Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

Oldest Living Man Interview

June 24, 2011

I expect to be the victim of one of those interviews of really, really old people. You know, the kind where the oldest man in the community gets interviewed by a young interviewer trying to learn the secret of such longevity. By then I’ll look like Dustin Hoffman playing Jack Crabbe in Little Big Man.

Jack Crabb or me???

But I am a long way from being that old and worry that cancer, or a heart attack, or a stroke, or dementia, or a car wreck, or scurvy may get me first. So, I’ve decided to do the interview now and do it myself. As Mark Twain once remarked, “If you want a job done right, do it yourself.”

Herewith is the interview.


Interviewer: Thanks for your time.

Me: You’re welcome. It’s all I’ve got left.

Interviewer: How old are you exactly?

Me: 105 years, seven months, and fourteen days — give or take.

Interviewer: Amazing. How can you remember so precisely?

Me: I’m 105 years old. What else do I have to do all day?

Interviewer: To what do you attribute your longevity?

Me: Sex and orange juice.

Interviewer : Sex?  You seem awfully old to be having sex with anyone.

Me: Oh, I haven’t had sex in forty-five years.

Interviewer.: Well then, why do you say sex is one of the things that has kept you alive?

Me: I said sex and orange juice. You don’t mix them. As soon as I realized I wasn’t going to be having sex anymore, I started drinking orange juice.


Snoot, Part 2

June 12, 2011

The folks at the very funny website have a card that sums up the snoot’s thinking about the internet:

An E Card for Snoots


June 6, 2011

I am a snoot. I didn’t mean to be a snoot when I started out and I’m not sure how it happened or even when. But I am one, one of “The Few, the Proud, the More or Less Constantly Appalled at Everyone Else.


David Foster Wallace

No need to wander off in search of a dictionary, it’s a new usage and comes from the writer David Foster Wallace who, in the fifth footnote to an article he wrote about grammar, described SNOOTS: “A SNOOT can be defined as somebody who knows what dysphemism means and doesn’t mind letting you know it.”

And to prove I am a snoot I will now let you know that dysphemism means using an intentionally harsh word instead of a polite one. Think of it as the opposite of a euphemism. A common euphemism for dying is “passed away.” Dysphemisms for dying include, “assumed room temperature”,“kicked the bucket” or ”took a dirt nap”. A truly serious dysphemism, rising to the level of an actual insult would be calling a snoot a pedant.

In short, a snoot is somebody who cares about the English language, uses it correctly, and knows what a sublime tool it is.

Snoots know, according to Wallace, when and how to hyphenate phrasal adjectives and to keep participles from dangling, and we know that we know, and we know how very few other Americans know this stuff or even care, and we judge them accordingly.” And we who revere the language are more than “appalled”, we are apoplectic when we hear a putative political leader say about Paul Revere,

“He who warned the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms by ringing those bells, and makin’ sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed.”


One of the Homes of the English Language (Oxford, 1890)

Nor are we pleased when we read in the United States Constitution – the Constitution! – :

No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection Laws. [emphasis added]

And speaking of the Constitution, that reminds me that I find myself in the company of Justice Scalia, also a self-described snoot. He has a good working definition too:

But there are people who care a lot about words, about precise use of words, and there are people who don’t. And snoots are those who are nitpickers for the mot juste, for using a word precisely the way it should be used.

I’m troubled by being in the company of Justice Scalia just like I’m troubled when I come upon a federal judge fly-fishing or engaging in some other harmless activity: It’s jarring. But, there you have it. And while I am compelled, by virtue of his exalted station in American life, to care about what Justice Scalia thinks, it is a good bet he cares not a farthing for anything I think. But facts are facts and we’re both snoots. And how can anybody disagree with this Scalian sentiment, “To write well is to communicate well. To write poorly is to communicate poorly.”

Stradivarius in Berlin -Photo courtesy of Hay Kranen

Because he coined the term, I leave the last word to Wallace who opined that hearing adults misuse the language is akin to watching someone pound nails with a Stradivarius.


Federal Judges

May 27, 2011

Federal judges have a pretty good work life. They work in great majestic rooms and when they enter and leave those rooms, everybody stands up. They can only be fired by the United States Senate and, unless they get caught taking a bribe, that hardly ever happens. Their pay can never be cut. If they decide to retire, they can take “senior status” and make almost as much money as if they were still working every day. They get the best health care possible, United States Marshals for protection, law clerks for the drudge work of judging, and big offices, all paid for by somebody else.

But if you go to watch them at work, you’ll often be left with the distinct impression that these people are not happy. So, you may ask, why not?

Well, until you reach the august realm of the U.S. Supreme Court, federal judges are basically overworked. They handle large caseloads in an increasingly bureaucratized system. They must deal with lawyers, too many of whom are less than ideally competent. And, like bankers who spend their days saying “no”, federal judges spend a lot of time saying “no” to litigants in their courtrooms and putting other people in jail. Often, the judges might have preferred saying “yes” to litigants but couldn’t because of the controlling law. Worse, judges know that they will always make someone unhappy every time they make a ruling. It’s the nature of the adversary system. All that wears on them. They’re only human after all. Most probably suspect that Tacitus was right:

Judges are best in the beginning; they deteriorate as time passes.

