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Every day is Earth Day. April 22, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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“The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth.”

—Chief Seattle

Happy Earth Day to you from all of us here at Poor Richard’s Almanac!

Bringing home the bacon. April 21, 2014

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Silence Dogood here. I just read an article on 24/7 Wall St on “The 10 Fastest Rising Food Prices.” In case you’d like to cut these skyrocketing items off your grocery list (or stock up while they’re still affordable), I thought I’d share them with you. This list applies to the first four years of this decade, so there’s some consistency to the price increases. And this only applies to price increases in the U.S., even though some of the items on the list aren’t grown here.

A final caveat before we get to that list: Like me, you might think it would contain traditional luxury foods like lobster, caviar and truffles. Or increasingly endangered species like sharks and tuna. Or trendy foods espoused by precious Gwyneth Paltrow and her ilk. Or the latest miracle weight-loss berries “as seen on Dr. Oz.” But it turns out that none of this is true. All the foods and beverages on the list are those consumed regularly by American households, guaranteeing that we’re all going to take a hit to our bank balance. Now let’s see what they are:

Bacon, ground beef, oranges, coffee, peanut butter, margarine, wine, turkey, chicken, and grapefruit. The price of bacon has risen 53% in just four years. Yowie kazowie! And of course, just when bacon-with-everything soared in popularity with both chefs and the general public. I like to begin my day with a refreshing glass of half unsweetened grapefruit juice and half mandarin orange sparkling water, and end it with a glass of wine, so I’m taking a double hit from this list. Ouch!

Apparently, supply and demand isn’t to blame in most of these cases. Instead, Mother Nature has stepped in with years of crippling drought in California’s agricultural regions and in the Southwest, cattle country. Coffee plantations in Brazil, the world’s largest coffee exporter, have also been hit by drought, as have peanut growers in Georgia and other parts of the South.

Disease has attacked Florida’s citrus trees, keeping fruit from maturing and ripening. It has also decimated pig populations with Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (eeewww, think about that next time you tuck into some bacon!). There are also crops like limes and avocados that didn’t make the list, but owe their skyrocketing prices to the drug wars in the regions of Mexico where they’re grown.

Connections aren’t always clear: Margarine prices have gone up, for example, because of droughts in corn- and soybean-producing states which provide the vegetable oil from which margarine is made. These states grow the nation’s sunflower supply as well. Which means that I can expect my parrot’s sunflower, cracked corn, and peanut feed mix to go up in price, as well as the bags of black oil sunflower seed I feed my outdoor birds. I can expect my taco shells and Our Friend Ben’s beloved tortilla chips, made of course from corn, to go up. Think about all the things you eat that could be affected by these shortfalls.

Then think about stocking up on the things that keep well (like peanut butter, wine and coffee) and what you could substitute for the things that don’t. And keep an eye out for coupons and sales!

‘Til next time,

Silence

Birds make a home at Pizza Hut. April 20, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Like most people, I love pizza, and like most people, I love some pizzas more than others. When I’m not making my own pizza with its pesto and olive oil base topped with my own chunky, super-rich marinara sauce and lots of shredded mozzarella and provolone, I love Papa John’s thin and crispy veggie pizza and Pizza Hut’s veggie pan pizza. But there’s something I love even more than these, and that’s Pizza Hut’s cheese breadsticks with extra marinara dipping sauce. Who needs pizza when you have them?!

Yesterday, OFB and I were returning from the farmers’ market when we saw a Pizza Hut. There’s no Pizza Hut near us, and we’d headed to a distant farmers’ market as a special pre-Easter treat. “Ben, let’s stop and get cheese breadsticks!” OFB was up for it and swung into the parking lot. I waited in the car while he went in for the breadsticks, facing a bunch of tightly pruned yew and chamaecyparus evergreen shrubs. As I idly watched the shrub directly in front of our car, I noticed a beak poking out. Followed by a head peeking out. Followed by a male house sparrow slowly emerging from inside the shrub and making his way to the top.

Next, a second head poked out, this time the female. She called to the male, who then flew off. Then she withdrew back into the protective shelter of the shrub, where they doubtless had built a nest. I’d never seen such a thing before in my life. All I could think of was the female sticking her head out and calling to her mate, as I had to OFB, “Don’t forget to ask for extra marinara sauce!”

