When you’re a traveling pig, you need a good phrasebook. Estonian pigs go rui, French groin, Polish chrum, and Czech, improbably, chro. English pigs have been oinking only since 1940. And in Rome, presumably, they speak Pig Latin.
“History is more or less bunk.” — Henry Ford
Whose resume is this?
- Received four write-in votes in the mayoral election in Boise, Idaho, 1985
- Spokesperson, the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, 1987
- Received the Presidential Sports Award from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports, 1992
- Threw out first pitch at Wrigley Field, 2000
- Named official ambassador for the Rhode Island State Tourism Board, 2000
- Likeness rendered as 85-foot hot-air balloon, 2001
- Rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, 2002
Answer: Mr. Potato Head.
The Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form has more than 3,000 definitions presented as limericks:
In your mouth goes a protein intact,
Linked by peptide bonds, matter of fact!
N-type -ases undo
(From the N-side) the glue,
Yielding bits for your gut to extract.
And yet there’s no entry for dog.
Squashed Philosophers is like Reader’s Digest with a Ph.D. Glyn Hughes takes the high-calorie tomes of 41 world-class thinkers, from Plato to Popper, and squeezes them into tasty little capsules, without losing the flavor of the originals.
René Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, for instance, fits into 6,488 words — or even, in the “very squashed” version, into six simple assertions — but they’re all stated in the author’s own words, and nothing essential seems to have been lost.
That’s a tribute to Hughes’ editing skill, but it’s also a pretty scary commentary on the original works. Kant is notoriously unreadable in the original, but Hughes estimates that his 5,700-word condensation of the Critiques of Pure & Practical Reason can be read and understood in 23 minutes. If that’s true — if that’s even close to true — then I don’t see how Kant’s original can be called a great book.
Imaginary pictures “cataloged” in Thomas Browne’s Musaeum Clausum of 1684:
- “A Moon Piece, describing that notable Battel between Axalla, General of Tamerlane, and Camares the Persian, fought by the light of the Moon.”
- “A Snow Piece, of Land and Trees covered with Snow and Ice, and Mountains of Ice floating in the Sea, with Bears, Seals, Foxes, and variety of rare Fowls upon them.”
- “Pieces and Draughts in Caricatura, of Princes, Cardinals and famous men; wherein, among others, the Painter hath singularly hit the signatures of a Lion and a Fox in the face of Pope Leo the Tenth.”
- “Some Pieces A la ventura, or Rare Chance Pieces, either drawn at random, and happening to be like some person, or drawn for some and happening to be more like another; while the Face, mistaken by the Painter, proves a tolerable Picture of one he never saw.”
Borges wrote, “To write vast books is a laborious nonsense, much better is to offer a summary as if those books actually existed.”
“Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.” — Cary Grant
“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at,” wrote Oscar Wilde, “for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.” Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion map avoids the weird provincialism of other global projections — it does a good job showing the relative sizes of the continents, and there’s no “right side up.” Makes sense.
In Search of the World’s Worst Writers is, well, self-explanatory. Excerpts:
- “Speak! Irene! Wife! Woman! Do not sit in silence and allow the blood that now boils in my veins to ooze through cavities of unrestrained passion and trickle down to drench me with its crimson hue!” (Amanda McKittrick Ros)
- “Her mouth was set with pearls adorned with elastic rubies and tuned with minstrel lays, while her nose gracefully concealed its umbrage, and her eyes imparted a radiant glow to the azure of the sky.” (Shepherd M. Dugger)
- “We’rt thou suspended from balloon,/You’d cast a shade even at noon,/Folks would think it was the moon/About to fall and crush them soon.” (James McIntyre)
“There are those who think that John Wesley only founded Methodism as a way of saying ‘sorry’ for his father’s poetry.”
From press reviews of the Cherry Sisters, “the world’s worst act,” a vaudeville quintet who toured the U.S. and Canada in the 1890s:
- “Four Freaks From Iowa”
- “It was awful.”
- “It is sincerely hoped that nothing like them will ever be seen again.”
- “Such unlimited gall as was exhibited last night at Greene’s Opera House is past the understanding of ordinary mortals.”
- “Their long skinny arms, equipped with talons at the extremities, swung mechanically, and anon waved frantically at the suffering audience. The mouths of their rancid features opened like caverns, and sounds like the wailing of damned souls issued therefrom.”
- “If some indefinable act of modesty could not have warned them that they were acting the parts of monkeys, it does seem like the overshoes thrown at them would have conveyed the idea in a more substantial manner.”
- “A locksmith with a strong, rasping file could earn ready wages taking the kinks out of Lizzie’s voice.”
- “Unutterably rank.”
- “Probably respected at home and ought to have stayed there.”
- “It was the most insipid, stale, weary, tiresome, contemptible two hours work we have ever seen on the stage. Every man who laughed or jeered or hooted or howled at them reviled himself.”
The sisters toured for seven years, though, and probably saved their impresario from bankruptcy, so perhaps they had the last laugh.