• Three groaners to liven up Thanksgiving (1979)

    • Posted on Nov 22, 1979


    Three groaners:

    Pearls are actually clam tumors. That’s not very romantic I know, but it’s true: pearls are formed when a grit of sand gets inside a clam’s shell and the clam secretes some stuff to surround the grit. Eventually it hardens into a pretty little ball: a clam tumor.

    So from the clam’s point of view, pearls are to be avoided, just like all but the most perverted human would prefer to avoid tumors. So: A gritty pearl is a malady. (Thanks to Chuck Jones, creator of Road Runner, for that one.)

    Roy Rogers left his brand new red-sequined cowboy boots out by the door. He ordinarily would have brought brand-new boots in, but this time he left them out, since Trigger admired them so much. But in the middle of the night, Roy awoke with a start when he heard some growling and chomping on his porch. He ran to look, and there was a big mountain cat chewing on his new boots. Trigger was no where to be seen, dumb horse. And the cat ran away, seeing Roy’s sequined pajamas.

    Roy was furious and awoke sleepy Dale, saying “Dale, I’m a-goin’ after ‘im!” And he grabbed his sequined rifle and went to find Trigger. The old dumb horse was asleep in the barn under his sequined blanket, and Roy jumped on him and rode away into the sunrise.

    That night, much to Dale’s relief, Roy and Trigger came loping into the Rogers Ranch Corral. And Across Trigger’s saddle slumped the big cat, dead. Roy was proud of his successful revenge, and Dale sang out happily, “Pardon me Roy, is that the cat that chewed-ya new shoes?”

    A Chinaman named Chan was a famous and beloved maker of teak-wood furniture. People would come from miles around to order his furniture made of teak, which Chan always made by hand. And he did it all alone, almost. He had only one helper, a small bear whose main oddity was his feet. His feet, strange to tell, were little boy’s feet, not bear’s feet like one might expect on a bear. No one knew how Chan’s little bear got the funny little boy-feet, but since the bear was such a faithful helper and knew Chan’s teak-wood furniture business so well, no one complained. They did sneak looks at the bear’s feet once in a while, but that was only natural.

    One sad day, the little bear fell victim to an ancient malady: pride. He thought he could make the teak furniture just as well as Chan, so he decided to leave Chan and go into business for himself. The strange little bear knew that he could never afford the teak-wood needed to start his own business, so he decided to steal enough teak from Chan. Soon he saw his chance, grabbed a bear-load of teak and ran off.

    Just then Chan came out of his shop, saw what was happening, and shouted at the top of his lungs, “Come back, come, O boyfoot bear with Teak of Chan!”

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  • Battle hymn for inflation: O’ Dem Bucks

    • Posted on Nov 16, 1979


    You can’t win a war without good songs. The North probably beat the South because of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and Vietnam may well have been lost to “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” if not “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”

    So in the current war on inflation, which we’re obviously losing, we need a rousing good anti-inflation song with some real fighting words.  Here’s my contribution, to the tune of “Dry Bones.” (Excuse the Stephen Foster dialect—that’s part of the song.) Here’s the chorus; sing it aloud if you’re alone:

    Dem bucks, dem bucks gonna rise again,

                Dem bucks, dem bucks gonna rise again,

                Dem bucks, dem bucks gonna risa again,

                O hear de need of de poor!

    The verse is simple; sing it out!

                De nec goes into de nee nees,

                De nees go into da wan wans,

                De wans go into de garbage can,

                O hear de need of de poor!

    The verse is not full of typos: it contains real inflation-fighting logic. “Nec” means necessities, “nee” means needs and “wan” means wants. So, to fight inflation, we must convert our necessities into needs, our needs into wants, and our wants get canned.

    It's just elementary dry-bones economics. The dollar has become literally quarter-sized, so we have to pay more of them for the same necessities. Yet fewer of us get enough tiny dollars to make up the difference. In fact, no one can keep up, since as wages go up, so must prices to pay the higher wages. Demanding higher wages, the “take the money and run” solution, only works in the short run, and only for those lucky enough to get some money to run with. For everyone else, it means higher prices and even tinier dollars.

    We need a long-run, dry bones solution. So: de nec goes into de nee and nees first. Here are some national necessities that we can convert easily into needs. Deodorants, all junk food and candy, pop, beer, cigarettes, wine, liquor, meat, cars, airs conditioning, most appliances and electric grooming aids, trendy clothes, calculators, stereos, records, and of course television. Some of these are actually necessities for a very few people; that is, their lives would lose all meaning and purpose without them.

    Or maybe even their survival depends on something in that list, like a wino with his Thunderbird. But for most of us, these necessities aren’t necessary at all; they just make us feel better for short bursts.

    Next, de nees go into de wan wans. Needs become luxuries, so get turned into mere wants: movies, dinners out, long vacations, theater, symphonies, spectator sports, magazines, newspapers. Again, some of these are real needs, and maybe even necessities for a few addicts, but for most they’re just wants that somehow got pushed up to needs.

    And finally de wans go into de garbage can: the trip to Europe, the honeymoon in Paris, the big new car, the videotape machine, the house on the boulevard. Dump these for now. You’ll only get them by not wanting them, since so many people wanting them made them impossible to get. Besides, that’s good Zen wisdom.

    I know, someone is bound to object to this dry bones solution, probably using a wonderful line from King Lear, “O reason not the need: our basest beggars are in poorest thing superfluous: Allow not nature more than nature needs, Man’s life is cheap as beast’s.”

    True enough, but I’m not suggesting that we give up those things that are truly necessary and need-filling.

    Most of our houses and lives, thanks to formerly cheap energy and effective advertising, are full of junk that isn’t necessary, that we don’t need or even really want.

    If we could follow through with inflation dry bones, we would soon see lower prices, and certainly fewer misguided inflation fighters.

    So altogether now:

                Dem bucks, dem bucks gonna rise again,...


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