‘Til next time,

Silence

How many favorite numbers do you have? April 18, 2014

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Blog regulars know that our friend Ben loves the lottery, the cheapest form of hope. For less than the price of a Coke or a pack of gum, I can buy a ticket that holds the promise of financial freedom. It’s great motivation to get out of bed in the morning.

This morning, I noticed that my ticket contained an ad for another lottery game called Quinto. It announced, “Pick your five favorite numbers. If you have an exact match, you win $50,000!” Reading this made me wonder, “Do I have five favorite numbers?!!”

It’s sort of like asking someone to pick their five favorite letters. It might be kind of fun (and revealing) to pick your five favorite words. But numbers, like letters, are just means to an end. In the case of letters, that end is words, things with meaning(s) and, usually, layers of meaning. In the case of numbers, the end is just more numbers.

At a guess, if people had to pick favorite numbers, most would choose 7 and 11, the “lucky” numbers. But beyond that? Do you have five favorite numbers?

The great fast food mystery. April 17, 2014

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Silence Dogood here. This morning, I read an article online called “A Brief History of Fast Food’s Greatest Innovations.” The article included a timeline, so you could follow along from the birth of the Big Mac and Subway (both 1968) to Taco Bell’s Waffle Taco and Domino’s Fried Chicken Crust Pizza (both 2014). In between, there’s a lot more junk food, from the Egg McMuffin and Doritos Loco Taco to Chicken McNuggets, Wendy’s Frosty, KFC Double Down (which subs two slabs of fried chicken for a bun) to the birth of Chipotle Mexican Grill (1993), the taco/burrito equivalent of Subway.

I can’t say that I know much about fast food—my mother thought it was trash and refused to let us eat any—though I have eaten Subway sandwiches (soggy bread, yuck) and once had a Chipotle burrito (bleh, why are people so worked up?). Still, I was surprised by what struck me as obvious omissions, such as my favorite fast food, a luscious hot Cinnabon. Or Dairy Queen’s soft-serve ice cream. Or Pizza Hut’s delicious cheese breadsticks with marinara sauce (extra sauce, please). Not to mention my all-time favorite fast-food restaurant, Saladworks, which, like Subway and Chipotle, lets you build your own meal (in this case, salad) from a slew of super-fresh ingredients and is the only place I know of that serves the iconic Green Goddess dressing.

I was also disappointed to see that the article didn’t address the origin of the most curious fast-food item I know of, Wendy’s square burgers in their round buns. I’ve never had a Wendy’s burger (or, I confess, anything from Wendy’s), but their ads showing square meat patties sticking out of round buns always struck me as grotesque. Eeeewww!!! Who’d want to eat that?!! I could see the point of square burgers—rather than buying rounds, you’d simply buy a gigantic slab of flattened ground beef, already pre-scored into squares, so you’d just have to slice them up and save a ton of money. But why wouldn’t you buy square buns to put them on, so they didn’t stick out like that?!

The company responsible for popularizing the hamburger in the first place—not to mention the slider, another omission from the list—made square buns for its square burgers. That would be White Castle, which started selling its burgers, aka sliders, in the 1920s for 5 cents a slider. Ditto for Krystal, which makes square burgers and buns in the South. But Wendy’s? Square burgers, round buns. What the bleep?!!

Our friend Ben didn’t blink when I asked him about Wendy’s square burgers and why they didn’t put them on square buns. “Having the meat stick out makes it look like you’re getting more meat for your money,” he explained. “Most folks who eat fast food don’t care about what it looks like, just how much they’re getting.” Oh. Maybe that explains the Five Guys Burgers and Fries phenomenon, where plenty of news outlets have shown the unspeakably disgusting cup of mashed-down, too-brown fries, yet everyone apparently keeps rushing to buy them.

Only last month, I watched a friend down a gargantuan plate of “Cheddar” cheese fries for lunch while I was trying to enjoy a salad. (Forget that; the fries looked so grossly revolting drowned in orange day-glo Velveeta glop that I had to take the salad home, and mind you, I love well-made fries, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Gack.)

I still don’t really know why Wendy’s serves square burgers on round buns. Do you? Do you have a favorite fast food? If so, please let us know here at Poor Richard’s Almanac.

