A Mexican and a Texan worked together for a construction firm, and, while they were good friends, they had a friendly rivalry over whose wife was the better cook. One weekend, as the Texan’s wife was out of town, the Mexican invited the Texan to have supper with his family.
The Texan accepted, and that evening sat down to some the best stew that he had ever eaten.
“Damn! That stew is fantastic!” he exclaimed to his host. “What kind of meat is it?”
“Rabbeet stew,” replied the Mexican.
“Rabbit?” replied the Texan. “There aren’t any rabbits around here.”
“Si, my freend, the rabbeets make the beeg noise, and I shoot theem.”
“Rabbits don’t make any noise...”
“Si, my freend, they say meeyow, meeyow!”
A Mexican newspaper reports that bored Royal Air Force pilots stationed on the Falkland Islands have devised what they consider a marvellous new game. Noting that the local penguins are fascinated by airplanes, the pilots search out a beach where the birds are gathered and fly slowly along it at the water’s edge. Perhaps ten thousand penguins turn their heads in unison watching the planes go by, and when the pilots turn around and fly back, the birds turn their heads in the opposite direction, like spectators at a slow-motion tennis match. Then, the paper reports, “The pilots fly out to sea and directly to the penguin colony and overfly it. Heads go up, up, up, and ten thousand penguins fall over gently onto their backs.
— Audobon Society Magazine
2001-02-02, from http://new.bbc.co.uk:
For five weeks, a team from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) monitored 1,000 king penguins on the island of South Georgia as Lynx helicopters passed overhead.
“Not one king penguin fell over when the helicopters came over,” said team leader Dr Richard Stone.
“As the aircraft approached, the birds went quiet and stopped calling to each other, and adolescent birds that were not associated with nests began walking away from the noise. Pure animal instinct, really.”
The conclusion, said Dr Stone, is that flights over 305 metres (1,000 feet) caused “only minor and transitory ecological effects” on king penguins.
A business executive is consumed by jealousy: he suspects his wife of cheating on him. The suspicion grows and grows, and one morning as he drives to work he can’t take it any more. He thinks to himself, “she probably just waited until I left so she could meet with her lover.”
When he gets to his office, he calls home. The maid answers. He says, “Hello. Is my wife there?”
“Yes, sir”, the maid whispers.
“Is she with her lover?”
The maid pauses, and then says, “Yes, sir, she is, and I must say that I feel terrible about how she treats you.”
The man yells, “That no good **#*＆!!. If you feel as badly as you say you do, you must do this for me: go to my dresser and get my gun. Check to make sure that it’s loaded. Then go upstairs and shoot both that cheating two-timing whore and her lover. Dispose of the gun, and then come back to the phone and tell me that it’s over. Don’t worry — I’ll protect you.” The man hears footsteps, a drawer being opened, a click, more footsteps, silence... and then two shots. More footsteps. Finally the maid comes back to the phone and says “It’s done.”
The man asks, “What did you do with the gun?”
“I threw it behind the statue in the garden”, the maid replies.
“Statue in the garden? Say, what number is this, anyway?”
A carpet installer decides to take a cigarette break after completing the installation in the first of several rooms he has to do. Finding them missing from his pocket he begins searching, only to notice a small lump in his recently completed carpet-installation. Not wanting to pull up all that work for a lousy pack of cigarettes he simply walks over and pounds the lump flat. Foregoing the break, he continues on to the other rooms to be carpeted.
At the end of the day, while loading his tools into his truck, two events occur almost simultaneously: he spies his pack of cigarettes on the dashboard of the truck, and the lady of the house summons him imperiously: “Have you seen my parakeet?”
A doctor, an architect, and a computer scientist were arguing about whose profession was the oldest. In the course of their arguments, they got all the way back to the Garden of Eden, whereupon the doctor said, “The medical profession is clearly the oldest, because Eve was made from Adam’s rib, as the story goes, and that was a simply incredible surgical feat.”
The architect did not agree. He said, “But if you look at the Garden itself, in the beginning there was chaos and void, and out of that, the Garden and the world were created. So God must have been an architect.”
