(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘humor

“Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?”*…

Plato’s allegory of the cave by Jan Saenredam, after Cornelis van Haarlem, 1604

Bad news for those of us who occupy Plato’s Cave

To all inhabitants of Plato’s Cave,

If you are receiving this letter, it means you have been designated a tenant of the cave—i.e., you are chained to the wall, you are forced to watch shadows for all eternity, you are projecting said shadow puppets, and/or you are a philosopher who was able to break free and understand the true shackles of reality (PhD candidates about to argue their thesis).

We are writing this memo to introduce ourselves, the new property managers of Plato’s Cave, and to let you know that this fall your rent will be raised.

We cannot wait to work with you as we journey together, but we also want to clarify that we mean real, actual money and not allegorical discussions on the concept of fiat currency.

  • This is a memo and not a dialogue. You do not need to deconstruct the concept of reality or your interpretation of such. Please pay.
  • Please be advised that we have changed our policies and will no longer accept imagined dialogues with Socrates and/or whimsical stories about Socrates.
  • The rent will be used to address crumbling infrastructure as the upkeep of a completely underground cave is no easy thing. The money will go toward better walls, superior modes of imprisonment, a bigger and cooler fire, etc.
  • To address any extra concerns, we will hold a fireside chat where you will be allowed to ask any remaining questions you might have. We understand you may not understand the “form” or “idea” of time, so we have allotted two weeks for this.
  • Sure, you could break the chains of your supposed enslavement to the cave and embrace the complexity of reality, but consider we will offer Ice Cream Fridays. They will take place on the fourth Friday of every other month.

We do not undertake this lightly. As the costs of maintaining a cave meant to trap you in your ignorance increases year after year, we want you to know, from the bottom of our hearts, that we, too, are suffering. We get that times are tough, and we hope you can extend that sympathy to us, the managers of your cave…

Painfully funny: “Plato’s Cave Regrets to Inform You It Will Be Raising Its Rent,” from @Hellotherexu in @mcsweeneys.

* Plato, Republic


As we tighten our belts, we might recall that it was on this date in 1945 that farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita, Colorado, planning to eat supper with his mother-in-law and sent out to the yard by his wife to bring back a chicken, tried to behead a five-and-a-half-month-old Wyandotte chicken named Mike. The axe removed the bulk of the head, but missed the jugular vein, leaving one ear and most of the brain stem intact. The chicken was still able to balance on a perch and walk clumsily. He attempted to preen, peck for food, and crow, though with limited success; his “crowing” consisted of a gurgling sound made in his throat. When Mike did not die, Olsen decided to care for the bird.

Mike achieved national fame until his death in March 1947. In Fruita, Colorado, an annual “Mike the Headless Chicken Day” is held in May.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 10, 2023 at 1:00 am

“I profess in the sincerity of my heart that I have not the least personal interest in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public good of my country”*…

Scott Alexander” (also here) throws his hat into the Presidential ring…

The American people deserve a choice. They deserve a candidate who will reject the failed policies of the past and embrace the failed policies of the future. It is my honor to announce I am throwing my hat into both the Democratic and Republican primaries (to double my chances), with the following platform…

There follow eleven bold ideas, for example:

Ensure Naval Supremacy And Reduce Wealth Inequality By Bringing Back The Liturgy

The liturgy was a custom of ancient Athens. When the state needed something (usually a new warship) it would ask for volunteers among its richest citizens. Usually one would step up to gain glory or avoid scorn; if nobody did, the courts were allowed to choose the richest person who hadn’t helped out recently. The liturgist would fund the warship and command it as captain for two years, after which his debt to the state was considered discharged and he was given a golden crown. Historians treat the liturgy as a gray area between voluntary service and compulsory taxation; most rich Athenians were eager to serve and gain the relevant honor, but they also knew that if they didn’t, they could be compelled to perform the same service with less benefit to their personal reputation.