‘Til next time,

Silence

Love ‘em or hate ‘em on “Game of Thrones.” April 16, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Let’s ignore the awful return of winter and turn to more entertaining pastimes. As a fan of “Game of Thrones’” Hodor, our friend Ben was highly amused to see a poster of Hodor yesterday that said, over a photograph of Hodor, “King Hodor of House Hodor,” then, in much larger letters at the bottom of the poster, “First of His Hodor,” “Long May He Hodor.” (Hodor, actually named Walder, is a benign, simpleminded giant whose only comment throughout the series is “Hodor.” When an interviewer asked the various actors what their character’s wittiest comment was, Kristian Nairn, the actor who plays Hodor, paused as if for thought, then replied deadpan, “I’d have to say, ‘Hodor’.”) Long may he Hodor!

This made me think about the death of Joffrey Lannister on last week’s “Purple Wedding” episode, for the simple reason that everyone online apparently reacted with joy, since they hated Joffrey more than any other character on “Game of Thrones.” While I wish Joffrey had choked to death on his way home from visiting Winterfell and removed his annoying self from the series early in Season 1, he always struck me as a spoiled, cowardly, sadistic brat who was allowed to grow into what he was by a rotten, corrupt, hate-filled mother (Cersei Lannister) and an indifferent “father” (King Robert Baratheon, who actually said “I was never meant to be a father”), while Joffrey’s true father, also his uncle, Ser Jaime Lannister, could do nothing to redeem him. To me, he was far from the most hateful character on the show.

Hmmm, I thought. Who are the most loved and hated characters on “Game of Thrones”? Turning to my good friend Google, I found answers that really surprised me, certainly not the answers I would have given in most cases. (Except one: series author George R.R. Martin, for killing off noble, beloved characters like Lord Eddard Stark and leaving the North defenseless without a second thought. You’d have thought that having the Mad King burn Eddard’s older brother Brandon and his father, and the Mad King’s son, Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, imprison and repeatedly rape Eddard’s sister Lyanna, ultimately resulting in her death, might have been enough. But oh, no: There was no end to Martin’s torture of the only truly noble family in Westeros, the Starks. I was genuinely surprised and gratified at the fan response to this, placing the blame squarely where it belonged.)

If you’re a fan of the books and/or the series, you’ll have your own favorites to love and hate. But here are mine:

LOVE

Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell, Warden of the North, and reluctant Hand of the King: Like the man who raised him and his foster-brother Robert Baratheon, Jon Arryn, Ned values honor above common sense and fails to see that others value survival and power more than honor. Ned, Jon Arryn, and Robert Baratheon all die because of this basic failure of perception. But he remains my favorite character.

Tyrion Lannister, “The Imp:” Lord Tyrion has had to learn to use his brain and tongue as weapons, since he can’t compete with weapons of steel and hold his own. Despite his father’s and sister’s hatred and horrific acts against him, he manages to hold his place in Westeros and even prove himself a hero, as well as showing compassion whenever he can.

Stannis Baratheon: True heir to the Iron Throne, a brilliant general and honest man. Westeros under Lord Stannis’s rule would hardly be the cheerful, debauched place it was under his elder brother Robert, but Stannis would be a just ruler and a good, fair Winter king.

Mance Rayder: King North of the Wall, Mance has a great sense of perspective and a great sense of courage and daring. No man alive knows the threats this coming winter poses for all Westeros better than Mance, and no man knows how to truly rally extremely diverse peoples under his banner better than Mance (though Tyrion is underrated as usual in this regard).

CAN’T HELP BUT LOVE:

The Hound: Who wouldn’t love the Hound? Anyone who wouldn’t love the Hound is just a dog.

Lord Samwell Tarly (don’t forget he really is a lord and heir to a house)

Crown Prince Aemon Targaryen, Maester of the Wall; he’s seen it all.

Lord Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Wall; like Lord Eddard, an honorable man.

Hodor: Long may he Hodor!

Ramsay Snow: The single cheerful character in all of “Game of Thrones.” He truly loves what he does.

Maester Llewyn of Winterfell, the one wise man.

Lord Varys: Who would be too stupid to love Lord Varys?!

Littlefinger: Lord Petyr Baelish might be completely self-absorbed, but his rise to power is an object lesson.

Ros: As is the whore from the North, Ros, who leaves Winterfell to become both a spy for Lord Varys and a whoremaster for Lord Baelish. She is both the most beautiful actress on the series and the most impressive instance (in character) of a nobody rising through their own talents to a position of more prominence than they could ever have hoped to have achieved.