The computer scientist, who had listened to all of this said, “Yes, but where do you think the chaos came from?”
A grade school teacher was asking students what their parents did for a living. “Tim, you be first,” she said. “What does your mother do all day?”
Tim stood up and proudly said, “She’s a doctor.”
“That’s wonderful. How about you, Amie?”
Amie shyly stood up, scuffed her feet and said, “My father is a
“Thank you, Amie,” said the teacher. “What about your father, Billy?”
Billy proudly stood up and announced, “My daddy plays piano in a whorehouse.”
The teacher was aghast and promptly changed the subject to geography. Later that day she went to Billy’s house and rang the bell. Billy’s father answered the door. The teacher explained what his son had said and demanded an explanation.
Billy’s father replied, “Well, I’m really an attorney. But how do you explain a thing like that to a seven-year-old child?”
A guy walks into a pub and asks: “Does anyone here own a Doberman? I feel really bad about this, but my Chihuahua just killed it.”
A man leaps to his feet and replies, “Yes, I do, but how can that be? I raised that dog from a pup to be a vicious killer.”
“Yes, well, that’s all well and good,” replied the first, “but my dog’s stuck in its throat.”
A man sank into the psychiatrist’s couch and said, “I have a terrible problem, Doctor. I have a son at Harvard and another son at Princeton; I’ve just gifted each of them with a new Ferrari; I’ve got homes in Beverly Hills, Palm Beach, and a co-op in New York; and I’ve got a thriving ranch in Venezuela. My wife is a gorgeous young actress who considers my two mistresses to be her best friends.”
The psychiatrist looked at the patient, confused. “Did I miss something? It sounds to me like you have no problems at all.”
“But, Doctor, I only make $175 a week.”
A master was explaining the nature of Tao to one of his novices. “The Tao is embodied in all software — regardless of how insignificant,” said the master.
“Is Tao in a hand-held calculator?” asked the novice.
“It is,” came the reply.
“Is the Tao in a video game?” continued the novice.
“It is even in a video game,” said the master.
“And is the Tao in the DOS for a personal computer?”
The master coughed and shifted his position slightly. “The lesson is over for today,” he said.
— “The Tao of Programming”
A mother and her daughter came to the doctor’s office. The mother asked the doctor to examine her daughter. “She has been having some strange symptoms and I’m worried about her,” the mother said.
The doctor examined the daughter carefully. Then he announced, “Madam, I believe your daughter is pregnant.”
The mother gasped. “That’s nonsense!” she said. “Why, my little girl has never even been out with a man, let alone... let alone...” She turns to the girl and said, “Tell the doctor, Susie!”
“Yes, Mumsy,” said the girl. “Doctor, I have never so much as kissed a man!”
The doctor looked from the mother to daughter, and back again. Then, silently he stood up and walked to the window. He stared out. He continued staring until the mother felt compelled to ask, “Doctor, is there something wrong out there?”
“No, Madam,” said the doctor. “It’s just that the last time anything like this happened, a star appeared in the East and I was looking to see if another one was going to show up.”
A priest asked: “What is Fate, Master?”
And he answered:
“It is that which gives a beast of burden its reason for existence. It is that which men in former times had to bear upon their backs. It is that which has caused nations to build byways from City to City upon which carts and coaches pass, and alongside which inns have come to be built to stave off Hunger, Thirst and Weariness.” “And that is Fate?”, said the priest.
“Fate… I thought you said Freight”, responded the Master.
“That’s all right”, said the priest. “I wanted to know what Freight was too.”
— Kehlog Albran, “The Profit”
A priest was walking along the cliffs at Dover when he came upon two locals pulling another man ashore on the end of a rope. “That’s what I like to see”, said the priest, “A man helping his fellow man”.
As he was walking away, one local remarked to the other, “Well, he sure doesn’t know the first thing about shark fishing.”
