -- the small 20-liter
stainless steel model, the tall pedal-operated 60-liter brushed
aluminum model, etc., etc. The poster is surrounded by little
stickers saying "Gift idea!"
November 3, 2008 (election eve)
I have decided to
convert this website into something sort of resembling a blog. I will
mention it when one of my humor pieces is picked up by another
website. And those that aren't will appear here as usual.
Meanwhile, I will
use this space to post short commentary pieces on a more frequent basis (I hope
at least weekly) starting with what I hope will be my first and last
Elections remind me of my father. Dad
was one of those people who thought a lot about society's ills and came
up with his own political philosophy (gigaconservative) that he refined
and rehashed and explained to me about four thousand times while I was
growing up. Maybe five.
Having had this experience, I
have naturally done my share of philosophizing, or I should say
"philosophizing", about the BIG sociopolitical issues as well. So far
my conclusions can be summed up in three points:
1) Due to the nature of human nature (greed, stupidity, lust for power, etc.), there's a certain amount of bullshit built into any system.
2) The actual intricacies of
the social-political-economic workings of any sizeable country are so
vast and complex no single human brain can ever hope to comprehend it
(In other words, there is simply no such thing as having all the answers.)
3) Essentially all human failures, from
the level of friendships to families to communities to governments, are
due to the fact that no one wants to take human nature (greed,
stupidity, etc., see above) into account -- except for themselves.
3a) And don't forget selfishness.
Another aspect of human nature is
the desire to reduce any complex, ungraspable entity -- like for
instance the social-political-economic workings of a sizeable country
-- down to something much simpler that is easy to understand. Hence the
dozens and perhaps thousands of diametrically opposed but vehemently
defended political stances expressed in sentences beginning with "All
of this country's problems would be solved if _____ "
You can fill in the blank with just about anything and then its opposite:
... there were no taxes on individuals.
... there were no taxes on corporations.
... the government would take over all major industries.
... the government would cease all regulations on industry.
... we would eliminate the minimum wage.
... we would raise the minimum wage to 50 dollars an hour.
Take your pick. The
variations are endless, and spawn endless schools of political thought,
including uncompassionate conservatism and social liberalism as well as
extreme hardline philosophies like communism and laissez-faire
libertarianism. (Hint: The more extreme the philosophy the more likely
it is to be accompanied by a solemn prediction that "the people" can't
take it much longer and will rise up and revolt "very soon".)
But none of these panaceas factor
in human nature, which is guaranteed to mess it up somehow sometime
sooner or later. The Great Depression, Stalinism, the Great Leap
Forward, the War in Iraq... Greed and stupidity eventually have their
So I'm something of a political agnostic, although
I've been voting Democratic in presidential elections since McGovern.
This year Barack Obama is my man, but I confess that I'm not so much in
favor of Obama and the Democratic platform as in favor of whoever has
the best chance of ousting the current Regime of Unbridled Human Nature
from power. Since Ralph Nader "spoiled" Al Gore's chances in 2000 I no
longer see the value of idealistic voting at the presidential level.
Primaries yes, Congress yes, governorships yes, but for the POTUS I
think it's better to go for the lesser of what are, of course, if not
two evils at least two ambitious, wealthy, domineering alpha dogs.
However, I like Obama a
lot for another reason that is more social than political: I'm
convinced that he's the first public figure since Martin Luther King
(with the possible exception of, believe it or not, Jimi Hendrix) who
can actively or passively generate some actual serious progress toward
racial harmony in the United States. After 41 years it's about time.
And by the way, if you don't remember what Dr. King's actual dream was,
it's worth reading again.
Another positive development I
see in this particular election is that there's more skepticism and
fact-checking going on than I have ever seen in American politics
before. It's largely thanks to the Internet making vast quantities of
information of all descriptions easily available. The keyword here is
"all". In other words, someone with his head up his ass can very easily
find like-minded assholes (rimshot) who will validate his excremental
point of view. But people who do in fact have a working mind also find
that it's easier than ever before to check whether what the politicians
are saying is actually true, exaggerated, extrapolated or just plain
It is now Monday
night before what could be an historical election, or could mark the
continuation of the United States' Long Night Of The Living Braindead.
I have already voted.
And now you should too.
2008 by David Jaggard.
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About the translation / traduction of Air France Madame Magazine and Nancy Li