The Smartasses: Seasoned fighters who are always there with a quip when needed to remind the novices that life and death are only life and death, and it’s way better to meet them when they come than run off screaming. Ser Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight, Stannis Baratheon’s Hand. Bronn of the Blackwater, Tyrion Lannister’s sellsword and protector. Syrio Forel, First Sword of Braavos, Arya Stark’s “dancing master.” Jaqen H’gar, the face-changer who saves Arya Stark from Tywin Lannister. There are plenty of others, like the recruiter from the Night’s Watch who tries to protect Arya and Gendry and dies at the hands of the hated Gold Cloaks with the immortal line (while killed by a crossbow) “Always hated crossbows; take too long to reload.” Watch for them, they’re all great.

Lord Tywin Lannister, head of House Lannister: He’s so horrible but so wonderful. Thank you, Charles Dance, for a superb performance. You’ve always been amazing, and now you have Ciaran Hinds as Mance Rayder and Stephen Dillane as Stannis Baratheon (and Mark Addy as Robert Baratheon and Sean Bean as Eddard Stark, for that matter), to make sure you stay good and sharp.

Vicerys Targaryen. He too was cheerful, now that I think of it. Too bad he died so early on. I always enjoyed his on-screen time, and still miss him. Don’t want to wake the dragon!

Khal Drogo. Too bad about him.

Shae. Brave, good, fierce, loyal, beautiful, true to her “lion,” Lord Tyrion: What’s not to love?

Lady Brienne of Tarth. She is as honorable as Eddard, just not the brightest bulb on the string. I’d love to have Brienne on my side as long as I was giving her her marching orders, not assuming she could figure them out on her own or choose her alliances wisely.

OKAY I HATE THEM

The bitter old men. Balon Greyjoy squatting like a toad on his rock while he mutters “I was a king, I was a king” as he sends his children off to die. Walder Frey, host of the Red Wedding. Grandmaester Pycelle, the lecherous coward. Craster, the monstrous wildling lord who marries his daughters and gives all his incest-born sons to the White Walkers.

Theon Greyjoy. That filthy, weak, ungrateful traitor.

Cersei Lannister. In case you didn’t get that the first time. Cersei was the spoiled only daughter of the super-rich House Lannister, considered the most beautiful woman in all Westeros, married to the then-handsome hero Robert Baratheon and so Queen of Westeros. She had more reasons than anyone in the series to be happy, but instead was filled with more poison than the Red Viper and always ready to spew it out on anyone and everyone from her brother Tyrion to Sansa Stark. Speaking of whom…

Sansa Stark. Filthy, lying, self-serving little turncoat, she turns against Arya and her father Eddard and dooms her poor direwolf Lady to death. Too bad she didn’t break her neck in the first episode!

Catelyn Stark. Even worse is her mother Catelyn, whose mindless hatred makes poor Jon Snow’s life a living hell and whose terrible judgment dooms her son Robb, her husband Eddard, and many another innocent to death. Of all the characters, I probably hate her most.

Lord Janos Slynt. The head of the Gold Cloaks who betrays Lord Eddard to his death. At least Lord Tyrion manages to send him to the Wall.

Melisandre. The “Red Woman,” High Priestess of the Lord of Light, has corrupted Stannis Baratheon, an honorable man, and turned him into a fanatic. Shame on her!

The madwomen: Lysa Arryn of the Eyrie and Lord Stannis’s wife. The sooner they’re offed, the better.

Joffrey Lannister. All right, all right, of course I hate Joffrey and his revolting retainers. But not as much as many another on this list.

So which characters do you love, hate, and love to hate?

Death and taxes. April 14, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
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“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

To think that this famous quote from our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin, was said more than a hundred years before the Federal income tax was even instituted. Those of us who grew up with income tax, property tax, estate tax, school tax, and the like tend to associate old Ben’s quote with them, and especially income tax. Yet income taxes as we know them weren’t passed into law until 1913!

The taxes Dr. Franklin was referring to were those imposed by Britain on everyday goods, like stamps, tea, sugar, beer, spirits, tobacco, and salt. These ever-increasing sales taxes, intended to help Britain pay her debts for the French and Indian War, aka the Seven Years War, led to a cry of “Taxation without representation!” from the outraged Colonists and eventually to the American Revolution.