A prominent broadcaster, on a big-game safari in Africa, was taken to a watering hole where the life of the jungle could be observed. As he looked down from his tree platform and described the scene into his tape recorder, he saw two gnus grazing peacefully. So preoccupied were they that they failed to observe the approach of a pride of lions led by two magnificent specimens, obviously the leaders. The lions charged, killed the gnus, and dragged them into the bushes where their feasting could not be seen. A little while later the two kings of the jungle emerged and the radioman recorded on his tape: “Well, that’s the end of the gnus and here, once again, are the head lions.”
A secretary entered her boss’s office with the announcement: “I have some good news and some bad news.”
He muttered, “It’s quarterly report day, Sally — just the good news.”
She replied, “You’re not sterile.”
A woman was married to a golfer. One day she asked, “If I were to die, would you remarry?”
After some thought, the man replied, “Yes, I’ve been very happy in this marriage and I would want to be this happy again.”
The wife asked, “Would you give your new wife my car?”
“Yes,” he replied. “That’s a good car and it runs well.”
“Well, would you live in this house?”
“Yes, it is a lovely house and you have decorated it beautifully. I’ve always loved it here.”
“Well, would you give her my golf clubs?”
“She’s left handed.”
An Israeli soldier was checking travellers’ papers on a road, when a man and a heavily pregnant woman on a donkey came by. “Your names please?” said the soldier.
“My name is Mary,” said the woman.
“And mine is Joseph,” said the man.
“Oh,” said the soldier, a little taken aback, “And where are you going?”
“Your reason for going there?”
“To pay our taxes to the government.”
“Tell me,” said the soldier, “are you going to name the baby Jesus?”
“Of course not,” said the woman, “What do you think we are, Puerto Ricans?”
Between 1950 and 1952, a bored weatherman, stationed north of Hudson Bay, left a monument that neither government nor time can eradicate. Using a bulldozer abandoned by the Air Force, he spent two years and great effort pushing boulders into a single word.
It can be seen from 10,000 feet, silhouetted against the snow. Government officials exchanged memos full of circumlocutions (no Latin equivalent exists) but failed to word an appropriation bill for the destruction of this cairn, that wouldn’t alert the press and embarrass both Parliament and Party.
It stands today, a monument to human spirit. If life exists on other planets, this may be the first message received from us.
— The Realist, November, 1964.
Driving through a Swiss city one day, Alfred Hitchcock suddenly pointed out of the car window and said, “That is the most frightening sight I have ever seen.” His companion was surprised to see nothing more alarming than a priest in conversation with a little boy, his hand on the child’s shoulder. “Run, little boy,” cried Hitchcock, leaning out of the car. “Run for your life!”
During a session with a marriage counsellor, the wife snapped at her husband: “That’s not true, I do enjoy sex!” Then, turning to the counsellor, she added: “But this fiend expects it three or four times a year!
Some early etymological scholars came up with derivations that were hard for the public to believe. The term “etymology” was formed from the Latin “etus” (“eaten”), the root “mal” (“bad”), and “logy” (“study of”). It meant “the study of things that are hard to swallow.”
— Mike Kellen
Failed Attempts To Break Records
In September 1978 Mr. Terry Gripton, of Stafford, failed to break the world shouting record by two and a half decibels. “I am not surprised he failed,” his wife said afterwards. “He’s really a very quiet man and doesn’t even shout at me.”
In August of the same year Mr. Paul Anthony failed to break the record for continuous organ playing by 387 hours.
His attempt at the Golden Fish Fry Restaurant in Manchester ended after 36 hours 10 minutes, when he was accused of disturbing the peace. “People complained I was too noisy,” he said.
In January 1976 Mr. Barry McQueen failed to walk backwards across the Menai Bridge playing the bagpipes. “It was raining heavily and my drone got waterlogged,” he said.
A TV cameraman thwarted Mr. Bob Specas’ attempt to topple 100,000 dominoes at the Manhattan Center, New York on 9 June 1978. 97,500 dominoes had been set up when he dropped his press badge and set them off.