Defense analysts warn that America’s naval dominance is declining:

Only 25 per cent of America’s 114 commissioned surface combatants (cruisers, destroyers, and littoral combat ships) are less than a decade old. By comparison more than 80 per cent of China’s 141 destroyers, frigates, and corvettes have been commissioned in the past decade. In the same time period, the United States commissioned 30 surface combatants . . . The nearly 600-ship Navy of the late 1980s deployed only 15 per cent of the fleet on average. Today, with fewer than 300 ships, the US Navy deploys more than 35 per cent to service its global missions, contributing to a material death spiral.

So America is short on warships. But it is very long on rich people with big egos. An aircraft carrier would cost the richest American billionaires about the same fraction of their wealth as a trireme cost the richest Athenian aristocrats. So I say: bring back the liturgy!

The American rich already enjoy spending their money on exciting vehicles – yachts for the normies, rockets for the more ambitious, Titanic submersibles for the suicidal. Why not redirect this impulse towards public service? Imagine the fear it would strike into the hearts of the Chinese when the USS Musk enters Ludicrous Mode in the waters off the Taiwan Strait, with Elon himself at the wheel. And does anyone doubt that Elon – usually careful to avoid taxes – would jump at the chance to do this?

Legalize Lying About Your College On Resumes

Colleges trap Americans in a cycle of burdensome loans and act to reinforce class privilege. I have previously advocated making college degree a protected characteristic which it is illegal to ask people about on job applications. But this would be hard to enforce, and people would come up with other ways to communicate their education level.

So let’s think different: let’s make it legal to lie about your college on resumes (it is already not technically illegal to lie on a resume, but companies can ask for slightly different forms of corroboration which it is illegal to lie on). Everyone can just say “Harvard,” and nobody will have any unfair advantage over anyone else.

More modest proposals: “My Presidential Platform,” from @slatestarcodex.

* Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal For preventing the Children of Poor People From being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and For making them Beneficial to the Publick


As we savor the sad salience of satire, we might recall that on this date in 1935, Huey Long, Louisiana Senator and past-Governor (and inspiration for Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men), was shot in the Louisiana state capitol building; he died 30 hours later. Called a demagogue by critics, the populist leader (“every man a king”) was a larger-than-life figure who boasted that he bought legislators “like sacks of potatoes, shuffled them like a deck of cards.”

Long in the State house, flanked by the armed guards with whom he travelled


And on this date in 1974, President Gerald Ford offered his disgraced predecessor, Richard Nixon, “a full, free, and absolute pardon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in” during Nixon’s Presidency.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 8, 2023 at 1:00 am

“He offered alternative facts”*…

When reach exceeds grasp (in both senses of the word), from @ryanqnorth in Dinosaur Comics.

* Kellyanne Conway (defending Sean Spicer)


As we have it our way, we might we might send an amusing birthday verse to Ogden Nash; he was born on this date in 1902.  A poet best known for his light verse, Nash wrote over 500 pieces published, between 1931 and 1972, in 14 volumes.  At the time of his death in 1971, he was, The New York Times averred, “the country’s best-known producer of humorous poetry.” The following year, on his birthday, the U.S. Postal service celebrated him with a commemorative stamp.

  • Candy
    Is Dandy
    But liquor
    Is quicker.
    • “Reflections on Ice-Breaking” in Hard Lines (1931); often misattributed to Dorothy Parker
  • It is common knowledge to every schoolboy and even every Bachelor of Arts,
    That all sin is divided into two parts.
    One kind of sin is called a sin of commission, and that is very important
    And it is what you are doing when you are doing something you ortant…
    • “Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man” in The Family Album of Favorite Poems (1959)


Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 19, 2023 at 1:00 am

“Some people can stay longer in an hour than others can in a week”*…

The ever-amusing Benjamin Errett on hospitality…

… The original word ghosti meant both guest and host specifically because of the deep connection between the two, “a mutual exchange relationship highly important to ancient Indo-European society.”…

That, as Beerbohm argues in his essay “Hosts and Guests,” is how we’ve evolved along with our words. There are natural hosts who keep a stocked drinks cart and jars of olives on hand. Obviously, it helps to have a generous olive budget. These people who arrange things just so are often bad guests.