To think that taxes on something like tea could once fire a revolution, while today, though we may grumble, we hand over monstrous amounts of our hard-earned income to our own government like so many sheep. Taxation with (supposed) representation. Ben Franklin’s quote is more applicable than ever.

But to those who are frantically trying to file their income taxes today, our friend Ben has another quote for you, courtesy of the comedian and wordsmith Steven Wright: “If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple of payments.”

What’s the next “Game of Thrones”? April 13, 2014

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David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, are you listening? Probably not. They’ve got their hands full with a little hit series called “Game of Thrones.” But for all the stations who wish they had HBO’s hit series on their hands, it might be time to take a look at two science-fantasy epics that are way overdue for serialization. Silence Dogood here, and here are my choices:

The Snow Queen and The Summer Queen (Joan D. Vinge, winner of the Hugo Award for best novel for The Snow Queen). The back cover of The Snow Queen sums it up well: “A classic work of speculative fiction, The Snow Queen is Joan D. Vinge’s Hugo Award-winning triumph, a novel that combines the ancient power of legend and myth with modern social issues of ecology, feminism, and basic rights, transforming all through the fabric of a brilliantly realized, far future tapestry.

“The imperious Winter colonists have ruled the planet Tiamat for 150 years, deriving wealth from the slaughter of the gentle sea mers. But soon the galactic stargate will close, isolating Tiamat, and the 150-year reign of the Summer primitives will begin. Unless Arienrhod, the ageless, corrupt Snow Queen, can destroy destiny with an act of genocide. Or unless Moon, a young Summer-tribe sybil, can break a conspiracy that spans space. For Moon is the Snow Queen’s nemesis, the Snow Queen’s lost rival,the Snow Queen’s lost weapon, the Snow Queen’s lost soul. Moon is the Snow Queen’s clone.”

These massive, rich, diverse books, like “Game of Thrones,” portray a struggle between Summer and Winter. In Tiamat’s capital, there’s more than enough sex, drugs, crime, violence, and perversion to rival anything King’s Landing has to offer, with Queen Arienrhod putting Cersei Lannister to shame. Yet the real villains are the high techs on a distant planet, who observe a rigid caste system, and the Hegemonic Assembly, the travelling board of aristocrats who rule what is left of the Old Empire and hoard a dirty little secret—and the rewards it brings them—at the cost of all sentient life.

Spanning worlds and galaxies, yet firmly centered in the drama on Tiamat as Winter’s reign ends, The Snow Queen and The Summer Queen take no shortcuts and have no fairy-tale endings. (The Summer Queen follows the arc of Moon’s rule, with its hardships and heartbreak.) This is no fairy tale. (Admittedly, I was flummoxed by the reference to feminism on the back cover, since both Winters and Summers always choose a queen to rule, until I recalled the fight for recognition of a female police officer who was hindered and belittled by her male colleagues at every turn.) There are even two additional novels, World’s End and Tangled Up in Blue, that explain some of the rich backstory.

Ms. Vinge’s series has its Cersei, its Danaerys, its Jaime. It has its monsters (all human) and opportunists, its aliens, and its very modern blue-collar workers and careerists who are just trying to do their jobs until the cycle turns and they can get off the primitive, corrupt planet where they’ve been sent to further their careers or just try to scrape by. (There’s even a robot who might end up reminding you a lot of Hodor.) A creative team could get many, many seasons out of this series, and it could bring together fans of “Game of Thrones” and “Avatar” to create a huge following.

Golden Witchbreed and Ancient Light (Mary Gentle). These massive novels also are set on a distant world, Orthe, where half the inhabitants are civilized and half are superstitious primitives, much like the Wildlings beyond the Wall and the inhabitants of Westeros in “Game of Thrones.” Into this world comes Lynne Christie, a diplomat from Earth who’s sent to see if Orthe is worth cultivating in Earth’s interests. But what she must learn while dealing with the court’s corruption and subsequently the tribes’ superstitious horror of “the other” is that, whatever they are, these people are not human, and that she is the naive one in this particular Game of Thrones.