— Stephen Pile, “The Book of Heroic Failures”
[From an announcement of a congress of the International Ontopsychology Association, in Rome]:
The Ontopsychological school, availing itself of new research criteria and of a new telematic epistemology, maintains that social modes do not spring from dialectics of territory or of class, or of consumer goods, or of means of power, but rather from dynamic latencies capillarized in millions of individuals in system functions which, once they have reached the event maturation, burst forth in catastrophic phenomenology engaging a suitable stereotype protagonist or duty marionette (general, president, political party, etc.) to consummate the act of social schizophrenia in mass genocide.
[From the operation manual for the CI-300 Dot Matrix Line Printer, made in Japan]:
The excellent output machine of MODEL CI-300 as extraordinary DOT MATRIX LINE PRINTER, built in two MICRO-PROCESSORs as well as EAROM, is featured by permitting wonderful co-existence such as; “high quality against low cost”, “diversified functions with compact design”, “flexibility in accessibleness and durability of approx. 2000,000,00 Dot/Head”, “being sophisticated in mechanism but possibly agile operating under noises being extremely suppressed” etc. And as a matter of course, the final goal is just simply to help achieve “super shuttle diplomacy” between cool data, perhaps earned by HOST COMPUTER, and warm heart of human being.
Georg Wilhelm Hegel [the German philosopher], on his deathbed, complained, “Only one man ever understood me.” He fell silent for a while and then added, “And he didn’t understand me.”
Grover Cleveland, though constantly at loggerheads with the Senate, got on better with the House of Representatives. A popular story circulating during his presidency concerned the night he was roused by his wife crying, “Wake up! I think there are burglars in the house.”
“No, no, my dear,” said the president sleepily, “in the Senate maybe, but not in the House.”
Haggis is a kind of stuff black pudding eaten by the Scots and considered by them to be not only a delicacy but fit for human consumption. The minced heart, liver and lungs of a sheep, calf or other animal’s inner organs are mixed with oatmeal, sealed and boiled in maw in the sheep’s intestinal stomach-bag and ... Excuse me a minute ...
“Heard you were moving your piano, so I came over to help.”
“Thanks. Got it upstairs already.”
“Do it alone?”
“Nope. Hitched the cat to it.”
“How would that help?”
“Used a whip.”
— Monty Python
“Hello, Mrs. Premise!”
“Oh, hello, Mrs. Conclusion! Busy day?”
“Busy? I just spent four hours burying the cat.”
“Four hours to bury a cat!?”
“Yes, he wouldn’t keep still: wrigglin’ about, ‘owlin’...”
“Oh, it’s not dead then.”
“Oh no, no, but it’s not at all a well cat, and as we’re goin’ away for a fortnight I thought I’d better bury it just to be on the safe side.”
“Quite right. You don’t want to come back from Sorrento to a dead cat, do you?”
— Monty Python
“How’d you get that flat?”
“Ran over a bottle.”
“Didn’t you see it?”
“Damn kid had it under his coat.”
In the beginning, God created the Earth and he said, “Let there be mud.”
And there was mud.
And God said, “Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what we have done.”
And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud-as-man alone could speak.
“What is the purpose of all this?” man asked politely.
“Everything must have a purpose?” asked God.
“Certainly,” said man.
“Then I leave it to you to think of one for all of this,” said God.
And He went away.
— Kurt Vonnegut, Between Time and Timbuktu”
Inglish Spocken Hier: some mangled translations
Sign on a cabin door of a Soviet Black Sea cruise liner:
Helpsavering apparata in emergings behold many whistles!
Associate the stringing apparata about the bosums and meet
behind, flee then to the indifferent lifesaveringshippen
obedicing the instructs of the vessel.
On the door in a Belgrade hotel:
Let us know about any unficiency as well as leaking on the service. Our utmost will improve it.
Sign on a cathedral in Spain:
It is forbidden to enter a woman, even a foreigner if dressed as a man.
Above the entrance to a Cairo bar:
Unaccompanied ladies not admitted unless with husband or similar.
On a Bucharest elevator:
The lift is being fixed for the next days.
During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.