A bad guest, Beerbohm writes, is either a parasite or a churl, the latter being someone like the freeloading poet Dante, who “received during his exile much hospitality from many hosts and repaid them by writing how bitter was the bread in their houses, and how steep the stairs were.” Poets!

To be perfectly positioned between parasitism and churlishness is to reciprocate the food and drink with good company, “radiating gratitude, but not too much of it; never intrusive, ever within call; full of dignity, yet all amenable; quiet, yet lively; never echoing, ever amplifying; never contradicting, but often lighting the way to truth; an ornament, an inspiration, anywhere.” If you’re particularly winning at this, you can save on room and board and no one will ever call you a mooch.

let’s reflect on how the who-would-you-invite-to-an-imaginary-dinner-party game is always less fun than it sounds. And yet the New York Times keeps asking authors in By the Book, despite the fact that Charlie Kaufman absolutely demolished the premise with this answer:

I see Oscar Wilde there, of course, Voltaire, Carol Saroyan Saroyan Matthau (wife of William Saroyan, William Saroyan, and Walter Matthau, and a writer in her own right), Hitler (not witty but quite a “get”), Edie Sitwell, Molière, Oscar Wilde (so witty I thought why not double him and place him on each end of the table so everyone could enjoy his witticisms?), Aristophanes, and Sir Kenneth Dover (to translate Aristophanes’ jokes for the other guests). That’s more than three, but one must assume there will be cancellations. Oh, and Jesus...

Be neither a parasite nor a churl- @benjaminerrett on hospitality: “The Wit’s Guide to Guests.”

* W. D. Howells


As we contemplate conviviality, we might consider the history of the visitor’s vehicle of choice, the automobile: it was on this date in 1903 that Ernest Pfennig, a Chicago dentist, became the first owner of a Ford automobile, a Model A. The two-(bench) seater weighed 1,240 lbs. and could reach a top speed of 28 mph. The Model A was the first car produced using pairs or trios of men working on each car; between 1903 and 1904, 1,750 cars were made.

Between 1903 and 1908, Ford produced the Models A, B, C, F, K, N, R, and S. Hundreds or a few thousand of most of these were sold per year. Then in 1908, Ford introduced the mass-produced Model T, which totaled millions sold over 18 years. While the Model T was famously available “in any color the customer wants, so long as it’s black,” the Model A was only sold in the color red.

(In 1927, Ford resurrected the “Model A” designation for the successor to its Model T; the revived Model A came in a variety of styles and colors…)


Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 23, 2023 at 1:00 am

“The snake that cannot shed its skin perishes”*…

From Rebecca Saltzman

As America’s seventh-ranked patriotic bunting company, we’re proud to fulfill all of your Fourth of July decorating needs this year. Also, due to a factory mix-up, our bunting this year is made of live snakes.

The American people rely on us for red, white, and blue fabric to hang on their porches. However, it has recently come to our attention that many customers have instead received a writhing mass of serpents. Are they at least harmless? No, they’re quite deadly. But we hope you will be reassured to know that the snakes can play “Yankee Doodle” on their rattles, which is a step up from our plastic bunting option.

How could this mistake happen? Our bunting factory operates under lax, or one might say non-existent, quality control standards. We also built our factory on top of a known snake nesting habitat. Our entire factory is infested with snakes.

To determine whether you’ve received bunting or snakes, we have put together the following helpful guidance…

Read on: “We Apologize That Instead of July Fourth Bunting, We Accidentally Shipped You a Box Full of Snakes,” from @beccasaltz in @mcsweeneys.

* Friedrich Nietzsche


As we parse patriotism, recall that on this date in 1862 (88 years after the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on this same date), Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a young Oxford mathematics don, took the daughters of the Dean of Christ Church College– Alice Liddell and her sisters– on a boating picnic on the River Thames in Oxford.  To amuse the children he told them the story of a little girl, bored by a riverbank, whose adventure begins when she tumbles down a rabbit hole into a topsy-turvy world called “Wonderland.”  The story so captivated the 10-year-old Alice that she begged him to write it down. The result was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published in 1865 under the pen name “Lewis Carroll,” with illustrations by John Tenniel.


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