As the novels progress, Lynne is sent deeper and deeper into the mystery of the hated Golden Witchbreed, the race that came from afar and enslaved the native population, only to disappear… or so everyone hopes. But what is the truth? Who are the Golden Witchbreed, and why did they come to Orthe in the first place? Why did they allow themselves to die out? Who, ultimately, is Lynne Christie, and where do her loyalties lie, with the corporate conglomerations on Earth and the mission they’ve sent her on or the people she’s come to know on Orthe?

Again, there’s a lot in common here with “Avatar,” and a lot of sex, violence, perversion, betrayal, and the like. (Yet, like Joan Vinge’s novels, these came out years before either “Avatar” or “Game of Thrones.”) Very much like “Game of Thrones,” every time you think you have something figured out, the game changes. It keeps you engaged, and it keeps you guessing. A great choice for a series. Lynne Christie may be a Danaerys, but watch for Lord Varys and Littlefinger, Lord Baelish, and the warlock of Qarth behind every pillar.

What would you choose for the next “Game of Thrones”?

What’s the most annoying form of humor? April 11, 2014

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Our friend Ben believes that humor is the most individual form of taste, or enjoyment, if you will. What makes you burst out in a deep belly-laugh or uncontrollable snickering may make your colleague a few cubicles over writhe in discomfort, and the guy across the aisle may not even get the joke. This doesn’t make you right and them wrong; it simply adds to the rounding out of who you are, it paints a unique portrait of you.

I do think, however, that some forms of humor are generally considered more offensive or annoying than others. Here’s my list of top ten annoying forms of humor, and how I feel about them:

1. Clowns. I absolutely hate clowns. I think they’re creepy, and can’t see any humor in them. Alice Cooper’s song “Can’t Sleep, the Clowns Will Eat Me” says it all as far as I’m concerned. Clowns originated in mediaeval Europe to terrorize the populace into abandoning sin and falling in line with Church teachings; to me, they’re every bit as scary now as they were then.

2. Mimes. If anything, I hate mimes more than clowns. Besides not being funny, they seem to cloak themselves in an aura of self-righteousness. Watching mimes be self-righteously rude to people who are minding their own business in public squares, train stations and the like makes me sick. If I behaved that obnoxiously to my fellow travellers, I’d be detained. But mimes? Hey, this is performance art! Give me Groucho over Harpo any day.

3. Lame cartoons. It can’t be easy to be a cartoonist and come up with a funny strip every day. But some strips are never funny, and yet there they are, day after day after day. Why do papers insist on publishing “Peanuts,” “Mutts,” “Doonesbury,” and their ilk? Why is “Peanuts,” one of the most boring strips in cartoon history, revered? Even “Blondie” is occasionally funny, and “Mark Trail” sometimes has interesting nature facts. But, much as we might long for the days of “The Far Side” and “Calvin and Hobbes,” there are good contemporary cartoons like “Get Fuzzy,” “Pickles,” “Jump Start,” “Pearls Before Swine,” and “Brewster Rockit” we could be enjoying in the space taken up by those lame ducks. All I can say is, thank God for “Dilbert.”

4. Puns. A pun is a play on words that can range from clever to extremely clunky and painful, especially when used clumsily or overused, as punsters seem prone to do. (Example: A colleague mentions the episode in “Game of Thrones” where Brienne is forced to fight a bear. The punster immediately chimes in with “What a shocking scene! I could barely bear to watch it!”) Ouch. Our friend Ben once had a boss who insisted on reciting a pun-riddled version of “Cinderella” at each and every corporate Christmas party. Trust me, fighting a bear would have seemed like a party by comparison.

5. Slapstick. Our friend Ben knows many people who can’t stand slapstick. But generally speaking, I love slapstick; it makes me laugh out loud. If I want to be cheered up, I watch a clip of Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) from the Pink Panther series; his interplay with Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau is simply marvelous to me, combining verbal wit with physical faux pas. Groucho Marx was also a master of this art, the ability to combine razor wit and physical incompetence. Charlie Chaplin performed the most brilliant slapstick I’ve ever seen, his legs seemed like rubber. I’ve still never seen a Chaplin film, but I saw the clips of him at the end of the bioflick where he was played by the brilliant Robert Downey Jr. To this day, I wonder how he managed to pull this off.

