The BBC has a wonderful article by Sally Davies on puns, basically a review of John Pollack’s book The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics. The article offers different theories of puns, most of them ludicrous. (Why are “power” and “coping with despair” considered valid categories of explanation, while “because they are funny” is apparently not?) Puns have often been condemned, though they are used by by such luminaries as Shakespeare and JESUS (so there can’t be anything wrong with them). The article includes some world-class puns. Read it, linked below. Here is a sample: [Read more...]
One of my personal New Year’s Day rituals is to read humorist Dave Barry’s month-by-month recap of the year gone by. It’s printed in quite a few newspapers, but it’s often edited down to fit the space. I believe this is a complete version of Dave’s take on 2012.
You have probably heard about those two Australian radio hosts who called the hospital where Kate Middleton, pregnant with a future monarch of England, was being treated for severe morning sickness. They imitated the voice of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, the grandparents, and managed to get their call transferred to the hospital room. Very funny. But now the nurse who took the call and was bamboozled felt so humiliated and ashamed that she has apparently committed suicide.
Kurt Vonnegut, author of Slaughterhouse-Five among many others, seems like a much better author when you’re young. There is a close link between idealism and cynicism, both of which are characteristic of the young and both of which are necessary to appreciate Vonnegut’s dark humor. I remember reading him as a college student with great excitement and appreciation. But now. . . it’s just not the same. Still, you have to appreciate his wit, and an affection lingers.
“Unsettling business for an artist, where everything that happens in New York has universality, and everything that happens outside is ethnography.”
The term paper, he tells his writing students, should be “both cynical and religious.”
“The secret of good writing is caring.”
“No picture can attract serious attention without a human being attached to it in the viewer’s mind. . . . Pictures are famous for their human-ness and not their picture-ness.”
“I saw The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which I took very hard. To an unmoored, middle-aged man like myself, it was heartbreaking. That’s all right. I like to have my heart broken.”
To his son, Mark: “I ask a favor for your mother’s sake: please look awfully nice at your graduation. She is a dear, romantic girl, and I want her to be as happy as she can possibly be at the graduation of her only son. . . .I am talking about hair, of course.”
“Story-telling is a game for two, and a mature storyteller . . . is sociable, a good date on a blind date with a total stranger, so to speak.”