Sunday, September 17, 2006

Irony threshold attained--surpluses expected

Todays Papers, a news summary column on Slate, which is very neutral in its relaying of news, openly lays out the irony involved:
The pope's suggestion that compulsion and violence are inherent features of Islam has outraged the Muslim world. In Afghanistan, where apostates are subject to execution, the parliament and the Foreign Ministry demanded an apology. In Yemen, where religious conversion is punishable by death, the president has threatened to sever diplomatic ties. In the West Bank, Palestinians attacked four churches with guns and firebombs. And a Somali cleric added his two cents: "Whoever offends our Prophet Muhammad should be killed on the spot by the nearest Muslim."

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Has the irony threshold been reached?

When I saw that the Pope was under fire for unearthing some byzantine Byzantine text referring to Islam as "evil and inhuman" (I haven't read the speech yet, so I don't know the context, level of endorsement, or ultimate point), I immediately began the irony threshold count down. How long until the reaction against the Pope's quoted reference to Islam as "evil and inhuman" enraged some Muslims so much that they responded with evil and inhuman acts.

Well, this comes close to evil, I should say:

Bertone said the pontiff sought in his university speech to condemn all religious motivation for violence, "from whatever side it may come. But the pope's words only seemed to fan rage.

In West Bank attacks on four churches, Palestinians used guns, firebombs and lighter fluid, leaving church doors charred and walls scorched by flames and pocked with bullet holes. Nobody was reported injured. Two Catholic churches, an Anglican one and a Greek Orthodox one were hit. A Greek Orthodox church was also attacked in Gaza City.


Does that do it for the irony threshold, or do I have to wait for actual reprisal killings? I think I'm entitled to at least a little irony buzz, but either way its only a matter of time, so I guess I'll be patient and wait.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

An original, pointless joke

I forget if I already put this one up here. If so, chuckle politely and think not less of me.

If not, here it is:

What do you call a large, pointless mammal?
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Ah, don't worry--it's irrelephant.

Monday, September 04, 2006

"The thought for the day is disarmament..."

So, I was reading on the K-State Campaign for Nonviolence webpage, and I came across this audiobite which, I think, is the most hilarious thing that has ever entered my ears:

http://www.k-state.edu/nonviolence/cnvcd/TRACK47.MP3

everything about it, the dreamy-eyed optimism, the Jack Handy SNL vibe, the matter of factness in the voice expressing an impossible kumbaya-ism, the lilting background music--EVERYTHING.

Comedians can make jokes all they want, but the funniest jokes are always made by those that make them unawares.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

What's the Matter with Thomas Frank? -- A response by way of pilfered poetry

I've started reading Thomas Frank's "Whazza Mattah Wit Kansas?" and the following poem by George Canning, The Friend of Humanity and the Knife-Grinder, sums up my feelings as of roughly page 60. Our dear Mr. Frank, son of Kansas soil with spirit of liberal toil, plays the part of the friend of humanity. Kansas, soil and spirit, plays the part of the knife-grinder.

-------------------------

FRIEND OF HUMANITY

Needy Knife-grinder! whither are you going?
Rough is the road, your wheel is out of order
Bleak blows the blast; -- your hat has got a hole
in't,
So have your breeches!

"Weary Knife-grinder! little think the proud ones,
Who in their coaches roll along the turnpike-
road, what hard work 'tis crying all day "knives
and
scissors to grind O!"

"Tell me, Knife-grinder, how you came to grind
knives?
Did some rich man tyranically use you?
Was it the squire? or parson of the parish?
Or the attorney?

"Was it the squire, for the killing of his game? or
Covetous parson, for his tithes distraining?
Or roguish lawyer, made you lose your little
All in a lawsuit?

"(Have you not read the Rights of Man, by Tom Paine?)
Drops of compassion tremble on my eyelids,
Ready to fall, as soon as you have told your
Pitiful story."

KNIFE-GRINDER

"Story! God bless you! I have none to tell, sir,
Only last night a-drinking at the Chequers,
This poor old hat and breeches, as you see, were
Torn in a scuffle.

"Constables came up for to take me into
Custody; they took me before the justice;
Justice Oldmixon put me in the parish-
Stocks for a vagrant.

