Category: Humor


“Yes, Prime Minister” on Political Debates

“If you have nothing to say, say nothing. But better, have something to say and say it, no matter what they ask. Pay no attention to the question, make your own statement. If they ask you the same question again, you just say, ‘That’s not the question’ or ‘I think the more important question is this:’  Then you make another statement of your own.”

Prime Minister Jim Hacker


“Learn English: Your In America”

My playful title is inspired by what I just heard Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, Republican of Virginia, say on the PBS News Hour. He was explaining the plank in the proposed 2012 Republican platform endorsing English as the national language (carried over from the 2008 platform). He stressed how important speaking “good English” is to the American dream.  He concluded: “so that was the collective, uh, thoughts of the committee.” Me agree.



“Yes Minister” on the 2012 Presidential Campaign

Sir Humphrey Appleby:  If you want to be really sure that the Minister doesn’t accept [a proposal], you must say the decision is “courageous.”

Bernard Woolley:  And that’s worse than “controversial?”

Sir Humphrey Appleby:  Oh, yes!  “Controversial” only means “this will lose you votes”. “Courageous” means “this will lose you the election!”


Could It Be? Mermaids? No. – U.S. Confirms No Evidence of Mermaids

Great. Now the U.S. government thinks we need reassurance that there is no evidence that mermaids exist. Apparently after a Discovery Channel show, a couple people wrote in and asked NOAA about mermaids. Here is the NOAA post. Per the BBC

The article was written from publicly available sources because “we don’t have a mermaid science programme”, National Ocean Service spokeswoman Carol Kavanagh told the BBC.

Yipee! Our science world is moving towards trademark law’s reliance on a few people’s confusion as signifying many must be confused in ways that require some action.

I much prefer the Disneyland Voyage Under the Sea script

Captain Nemo: Others treat any concept of Atlantis as pure fantasy, along with legends of sea serpents and mermaids.

Mr. Baxter: Begging your pardon, sir. But, did you say sea serpents are mere fantasies?

Captain Nemo: Belay there mate! Anyone in his right mind knows there’s no such thing as a sea serpent or mermaids. Mr. Baxter, if you think you’re seeing mermaids and sea monsters, you’ve been submerged too long!


B is for Bentham, B is for Branson; Of Heads As Odes

What is it with Brits and busts? Bentham asked that his head be preserved (and his body) as part of the auto-icon. I was listening to Wendy Brown’s lecture on Bentham and she reminded me of this oddity. As she explained, Bentham seemed to think that statues were less utile than a preserve body. The effort failed in that the body was preserved but the head shriveled and a wax head was needed to replace it. Now Richard Branson is apparently following in Bentham’s footsteps but understands the transient nature of things. He has embraced that nature so much that his take on busts is an ice cube mold of his head. Yes if you fly first, oh excuse me, upper class, on Virgin, you too can have this treasure. The Colbert Report clip below is a blast. To me, the whole idea evokes transubstantiation. Or maybe for science fiction fans, Heinlein’s grok in that way the Martians do, you know eating the bodies of the dead. Branson, that clever man, had found he does not have to die for us to commune with him. We just need to join his upper class. Now what if we make a similar mold? Ah let the lawsuits begin!

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Richard Branson-Shaped Ice Cubes
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Santorum: Please Don’t Google

If you Google “Santorum,” you’ll find that two of the top three search results take an unusual angle on the Republican candidate, thanks to sex columnist Dan Savage. (I very nearly used “Santorum” as a Google example in class last semester, and only just thought better of it.) Santorum’s supporters want Google to push the, er, less conventional site further down the rankings, and allege that Google’s failure to do so is political biased. That claim is obviously a load of Santorum, but the situation has drawn more thoughtful responses. Danny Sullivan argues that Google should implement a disclaimer, because kids may search on “Santorum” and be disturbed by what they find, or because they may think Google has a political agenda. (The site has one for “jew,” for example. For a long time, the first result for that search term was to the odious and anti-Semitic JewWatch site.)

This suggestion is well-intentioned but flatly wrong. I’m not an absolutist: I like how Google handled the problem of having a bunch of skinheads show up as a top result for “jew.” But I don’t want Google as the Web police, though many disagree. Should the site implement a disclaimer if you search for “Tommy Lee Pamela Anderson”? (Warning: sex tape.) If you search for “flat earth theory,” should Google tell you that you are potentially a moron? I don’t think so. Disclaimers should be the nuclear option for Google – partly so they continue to attract attention, and partly because they move Google from a primarily passive role as filter to a more active one as commentator. I generally like my Web results without knowing what Google thinks about them.

Evgeny Morozov has made a similar suggestion, though along different lines: he wants Google to put up a banner or signal when someone searches for links between vaccines and autism, or proof that the Pentagon / Israelis / Santa Claus was behind the 9/11 attacks. I’m more sympathetic to Evgeny’s idea, but I would limit banners or disclaimers to situations that meet two criteria. First, the facts of the issue must be clear-cut: pi is not equal to three (and no one really thinks so), and the planet is indisputably getting warmer. And second, the issue must be one that is both currently relevant and with significant consequences. The flat earthers don’t count; the anti-vaccine nuts do. (People who fail to immunize their children not only put them at risk; they put their classmates and friends at risk, too.) Lastly, I think there’s importance to having both a sense of humor and a respect for discordant, even false speech. The Santorum thing is darn funny. And, in the political realm, we have a laudable history of tolerating false or inflammatory speech, because we know the perils of censorship. So, keeping spreading Santorum!

Danielle, Frank, and the other CoOp folks have kindly let me hang around their blog like a slovenly houseguest, and I’d like to thank them for it. See you soon!

Cross-posted at Info/Law.