Tuesday 30 June 2009

Pathetic Epithets #3

The signals post on the left flank had been abandoned and now a herd of cows had wandered into the field. Now the cows were tapping out messages in Morse code: -- --- --- -- --- ---. Then a troupe of Buddhists chased the cows out of the field, captured the transmitter and started sending messages of their own: --- -- --- --. “I’m getting a bit fed up with these dashed messages,” said General Shankley.

Thursday 25 June 2009

Tudor Times

Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn were having a face-off. Catherine said: “Don’t think you can just amble in here and steal my husband from me.” “Let me tell you, Catherine,” replied Anne, in a wheezy Spanish accent, “you are a-gone from here pretty soon!” Henry, hiding behind a box hedge, chuckled.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

A brief history of Jokes (Part V)

The Age of Chivalry was a particularly poor one for jokes. Much of this was down to the fact that people in medieval times responded to everything with the exclamations “Ha!”, “Aha!” and “Ah!” (See the works of Sir Thomas Malory, passim.)

In those days, however, “Ha!” was more likely to mean “I’m going to chop your head off!” than to register enjoyment of a joke.

It was not a good time for jokes.

There was one glimmer of hope. The mysterious vessel Hawker’s Pot was sometimes glimpsed gliding through dark woods, in hermitages, and once in the great hall at Camelot. It dispensed its gifts to those who were most worthy. After it appeared at Camelot, many were the knights of the Round Table who set off on the Quest of Hawker’s Pot. Most were unsuccessful; but a few achieved the Quest and returned to the Court of King Arthur. But to enquiries as to what had been revealed to them – of puns, paragrams and paronomasia -- there was nothing they could say to their King and brother knights except:

Friday 19 June 2009

Pathetic Epithets #2

Poor Rochester tossed and turned and could not sleep. He was a passionate man but once more he was on his own. For where was Jane? (With flipping St John Rivers and his blooming sisters.) And where was Bertha? (On the flaming stairs.)

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Pathetic Epithets #1

Where was everybody? The King was expected at any moment. Lady M wrung her hands in despair. Where were the soldiers? (In the flipping guardroom.) Where were the serving men? (In the blimming wine cellar.) Come to that, where was her husband? (On the blasted heath.)

While we're on the subject ...

... these crows have something to show you.

(Please click on image for larger version.)

(Not hooded crows, I know, but it's an English company acting.)

Thursday 11 June 2009

A brief history of Jokes (Part IV)

The Improbable World of the Unexplained, or The Incredible World of the Unbelievable, or The Unexplained World of the Inexplicable ...

If we meekly accept the knowledge that the Egyptologists serve up to us, ancient Egypt appears suddenly and without transition with a fantastic ready-made supply of jokes. Great gags and endless anecdotes, colossal “I say I say” jokes with tremendous expressive power, splendid streets flanked by magnificent snarky asides, perfect drainage systems, luxurious catchphrases carved out of the living rock, puns of magnificent stature – these and many other wonderful things shot out of the ground, so to speak.

But there are too many problems connected with the technology of the ancient Egyptian joke-builders and no genuine solutions. How did the people of a primitive civilisation gain the knowledge to crack such awesome jokes? Why did they transport the material for their jokes over such vast distances? When it comes to that, how was this material cut out of the quarries, without ever having the appearance of being laboured? And then how were these colossal jokes set up and seamlessly joined together to the eight millionth of a millimetre?

Of course, there is a wealth of explanations for anyone to choose from, including, naturally, the labour of many hundreds of thousands of Egyptian slaves. But none of these explanations stand up to a critical examination! The fact remains that no modern joke-maker, even with the resources of reference books from the local library, could knock out a joke quite like the best of the Egyptians.

Is it really too much to suppose that the ancient Egyptians and others of their ilk gained their knowledge from visitors from space? Again and again we find evidence of the cultures of primitive societies receiving inexplicable boosts in antiquity. Mysterious artefacts that can only be explained as apparatus for jokes abound. (The archaeologists, of course, have other explanations.) But let us look at the evidence with open eyes. What are we to make of formations of vitrified rock in Peru, witness surely to a cataclysmic joke in pre-history? Of accounts of ancient cities destroyed by flashes of blinding wit, and of others sinking beneath the waves, fraught with punning? Of the statues on Easter Island, with their famously long faces? Or, the most significant fact of all, that in the art of primitive people from places as far between as North America and Sweden, Patagonia and the Sahara, we find carved again and again those symbols – the bed-warming pan, the cufflinks, the coddled egg– associated with that mysterious planet, Hawker’s Pot?

(note: paragraphs 1-3 and parts of paragraph 4 are adapted from Chapter 3 "The Improbable World of the Unexplained" in Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Daniken)

Wednesday 10 June 2009


Emperor Constantine XI, the last emperor of Byzantium, stood on a balcony looking westwards over the Bosporus. He sighed. “Sooner or later,” he said, “they will rediscover the lost arts and sciences of Greece and Rome. The invention of moveable metal type will mean that ideas will spread faster than anything we can imagine. Meanwhile, exploration overseas will increase prosperity and lead to a new sense of man’s place in the world.”
“Yes,” replied the Archimandrite, sadly, “it’s an Occident waiting to happen.”