Monthly Archives: March 2013

In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself

 I have always liked this poem by poet Wislawa Szymborska.

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Wisława Szymborska-Włodek (2 July 1923 – 1 February 2012) was a Polish poet, essayist, and translator.  She was described as a “Mozart of Poetry.”  She was awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality.”

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In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself

By Wislawa Szymborska

The buzzard never says it is to blame.

The panther wouldn’t know what scruples mean.

When the piranha strikes, it feels no shame.

If snakes had hands, they’d claim their hands were clean.


A jackal doesn’t understand remorse.

Lions and lice don’t waver in their course.

Why should they, when they know they’re right?

Though hearts of killer whales may weigh a ton,

In every other way they’re light.


On this third planet of the sun

Among the signs of bestiality

A clear conscience is Number One.

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Preferring regret to bestiality, I will accept the moments that my conscience is not always clear and that it is okay, from time to time, to feel bad about yourself.

[As long as you don’t make a habit of it.]

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According to Recent Studies – 2

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More about everything you never wanted to know.

February 2012:  Discovery News reports that Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest has distributed 55,000 condoms around local colleges and universities that feature implanted QR codes, which track when and where people have sex. The reported data is then collected on a website called www.wheredidyouwearit.com.

[It’s ten o’clock; do you know where your condom is tonight?]

April 2012:  From the San Francisco Chronicle; Man struck by lightning after buying lotto ticket.

A Kansas man hoped for good fortune after buying lottery tickets for a record $656 million jackpot last week, but proved instead that his chances were better to be struck by lightning.  The man bought three tickets for the Mega Million jackpot at a grocery store in Kansas on Thursday night, and the volunteer weather spotter told a friend that he had a better chance of getting struck by lightning than winning.

Turns out he was right.  Later that night, he was standing in the back yard of his Wichita duplex, when he saw a flash and heard a boom — lightning.  He was taken to a hospital for observation after being struck but had no burns or other problems from the lightning strike.

Lottery officials predicted that the odds of winning the world record largest jackpot was about one in 176 million. The odds of getting struck by lightning? The National Weather Service says the odds are one in 775,000.

[Suggestion: Don’t buy a lottery ticket when thunderstorms are predicted.]

November 2011:  A bank customer in Llodio, Alava, Spain, recently received quite a shock when “a snake came slithering out of the slot of a cash machine when he withdrew his money,” according to a report by Euro Weekly News.

[Will Samuel L. Jackson buy rights to a movie called Snakes in a Bank?]

April 2012:  Andrew Fazekas for National Geographic News; Auroras Seen on Uranus for First Time.

For the first time, astronomers have snapped photos of auroras lighting up Uranus’ icy atmosphere.  “The last time we had any definite signals of auroral activity on Uranus was when NASA’s Voyager 2 probe swung by in 1986,” said study leader Laurent Lamy, an astronomer at the Observatoire de Paris in Meudon, France.  “But this is the first time we can actually see these emissions light up with an Earth-based telescope.”

Auroras tend to surround a planet’s poles, where magnetic field lines converge and funnel incoming charged solar particles into the planet’s atmosphere. There, the particles collide with air molecules, making the molecules glow.  The auroras’ unusual appearance might have something to do with the planet’s oddball orientation.

 [I promise that I will never ask you about auroras on Uranus.]

June 2012 from MSN:  Cops dismiss “false alarm,” overlook man dying in freezer.

On Sunday night, Tennessee’s Metropolitan Nashville Police Department was alerted that a security alarm had gone off at the Germantown Café East, triggered from inside the restaurant’s freezer. The officers went to the scene, found the restaurant’s doors closed and the lights off, and dismissed it as a false alarm. They were wrong. On Monday morning, the body of the café co-owner was discovered inside the freezer.  The co-owner had reportedly stopped into the restaurant to check the food supply following a Friday night power outage.  He somehow became trapped inside and did his best to alert authorities (his cellphone was later found at his home). Police have launched an internal investigation.

[Obviously, you should always bring your cellphone with you into a freezer!]

September 2012:  NBC News staff reports that a woman who faked cancer to raise money for breast implants was sentenced to a year in jail.

The woman, 27, faked having breast cancer so she could have her breasts augmented, according to Arizona police.  A Phoenix woman accused of pretending to have cancer to raise money for breast implants was sentenced on Wednesday to one year in jail, local media reported.  According to prosecutors, she told her family, friends and co-workers at a local hospice that she had breast cancer and needed money for a double mastectomy and breast reconstructive surgery.  Her mother created a website for donations, and police said people donated more than $8,000 to the cause beginning in 2011.

[Inmates offered to check the woman’s breasts daily to prevent reoccurrence.]

Puns for Educated Minds

I’m not sure about the ‘educated’ part.  I just couldn’t resist listing a bunch of really bad puns.