Walton's Cottage in 1888

I’m not completely objective you understand. I spend my career trying to change the status quo and the judiciary is the first line of defense for the status quo. By design and by nature the judiciary is the most conservative of our governing institutions and – especially since Ronald Reagan – the federal judiciary has been populated mainly by judges personally conservative both by design and by nature. Often they don’t like attempts to change the status quo. Still, I find many violate the great fisherman Izaak Walton’s injunction in his The Compleat Angler,

If thou be a severe, sour-complexioned man, then I disallow thee to be a competent judge.

I once found a federal judge on a catch and release fly-fishing stream. This stunned me. It was the first time I’d ever seen a federal judge engaging in a harmless activity. It disordered my mind and for some weeks I felt unbalanced, like I’d seen a ghost gibbering in the streets. I watched the apparition for a while, studying the thing in my mind.

I’d been a trial lawyer for a couple of decades by then and had learned that no evidence is less reliable than eyewitness testimony. Our eyes fool us all the time so I knew that they might be fooling me now. The first thing I did was get out my camera and take a picture of the thing. But, upon reflection, I realized that any apparition capable of assuming the form of a fly-fishing federal judge could easily rearrange the pixels in my camera so I couldn’t trust any photographic evidence.

I determined to go down there and confront the thing up close. I don’t claim that I wasn’t terrified as I walked down that slope to the river: I was, but I went down there anyway, expecting at any moment to be swallowed by a wormhole and instantly transported to some place on the far side of the universe.

But nothing happened. I walked right up to that federal judge apparition and it spoke to me! Called me by my name. Shook my hand. Asked how the fishing had been for me. Wanted to know what fly I was using.

Even smiled once.

So I knew it wasn’t real. I got out of there as fast as I could.

The Rapture and Garage Sales

May 21, 2011

According to some Christians, today is The Rapture so we’re having a garage sale at our house. I wonder exactly what time the Rapture arrives? I plan to spend the day standing next to wealthy Christian men about my size. That way, I can just pick up their wallets and clothes.

Hawaii’s Weather

May 15, 2011

A friend is visiting Hawaii. She sent me this weather forecast which, I expect you’ll agree, is more imaginative than most local weather forecasts. (You’ll have to click twice to get to the YouTube page where this forecast lives.)

The Doppler Effect

May 13, 2011

Here’s a bumper sticker seen by someone and recorded for posterity:


May 9, 2011

Both readers of this blog have no doubt noticed the paucity of posts – I say “paucity of posts” because it alliterates so nicely – since the summer.

It is the usual custom of bloggers, unpaid and under-appreciated, to nonetheless apologize for long absences from blogging. I suppose this practice results from bloggers’ mistaken idea that anyone cares.  Bloggers seldom read what Judge Alex Kozinski of the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has to say about bloggers:

I just think it’s so self-indulgent, you know. Oh, I’m so proud of what I’m saying, I think the world instantly wants to know what I’m thinking today. People wake up thinking, hmm, what does this person, whoever the blog, the question is — I wonder what great thoughts have come into his mind this morning that I can feel myself edified by. I can’t really have breakfast, really enjoy my day until I hear the great thoughts of Howard Bashman — I don’t think so. I go for months without ever knowing what Howard has to say. So I don’t know. I find it sort of self-indulgent. And I find it so grandiloquent.

Well, to Judge Kozinski I say “Nuts!” He already has a writing platform  – judicial  opinions – and a captive audience – lawyers who have to read them. Not all of us can be federal judges and so have to slog onward, out here in the wilderness of the internet where even the USGS has yet to publish an accurate map.

Nor can he accuse me of being grandiloquent. However, you may have noted that my hiatus from blogging has corresponded almost exactly with the finding and hunting and killing of Osama bin Laden. Coincidence? You decide. I couldn’t possibly comment.

Drifting into Divorce

March 20, 2011

Justitia by Cranach the Elder - 1537

For pure, raw, unadulterated emotion, nothing beats a courtroom in which a divorce or child custody trial is in progress. Lawyers and judges who specialize in such work often burn out. The ones who last over the long haul tend to be people able to use their senses-of-humor to maintain a little distance from all that emotion that erupts in their courtrooms.

One such judge presides over domestic relation matters in Ontario’s Superior Court. In a recent case a couple – Catherine and Larry – were duking it out in a particularly nasty divorce. Catherine had once attempted to drive over Larry in the family van.  According to Judge Joseph Quinn, “ This is always a telltale sign that a husband and wife are drifting apart.”




Looking Back

December 31, 2010

On New Year’s Eve nothing is wrong with a yearning, nostalgic look backward to a simpler time.