Various signs in Poland:
Right turn toward immediate outside.
Go soothingly in the snow, as there lurk the ski demons.
Five o’clock tea at all hours.
In a men’s washroom in Sidney:
Shake excess water from hands, push button to start,
rub hands rapidly under air outlet and wipe hands
on front of shirt.
— Colin Bowles, San Francisco Chronicle
James McNeill Whistler’s (painter of “Whistler’s Mother”) failure in his West Point chemistry examination once provoked him to remark in later life, “If silicon had been a gas, I should have been a major general.”
Lassie looked brilliant, in part because the farm family she lived with was made up of idiots. Remember? One of them was always getting pinned under the tractor, and Lassie was always rushing back to the farmhouse to alert the other ones. She’d whimper and tug at their sleeves, and they’d always waste precious minutes saying things: “Do you think something’s wrong? Do you think she wants us to follow her? What is it, girl?”, etc., as if this had never happened before, instead of every week. What with all the time these people spent pinned under the tractor, I don’t see how they managed to grow any crops whatsoever. They probably got by on federal crop supports, which Lassie filed the applications for.
— Dave Barry
I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK,
I sleep all night and I work all day.
He’s a lumberjack and he’s OK,
He sleeps all night and he works all day.
I cut down trees, I eat my lunch,
I go to the lavatory.
On Wednesday I go shopping,
And have buttered scones for tea.
He cuts down trees, he eats his lunch,
He goes to the lavatory.
On Wednesday he goes shopping,
And has buttered scones for tea.
I cut down trees, I skip and jump,
I like to press wild flowers,
I put on women’s clothing,
And hang around in bars.
He cuts down trees, he skips and jumps,
He likes to press wild flowers.
He puts on women’s clothing,
And hangs around in bars.
I cut down trees, I wear high heels,
Suspenders and a bra.
I wish I’d been a girlie,
Just like my dear Papa.
He cuts down trees, he wears high heels,
Suspenders? and a bra?
Murray and Esther, a middle-aged Jewish couple, are touring Chile. Murray just got a new camera and is constantly snapping pictures. One day, without knowing it, he photographs a top-secret military installation. In an instant, armed troops surround Murray and Esther and hustle them off to prison.
They can’t prove who they are because they’ve left their passports in their hotel room. For three weeks they’re tortured day and night to get them to name their contacts in the liberation movement.. Finally they’re hauled in front of a military court, charged with espionage, and sentenced to death.
The next morning they’re lined up in front of the wall where they’ll be shot. The sergeant in charge of the firing squad asks them if they have any lasts requests. Esther wants to know if she can call her daughter in Chicago. The sergeant says he’s sorry, that’s not possible, and turns to Murray.
“This is crazy!” Murray shouts. “We’re not spies!” And he spits in the sergeants face.
“Murray!” Esther cries. “Please! Don’t make trouble.”
— Arthur Naiman, “Every Goy’s Guide to Yiddish”
Notice: Absolutely nothing for next 27 miles.
Notice: The farmer allows walkers to cross the field for free, but the bull charges.
One day President Reagan, Chairman Brezhnev, the Pope, and a boy scout were flying together in an airplane. Right out in the middle of nowhere the plane developed engine trouble and started to go down. Unfortunately, only three parachutes could be found for the four passengers! Brezhnev grabbed one of the parachutes and declared “Comrades, as leader of the socialist workers revolution, my life must be spared.” And he jumped out of the plane. Then Reagan exclaimed “As leader of the greatest nation on earth, I must keep the world safe for democracy.” And with that he too jumped to safety. Now if you are following all this (or counting on your fingers) you must see that there is only one parachute left for the two remaining passengers. The Pope looked kindly upon the boy scout and said “I have had a long and productive life, my son. You take the parachute and leave me in God’s hands.” “That’s very kind of you,” the observant scout replied, “but there is no need. Reagan just jumped out with my knapsack.”
Seems like this duck waddles into a pharmacy, waddles up to the prescription counter and rings the bell. The pharmacist walks up and asks, “Can I help you?”.
