Quorum of One is intended for adult readers

  December 22, 2008
New one on a new (for me) website   







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      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 neighborhood.

        The most 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.

        I'd 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, 2008
True 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.
        As 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 ever:

        Political rant 


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 all.
(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.

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 day.

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 horseshit politics.

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.


Copyright 2008 by David Jaggard. 
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About the translation / traduction of Air France Madame Magazine and Nancy Li