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The fattest knight at King Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.

I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption.

No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationary.

A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: ‘You stay here; I’ll go on a head.’

I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: ‘Keep off the Grass.’

The midget fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

A backward poet writes inverse.

In a democracy it’s your vote that counts. In feudalism it’s your count that votes.

When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.

If you jumped off the bridge in Paris, you’d be in Seine.

A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, ‘I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.’

Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says ‘Dam!’

Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can’t have your kayak and heat it too.

Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, ‘I’ve lost my electron.’ The other says ‘Are you sure?’ The first replies, ‘Yes, I’m positive.’

Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocaine during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.

There was the person who sent ten puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

No Easy Answers

No Easy1I have a friend – let’s call him ‘Jim’ – who never, ever gives a straightforward answer to any question.  Regardless of how many times and how many ways I rephrase a question posed to him, I do not get a satisfactory reply.

Now I could understand his reluctance to respond if my questions were of a sensitive nature – “Please tell me all the intimate details of your difficult sex life” – for which I would, understandably, be rebuked by being told that that is none of my business.

I could also understand his hesitancy to admit that he did not know the answer to a question:

  • Me:  “What exactly happened that caused your oven to explode?”
  • Jim:  “Well, you have to understand that ovens are complex…”

I could even understand that he might be long-winded and needs a long time to wind up before throwing the delivery pitch that answers the question:

  • Me:  “How did you end up in Malta when your vacation was supposed to go to Japan?”
  • Jim:  “First of all, let me start by describing my previous three vacations …”

But, since NO question comes with a direct answer, much less a satisfactory answer, I suspect that my friend – ‘Jim’ – is a practiced professional in the art of purposeful obfuscation.  I pose several reasons for this behavior:

  1. If ‘Jim’ answers the question directly and succinctly, he is fearful that others will not regard his life as complex and deep as he wishes it to appear, so an indirect answer gives his life much deeper and richer meaning;
  2. ‘Jim’ has found that he holds peoples’ attention longer by giving a non-straightforward answer and requiring them, through repeated questioning, to extend their conversation with him;
  3. ‘Jim’ loves the sound of his voice.  By elongating his answer, he listens to his voice longer;
  4. He doesn’t listen to your question;
  5. He doesn’t realize that he is long-winded;
  6. All of the above;
  7. All of the above except number 5.

My personal preference is number 7.  I am of the opinion that, early on, ‘Jim’ knew that he was long-winded but, enjoying the sound of his voice and desiring to hold peoples’ attention to his (imaginary) complex, rich life, he found that he could achieve his goal by not listening to your question and giving tortuous and circuitous responses to any query.  Over time, he perfected the art of purposeful obfuscation.

Now you are absolutely right that I am an idiot for attempting to get information from someone who is pathologically disposed NOT to give it.  In my defense, I point out that there are times when such information is required.  For example, I agreed to pick up ‘Jim’ and his family and friends at the airport when they arrive back from a trip that ‘Jim’ has organized.

  • Me:  “When does your plane arrive?”
  • Jim:  “We will have a great time in Patagonia.  The trip will take all week and then we have to be very careful about catching the flight back.  We may have some problems with the connecting flights…”
  • Me:  “Yes, but when is the plane scheduled to arrive at the airport?”
  • Jim:  “You know, you can wait in the cell phone waiting area with the car until we arrive.”
  • Me:  “…which is at what time?”
  • Jim:  “I don’t think that we will get the turbulence that we got on my last flight.  Did I tell you about that flight?  We were on our way from Buenos Aires when all of a sudden…”
  • Me:  (silently)  “Arrggghhh!”

Please, people, I’m not alone here.  You’ve encountered the ‘Jims’ of the world.  How do you cope with them?

Bad Decisions

We all have bad days and we all make bad decisions.  I, myself, have had bad decades.  I often feel that I walk around with a black cloud over my head like the L’il Abner character Joe Btfsplk, who brings bad luck wherever he goes.

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I invest in stocks the day before the stock market crashes.  I buy land that turns out to have toxic waste under it.  I keep my money in a bank that is NOT too large to fail.  I buy high and sell low.

My friends (friends, HAH!) encourage me to create my own mutual fund – The Curmudgeon-at-Large Fund – so that they can do the opposite of whatever I’m doing.

Whatever line I choose to get in is always the longest and slowest.  The slot machine pays out immediately after I turn it over to someone else.  Like Barney Google, my horses come in three days late.

If I decide to have a benign wart treated, it grows back in the shape of Newt Gingrich’s butt and the dermatologist tells me that it can no longer be removed.

Nevertheless, when I am feeling down, which is most of the time, I remind myself that there are people in this world who have made really, really bad decisions, even worse than any I have made.

I ask you: “What were these people thinking?”

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Now, I don’t feel so bad.  I think I’ll go to the casino and bet it all on 21 red.