The duck replies, “Yes, I’d like a box of condoms, please.”
“Certainly”, says the pharmacist, “will that be cash or would
you like me to put it on your bill?”
Snarls the duck, “Just what kind of duck do you think I am?”
Stalin was dying, and summoned Khrushchev to his bedside. Wheezing his last words with difficulty, Stalin tells Khrushchev, “The reins of the country are now in your hands. But before I go, I want to give you some advice.”
“Yes, yes, what is it?” says Khrushchev, impatiently. Reaching under his pillow, Stalin produced two envelopes labelled #1 and #2.
“Take these letters,” he tells Khrushchev. “Keep them safely — don’t open them. Only if the country is in turmoil and things aren’t going well, open the first one. That’ll give you some advice on what to do. And, if after that, if things start getting REALLY bad, open the second one.” And with a gasp Stalin breathed his last.
Well, within a few years Khrushchev started having problems — unemployment increased, crops failed, people became restless. He decided it was time to open the first letter. All it said was: “Blame everything on me!” So Khrushchev launched a massive deStalinization campaign, and blamed Stalin for all the excesses and purges and ills of the present system.
But things continued on the downslide, and, finally, after much deliberation, Khrushchev opened the second letter.
All it said was: “Write two letters.”
The Drunken Major
On 17 December 1884 a late night train was about to !eave Heathfield when Major Edwards, a wealthy landowner of Groombridge, ran on to the platform just as the guard was signalling the ‘right away’. He was hurriedly assisted into a first class compartment before the staff noticed that he was very drunk. At Mayfield the Major complained bitterly of not having a ticket and on being supplied with one he held up the train while he visited the station toilet.
On returning him to his compartment the guard wisely locked both doors and no further thought was given to the matter until, between Rotherfield and Eridge, the Major suddenly appeared on the locomotive footplate complaining that a large dog had chased him out of the carriage window. With quick understanding the fireman pretended to drive off the dog with his shovel and the driver made their guest as comfortable as possible on their coats so that he fell asleep.
A hasty inspection of the train at Eridge showed that the compartment had
indeed been left through the window and the passage to the engine made along
the running boards of two carriages, a feat no sober man would have even
contemplated. Needless to say, no fierce dog was discovered and the guard,
station master and driver all agreed that the footplate was the safest place
until Groombridge, and the train set off.
At Groombridge the Major refused to wake up and had to be taken on to Tunbridge Wells where a stop was made at a signal some four hundred yards before the platform.
Coming to life quite suddenly, the unwanted guest threw off the coats and flung himself off the engine shouting ‘Groombridge, Groombridge, all change’. All was then quiet and, as the signal cleared, the train was taken into the station where a search party with lanterns was organised.
At the spot where the Major left the train there was a stream, swollen with flood water, at the foot of a steep embankment down which various marks showed his hurried descent. No body could he found so the course of the stream was followed until it passed into a culvert under the railway line.
The search was then abandoned for it was considered that no human being could possibly survive such a raging torrent.
On return to the station a messenger was sent to call the police and the business of stabling the train and the engine began. The guard was writing his report in the station master’s office when the police arrived and as the story was being told the young and very inexperienced booking clerk called for assistance saving ‘a drunken tramp won’t believe that the last train has left for Groombridge and he keeps beating off a huge dog that I can’t see’.
There was a rush for the ticket office where stood the missing Major Edwards, covered in mud, very wet, stilI very drunk, but very much alive. After the provision of dry clothing and black coffee he was sent home by special train.
Later, on learning that the company was penalising the men concerned, he paid their fines and sent a cheque for £25 to the widows and orphans fund.
— Alan Elliot, ‘The Cuckoo Line’ (Wild Swan Publications)
The Greatest Mathematical Error
The Mariner I space probe was launched from Cape Canaveral on 28 July 1962 towards Venus. After 13 minutes’ flight a booster engine would give acceleration up to 25,820 mph; after 44 minutes 9,800 solar cells would unfold; after 80 days a computer would calculate the final course corrections and after 100 days the craft would circle the unknown planet, scanning the mysterious cloud in which it is bathed.
