Category Archives: Humor

THE BEST MEDICINE (published rinewstoday 4/13/20)

THE BEST MEDICINE

King James Bible Proverb 17:22, “A merry heart doth good like a medicine.” Seems to be a precursor to the modern, “Laughter is the best medicine.”

Sitting at my desk on this 17th day of self quarantine I face the yawning gap of hours to fill. Based on the biblical advice I decided to revisit some of the moments which have made me flat out laugh. I discovered a wide range of sources; high and low brow humor plus slapstick to dark comedy.

Every time I hear the blaring trumpets and arching voices of the Hail Freedonia! anthem at the beginning of the Marx brother’s Duck Soup I know I’m in for an hour and ten minutes of hilarity. Groucho, as Rufus T. Firelfly, is still in bed, nightcap and all, when this over the top musical tribute starts. His dialogues with Margaret Dumont are comic gold. The “Hail! Hail! Freedonia!..” refrain is used several times in the film with the chorus and trumpeters hilariously losing enthusiasm with each new effort.

No writer has ever captured the dark comedy in a troubled time better than Joseph Heller in Catch-22. His protagonist, Captain Yossarian, flying bombing missions in World War II lives a life with a Sisyphus construct; whenever he nears the flight quota needed for discharge the quota is increased. In desperation he pleads his case to Doc Daneeka using a fellow pilot, Orr, as a proxy.
“Is Orr crazy?” he asks Doc.
“He has to be crazy to keep flying combat missions…..Sure I can ground Orr. But first he has to ask me.”
“That’s all he has to do to be grounded?”
“No. Then I can’t ground him.”
“You mean there’s a catch?”
“Sure there’s a catch,” Doc replied. “Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy.”
“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” Yossarian observed.
“It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.

William Shakespeare’s great play of comedy and confusion, As You Like It, contains one of the wittiest put downs ever recorded on paper. In Act 3 Scene 2 the main character Orlando snipes to the nobleman Jacques, “I do desire we may be better strangers.” What a lovely, lyrical insult by the Bard.

In a 1983 Cheers episode the plot involves Sam deciding to read War and Peace to impress Diane. He does this despite Cliff’s description of the novel, “They say the first 800 pages are a little bit slow.” Sam soldiers on spending three days doggedly attempting to conquer Tolstoy’s masterpiece. In the final scene Diane chooses Sam over his intellectual rival. He admits he didn’t quite finish the book and Diane blithely says they should see the movie.
Sam explodes, “There’s a movie!! Where’s Cliff? I’m gonna kill him.”

In this current pandemic disaster we tire of the human condition; politicians daily attacking each other, folks wrestling for toilet paper. It is a time to try and find tolerance and forgiveness for people’s flaws. The final scene in the 1959 film Some Like It Hot offers a perfect, humorous, example. When a frustrated Jack Lemmon, disguised as the female Jerry Daphne, finally pulls off his wig and declares that he is a man to discourage the wholly smitten Oswald, played by Joe E.Brown, Brown’s marvelous face broadens with an elastic smile and he concludes the movie by declaring, “Well, nobody’s perfect.”
– END –

Disconnected – Published in the Providence Journal 2/8/15

Disconnected
The other day my bathroom plunger broke my Internet. But I’m getting way ahead of myself here.
On the scale of tech nerdiness, I probably fall somewhere between a Luddite and Steve Jobs. This is true even though, in 1967, I became a certified computer programmer by completing a seven-month, full-time, government-sponsored programming course at Providence College.
We were taught, some more successfully than others, three languages: Basic, Cobol and Fortran. These are now computing’s version of Sanskrit writing on a cave wall. We punched chads out of stiff beige programming cards then placed the stack in the feeding chute of the class’s IBM 360 computer.
The 360 was a battleship gray behemoth about 4 feet long and waist high. The cards would feed into the 360 with an industrial “ka-ching, ka-chung” cadence. Unless they stopped in mid-feed. Stopping was not good. It meant the 360 had rejected the logic of the binary code your chad punching represented. Your program had crashed. I often crashed.
Despite my struggles, I managed to graduate and earn my certification. I also went for an interview at a large insurance company in Hartford. During a tour of the company, we spent some time in the programmers’ bullpen, a cluster of 20 small cubicles. Sixteen of the desks featured tins of aspirin or bottles of Bufferin plainly in sight. I decided, then and there, that programming was not for me. To this day I wonder what stronger narcotics may have been hidden away in the programmers’ desk drawers.
Flash forward 47 years, more specifically, to the other morning.
“Page cannot be displayed. You are not connected to the Internet,” read the message on my Dell monitor. Delving into the Help/Assist section garnered such advice as, “Input the IPS number of your Ethernet device into the dialogue box.”
Hello? While I certainly had to relearn some aspects of computers in my marketing career, at least enough to tell our company’s IT guru what I wanted to accomplish, those instructions on my home computer were way beyond my pay grade. So I poked around various System Preferences, Reset Options and other unsuccessful paths to no avail. I checked all the connections on the back of my system. Finally, at 6:30 a.m. I had an epiphany!
Our washer and dryer are in the basement of our home. If I go downstairs to check a load, and the timer shows a few minutes left on the cycle, I don’t like to waste the trip. So I keep myself occupied until the time expires.
Often, I’ll work on my golf game. I have found that the bathroom plunger is a wonderful swing simulator. It is short enough to swing without hitting the ceiling and the plunger part of the plunger provides just the right weight to duplicate the feel of my Cobra 460cc driver.
I’ve worked on my inside to outside swing path with this device numerous times without incident. The previous night, however, because of some holiday storage issues, I had to move several feet forward from my usual swing space.
“Whack!”
My first swing had snapped into a coaxial cable hanging between two floor joists. The cable showed slightly more slack than usual, but I paid no heed. Until 6:30 a.m. the following morning when, after an hour of frustration trying to solve my problems at the keyboard, I came to the startling conclusion that my bathroom plunger had broken my computer.
Sure enough — I swear on Steve Jobs’s grave — I found a downstairs plug had been disconnected by my golf swing. A quick reconnect and I was back to my Google-y, Facebook-y and social media universe.
Yes, computers can be frustrating, but I have vowed to not let them drive me insane.
After all, in 1967 I was certifiable.
Jim Raftus (jraftus@aol.com), an occasional contributor, is a retired marketing executive who lives in Cumberland.