"I should be glad to drink your Honour's health in
A pot of beer, if you will give me sixpence;
But for my part, I never love to meddle
With politics, sir."


FRIEND OF HUMANITY
"I give thee sixpence! I will see thee damn'd
first,--
Wretch! whom no sense of wrongs can rouse to
vengeance --
Sordid, unfeeling, reprobate, degraded,
Spiritless outcast!"

[Kicks the Knife-grinder, overturns his wheel, and exits in a transport of republican enthusiasm and universal philanthropy.]

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Humor and Religion

While reading Leo Strauss's essay on Plato's republic from his The City and Man, I came across this observation by Thomas Moore, quoted from his Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation:
And for to prove that this life is no laughing time, but rather the time of weeping, we find that our savior himself wept twice or thrice, but never find we that he laughed so much as once. I will not swear that he never did, but at the least wise he left us no example of it. But, on the other side, he left us example of weeping.

What to make of this? Is laughter, and therefore humor, somehow essentially wicked and counter the principles of Christ's teachings? What lesson is conveyed by the omission of such a large facet of the human experience?

I don't have any substantive conclusions to offer, but I will hazard a few random observations.

First, it has been argued that humor is, at its core, de-humanizing. That is, the provocation of laughter in some is the result of the ridicule and scorn of others. Ridicule and scorn work by reducing a person to mechanical elements, by brutalizing their humanity in a certain way.

But the above is an unecessarily harsh way of putting it. Admittedly, much humor does rely on the imputing of mechanical, animal or natural traits to a human, or in some other way debasing their humanity. But such is the nature of humor that this very act calls itself into question. The best humor is, at its core, ironic--the best humor ultimately turns on itself with cannibalizing ridicule. When humor consciously sheds its irony and tries to become a form of mastery, it becomes pretentious and mechanical--and loses that by virtue of which it was humor in the first place.

Humor which is used solely as a form of mastery over others ceasing being humor, except to the true believers, those that want to take part in the mastery, not in the humor. Witness the incredible number of "Bush is an idiot" jokes. These are usually so simple, so basic, so obvious as to induce cringes rather than laughter.

Also, the brutalizing, diminishing aspect of humor can sometimes be its practical utility--there are those whose pretensions need to be deflated. I sometimes wonder as to whether Hitler and Stalin ever laughed. Humor is just to subversive, I think, for a totalitarian to risk its presence. In the space of ten words, humor can strip the sacred trappings from the fascist and reveal him as the naked ape he is. Communism, affecting an air of perfect equality, cannot allow the diminishing aspect of humor.

Which is just to say, I guess, that if humor is a weapon, it depends on who wields it, and that if a king is to be deposed by it, the morality lies not in the act of deposing itself, but in the conduct of the king to be deposed.

Which brings me back to Christ. He, no doubt, was greeted with scorn and ridicule. He bore a message not of degredation, but of uplift, of transcendence, of utmost seriousness--and thus vulnerable to the denigrating reductionism of humor. Today, though, when the forces of authority and power in the world have, in many ways, swung in favor of those that would wield occam's razor like a cleaver and slice blindly at any "superfluous" metaphysics, the solemnity is on the other side. A new piety has developed, a piety which desperately needs to be deflated. Enter humor.

Those are some preliminary thoughts, none of which should be taken as my considered opinion, considering my official opinion is that I have none.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

From the collegian

"Scooters offer low gas, more time"

Yeah, I've been thinking of buying a scooter. I figure I'd save tons of gas, seeing as how I'd be too embarrassed to go to class. It would just be me and my scooter, sitting around the house with the blinds closed, nursing flat cups of Dr. Thunder.

Don't worry about reading the story. I just linked it because I wanted to make that humorous observation. And why is the "S" on "Scooter" not linked like the rest? Because of that damn "Insert" key--I went back to add the quotation marks and evidently the "Insert" key had been previously depressed, thus causing my new text to obliterate the old.

Seriously please, please tell me, what purpose does this key serve other than throwing kerosine on the ever-burning holocaust of spite, seething spite, that is my heart? Who came up for the idea with the idea for that key? Who, in the history of the known universe, has ever desired a key that overwrote text? Oh, I'm soasrry, it makes me sooo angry jsut thhinking aboyut it...I've got to styo[p.