However, with an efficiency that is truly heartening, Mariner I plunged into the Atlantic Ocean only four minutes after takeoff.
Inquiries later revealed that a minus sign had been omitted from the instructions fed into the computer. “It was human error”, a launch spokesman said.
This minus sign cost £4,280,000.
— Stephen Pile, “The Book of Heroic Failures”
The Poet Whose Badness Saved His Life
The most important poet in the seventeenth century was George Wither. Alexander Pope called him “wretched Wither” and Dryden said of his verse that “if they rhymed and rattled all was well”.
In our own time, “The Dictionary of National Biography” notes that his work “is mainly remarkable for its mass, fluidity and flatness. It usually lacks any genuine literary quality and often sinks into imbecile doggerel”.
High praise, indeed, and it may tempt you to savour a typically rewarding stanza: It is taken from “I loved a lass” and is concerned with the higher emotions.
She would me “Honey” call,
She’d — O she’d kiss me too.
But now alas! She’s left me
Falero, lero, loo.
Among other details of his mistress which he chose to immortalise was her prudent choice of footwear.
The fives did fit her shoe.
In 1639 the great poet’s life was endangered after his capture by the Royalists during the English Civil War. When Sir John Denham, the Royalist poet, heard of Wither’s imminent execution, he went to the King and begged that his life be spared. When asked his reason, Sir John replied, “Because that so long as Wither lived, Denham would not be accounted the worst poet in England.”
— Stephen Pile, “The Book of Heroic Failures”
The Worst Lines of Verse
For a start, we can rule out James Grainger’s promising line:
“Come, muse, let us sing of rats.”
Grainger (1721-67) did not have the courage of his convictions and deleted these words on discovering that his listeners dissolved into spontaneous laughter the instant they were read out.
No such reluctance afflicted Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-70) who was inspired by the subject of war.
“Flash! flash! bang! bang! and we blazed away,
And the grey roof reddened and rang;
Flash! flash! and I felt his bullet flay
The tip of my ear. Flash! bang!”
By contrast, Cheshire cheese provoked John Armstrong (1709-79):
“... that which Cestria sends, tenacious paste of solid milk...”
While John Bidlake was guided by a compassion for vegetables:
“The sluggard carrot sleeps his day in bed,
The crippled pea alone that cannot stand.”
George Crabbe (1754-1832) wrote:
“And I was ask’d and authorised to go
To seek the firm of Clutterbuck and Co.”
William Balmford explored the possibilities of religious verse:
“So ‘tis with Christians, Nature being weak
While in this world, are liable to leak.”
And William Wordsworth showed that he could do it if he really tried when describing a pond:
“I’ve measured it from side to side;
Tis three feet long and two feet wide.”
— Stephen Pile, “The Book of Heroic Failures”
The Worst Musical Trio
There are few bad musicians who have a chance to give a recital at a famous concert hall while still learning the rudiments of their instrument. This happened about thirty years ago to the son of a Rumanian gentleman who was owed a personal favour by Georges Enesco, the celebrated violinist. Enesco agreed to give lessons to the son who was quite unhampered by great musical talent.
Three years later the boy’s father insisted that he give a public concert. “His aunt said that nobody plays the violin better than he does. A cousin heard him the other day and screamed with enthusiasm.” Although Enesco feared the consequences, he arranged a recital at the Salle Gaveau in Paris. However, nobody bought a ticket since the soloist was unknown.
“Then you must accompany him on the piano,” said the boy’s father, “and it will be a sell out.”
Reluctantly, Enesco agreed and it was. On the night an excited audience gathered. Before the concert began Enesco became nervous and asked for someone to turn his pages.
In the audience was Alfred Cortot, the brilliant pianist, who volunteered and made his way to the stage.
The soloist was of uniformly low standard and next morning the music critic of Le Figaro wrote: “There was a strange concert at the Salle Gaveau last night. The man whom we adore when he plays the violin played the piano. Another whom we adore when he plays the piano turned the pages. But the man who should have turned the pages played the violin.”