6. Sadistic humor. I list this one here because in essence it’s a form of slapstick, one epitomized by the Three Stooges. It’s physical humor, like slapstick, but in this case, you have bullies like Mo poking innocents like Larry and Curly in the eye and slapping them around. What’s funny about that? Nothing that I can imagine. Apparently the damage Mo inflicted on his siblings and fellow actors was so great that the actor who played Curly Joe forced him to sign a contract promising not to actually hurt him. Ha, ha, ha! What a laugh riot.

7. Sarcasm. Sarcasm is another form of sadism, but this time, it’s verbal. Nonetheless, the point (pun intended) is to stab your target with the sharpened blades of your wit, scoring points at their expense. Our friend Ben’s mother always maintained that sarcasm was the lowest form of humor and should not be indulged in by any respectable person, since it targeted people who were weak and unable to defend themselves. Nastiness disguised as humor is still nastiness, and sarcasm is just mockery unter another name. Mockery is just another form of bullying, and like all forms of bullying, is unworthy.

8. Vulgarity. Comedians like the late George Carlin and Richard Pryor apparently felt that the shock factor of vulgarity equalled humor, and millions of fans apparently agreed with them. Fans of Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat” and Russell Brand’s and Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up comedy also agree. Vulgar or not, stand-up comedy is a dead bore to our friend Ben. The only time I’ve ever enjoyed it was in Gabriel Byrne’s send-up in the TV movie “Trigger Happy” (aka “Mad Dog Time”). Coupled with Paul Anka’s send-up of himself, it was a performance to remember.

9. Late-night shows. Why do people watch these shows? Who really wants to see Kim Kardashian being interviewed by David Letterman? We have friends who grew up watching Johnny Carson and the like with Grandma, but sheesh. What could possibly be funny about an interminable late-night talk show?! We wish Stephen Colbert all the best, but please. We could use our sleep.

10. Verbal swordplay. Like slapstick, our friend Ben loves the sharpened tongue, the ability of the underdog to humorously defeat his enemies when they don’t even know what hit them. Groucho Marx, W.C. Fields, Lord Tyrion Lannister of “Game of Thrones,” and Sherlock Holmes are all experts at this art. (A close read of the Holmes canon will reveal the humor that is so often hidden in the film versions.) A brain is as good as a sword when it comes to defeating brawny but moronic enemies.

So what are your most-hated forms of humor? Let us hear from you!

Luddites, look out. April 10, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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It’s not a coincidence that our friend Ben and Silence Dogood call ourselves Luddites, technophobes who have no interest whatever in technology for its own sake. We think technology should serve us—flip the switch, hit the button, voila! whatever it is is up and running—rather than that we should have to serve it by constantly learning new programs and the like.

So when Microsoft announced that it would no longer support its Windows XP system, which we both use, we were rattled. We also easily saw through all the smoke Microsoft was pouring out about why it was going to stop supporting the most widely used computing system in the world. Obviously, it had failed to discover any way to continue making money from it. By forcing everyone to switch to its newest system, Windows 8.1, or even Windows 8 or Windows 7, it stands to make a great deal of money. Simple as that. Pigs!!!

Silence and I live and die by our computers, so we took our laptops in to our local “computer wizards” to be cleaned up and fitted with the best antivirus and antimalware software and the best cleaner. We also got a new laptop capable of powering (and fitted with) Windows 7, as everything we’ve heard about Windows 8 has been horrible. (Windows 9, coming out in September, is supposed to be good, but that’s a 5-month wait after support for Windows XP has been discontinued. Thanks, Microsoft.) Anyway, for safety’s sake, we recommend that our fellow Luddites upgrade to Windows 7 and install strong antivirus, antimalware, and cleanup software ASAP.

Then there’s the bleedingheart bug, which has apparently infected literally millions of websites, including our own e-mail site, Yahoo. (Thank God sites like Google, Wikipedia and Amazon, which we also use regularly, are supposedly safe.) What this means is that ordering anything online is extremely unsafe, as is posting any personal or financial data, i.e. paying bills or banking online. Being Luddites, we still file our taxes on paper, so I’m not sure what this means for the millions who file electronically through services like TurboTax.

What’s a Luddite to do? Well, we were planning to order a butterfly bush named after our beloved golden retriever, Molly, to plant over her grave. The website offering the butterfly bush, ‘Miss Molly,’ was giving a special discount to customers who ordered online this week. In light of the bleedingheart bug, we guess we’ll skip the online discount, call the nursery, and pay full price. We’d rather get a discount, but not if it means compromising our security.

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