— Stephen Pile, “The Book of Heroic Failures”
The Worst Prison Guards
The largest number of convicts ever to escape simultaneously from a maximum security prison is 124. This record is held by Alcoente Prison, near Lisbon in Portugal.
During the weeks leading up to the escape in July 1978 the prison warders had noticed that attendances had fallen at film shows which included “The Great Escape”, and also that 220 knives and a huge quantity of electric cable had disappeared. A guard explained, “Yes, we were planning to look for them, but never got around to it.” The warders had not, however, noticed the gaping holes in the wall because they were “covered with posters”. Nor did they detect any of the spades, chisels, water hoses and electric drills amassed by the inmates in large quantities. The night before the breakout one guard had noticed that of the 36 prisoners in his block only 13 were present. He said this was “normal” because inmates sometimes missed roll-call or hid, but usually came back the next morning.
“We only found out about the escape at 6:30 the next morning when one of the prisoners told us,” a warder said later. [...] When they eventually checked, the prison guards found that exactly half of the gaol’s population was missing. By way of explanation the Justice Minister, Dr. Santos Pais, claimed that the escape was “normal” and part of the “legitimate desire of the prisoner to regain his liberty.”
— Stephen Pile, “The Book of Heroic Failures”
The devout Jew was beside himself because his son had been dating a shiksa, so he went to visit his rabbi. The rabbi listened solemnly to his problem, took his hand, and said, “Pray to God.”
So the Jew went to the synagogue, bowed his head, and prayed, “God, please help me. My son, my favorites son, he’s going to marry a shiksa, he sees nothing but goyim...”
“Your son,” boomed down this voice from the heavens, “you think you got problems. What about my son?”
The duck hunter trained his retriever to walk on water. Eager to show off this amazing accomplishment, he asked a friend to go along on his next hunting trip. Saying nothing, he fired his first shot and, as the duck fell, the dog walked on the surface of the water, retrieved the duck and returned it to his master.
“Notice anything?” the owner asked eagerly.
“Yes,” said his friend, “I see that fool dog of yours can’t swim.”
The following quote is from page 4-27 of the MSCP Basic Disk Functions Manual which is part of the UDA50 Programmers Doc Kit manuals:
As stated above, the host area of a disk is structured as a vector of logical blocks. From a performance viewpoint, however, it is more appropriate to view the host area as a four dimensional hyper-cube, the four dimensions being cylinder, group, track, and sector.
… Referring to our hyper-cube analogy, the set of potentially accessible blocks form a line parallel to the track axis. This line moves parallel to the sector axis, wrapping around when it reaches the edge of the hyper-cube.
Two men are in a hot-air balloon. Soon, they find themselves lost in a canyon somewhere. One of the three men says, “I’ve got an idea. We can call for help in this canyon and the echo will carry our voices to the end of the canyon. Someone’s bound to hear us by then!”
So he leans over the basket and screams out, “Helllloooooo! Where are we?” (They hear the echo several times).
Fifteen minutes later, they hear this echoing voice: “Helllloooooo! You’re lost!”
The shouter comments, “That must have been a mathematician.”
Puzzled, his friend asks, “Why do you say that?”
“For three reasons. First, he took a long time to answer, second, he was absolutely correct, and, third, his answer was absolutely useless.”
When the usher noticed a man stretched across three seats in a movie theatre, he walked over and whispered, “I’m sorry, sir, but you’re allowed only a single seat.” The man moaned, but did not budge. “Sir,” the user said more loudly, “if you don’t move, I’ll have to call a manager.” The man moaned again but stayed where he was. The usher left, and returned with the manager, who, after several more attempts at dislodging the fellow, called the police.
The cop took a look at the reclining man and said, “All right, boyo, what’s your name?”
“Samuel,” he mumbled.
“And where’re you from, Sam?”
You have to stay in shape. My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She’s 97 today and we don’t know where the hell she is. — Ellen DeGeneres, comedian.