Archive for the ‘History Humor’ Category

Brushing Up On Your Holidays

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

This holiday surely has bite.
People honor it night after night
And each morning, I hope;
At least those who use soap
Should adore “Nylon Toothbrush Day,” right?

Nylon Toothbrush Day is celebrated on February 24th because on February 24, 1938, the first nylon bristle toothbrush, manufactured by DuPont under the name “Dr. West’s Miracle Toothbrush,” went on sale.

Barbed Limerick

Monday, January 18th, 2016

Happy birthday to barbed wire’s inventor, Joseph Farwell Glidden. (Jan. 18, 1813-Oct. 9, 1906)

If you’d like to stop exit or entry,
Barbed wire can act as your sentry.
This invention by Glidden
Blocks people unbidden–
Quite handy for rich, landed gentry.

Limerick Ode To The Pencil Sharpener (3-Verse)

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

Did anyone else love sharpening pencils as a child? I was reminded of this favorite ritual of mine, when I learned that today’s the anniversary of John Lee Love’s small, portable “Love Sharpener” patent.

Limerick Ode To The Pencil Sharpener
By Madeleine Begun Kane

As a youngster, I’d take much delight
In my writing tools, shiny and bright.
This is how I’d begin:
I’d stick pencils within
A small sharp’ner, my point-making rite.

How I’d rotate each pencil and stare
At its shavings, while taking great care.
And here’s what I’d ask
In my ritual task:
“Please pencil, don’t break. Don’t you dare!”

Cuz turning too much takes its toll
When the pointiest point is your goal.
But I learned over time:
Pencil points quite sublime
Can be Lovingly carved in that hole.

Reality TV Humor (New York Magazine Contest)

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

New York Magazine recently started a new weekly contest. This week’s challenge is to invent titles of a “premodern reality-television series.” You can enter either on Twitter or in the contest page’s comment section.

Here are my entries (on Twitter) so far:

The Real Cavewives of Windsor

The Dinosaur Hunter

Reinventing The Wheel

Dancing With The Bard

Keeping Up With The Bardashians

The Sorcery Apprentice

Fun With News Headlines

Friday, December 13th, 2013

A recent Washington Post Style Invitational contest asked us to find a REAL headline in any publication, and “then write a ‘bank head’ that reinterprets the headline or comments wryly on it.”

Here are my entries, one of which got an Honorable Mention. Can you guess which? (The answer will appear “upside down” at the end of this post.)

Obama scoffs at people who call him a ‘socialist’
Socialists file libel suit

Saudi Arabian man arrested for giving out free hugs
“What? I should charge for them?” says Saudi hugger

Adam Levine is ‘People’ mag’s Sexiest Man Alive
People demand second opinion

Meet Magnus Carlsen, the ‘Justin Bieber’ of chess
Hunky Norwegian seeks World Chess, World Chest championships

Strand Bookstore ‘uses sprinklers to evict homeless’
Homeless thank Strand for first shower in years

Jake Gyllenhaal Punches Mirror on Set
In “fairest of them all” title dispute

Kidnapped Girl Found After 19-Year Manhunt
A girl-hunt might have been faster

Apple and Google “Dog Fight”
Pet-lovers stage boycott

Some Doctors Challenge New Statin Guidelines
Claim “whoever did the math must be on drugs”

Beaver steals hunter’s rifle
Pleads self-defense

Rob Ford stripped of key powers
Ford strips in protest, powers hurriedly restored

Belief is more powerful than proof
Prove it!

Dow, S&P close at new highs
Fox News explains why this is bad news for Obama

The Rules for Eating Lunch at Your Desk
Rule 1: Don’t!

Ted Turner wants to go to heaven
Clarifies: “No rush! Heaven can wait.”

Amazon Deforestation Rises
Increased e-book sales will reverse trend, Amazon claims

Chicago woman hopes to turn things around after 396 arrests
The 397th time’s the charm

Robots Allow Doctors To Remotely Advise, Diagnose Patients
Shrug off blame for “epidemic of golf course overcrowding”

Head defends dialect ban in class
Body disagrees

Dog Predicts Polar Bear Pregnancy
Denies paternity

Train Heading to NYC Goes Wrong-Way, Ends Up in Philly Suburbs
Stubborn conductor refuses to stop, ask for directions

McDonald’s restaurant turns to opera to drive out loitering teenagers
“Gounod’s Faust drives those devils out in five minutes flat,” says manager

Dinosaur Fossils Recreated Using CT Scanners and 3D Printers
Had great old time “doing it”

Rep. Trey Radel busted in cocaine sting
Poised to challenge Toronto’s Rob Ford in ’14 mayoralty race

Costco sorry for labeling Bibles as ‘fiction’
Relabels Bibles “sci-fi”

And here (in upside down form) is the entry that received an Honorable Mention:

„ɥsnɹ ou„ :sǝıɟıɹɐןɔ
uǝʌɐǝɥ oʇ oƃ oʇ sʇuɐʍ ɹǝuɹnʇ pǝʇ
:pɐǝɹ oʇ sɐ os ʇnɔ sɐʍ ʇı ‘ɹǝʌǝʍoɥ

„˙ʇıɐʍ uɐɔ uǝʌɐǝɥ ¡ɥsnɹ ou„ :sǝıɟıɹɐןɔ
uǝʌɐǝɥ oʇ oƃ oʇ sʇuɐʍ ɹǝuɹnʇ pǝʇ

Snopes Definitely Won’t Back Me Up

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

I love learning about the origin of words and phrases. But sometimes you just have to make things up:

1) In the first draft of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Ebenezer Scrooge said “Bach! Humbug!” (Dickens despised Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.) But Dickens’ editor was worried about lawsuits and changed it to “Bah! Humbug!”

2) The second chair bass player of a now defunct symphony orchestra fantasized about playing first chair bass and marrying the principal bass player’s wife. When pulling strings didn’t work, he tried a different technique — poison. And that’s how he “got to first bass.”

3) In the early days of Broadway theater, actors had a bad habit of showing up for rehearsals dead drunk. Frustrated directors finally struck a deal with Actors’ Equity, which required actors to arrive at dress rehearsals sober. These final run-throughs were designated “dry runs.”

4) “Your Number’s Up” is a prize-winning tale about a society that murders its citizens on their 86th birthdays. The story climaxes with a revolt by the elderly, who “86″ their would-be killers.

5) Philosopher René Descartes was a boating fanatic with a speech defect. This led him to be credited with saying “Je pense, donc je suis” (“I think, therefore I am.”) Alas, what he really said was “Je punt, donc je suis.” But people were so impressed with what they thought he’d said, that he never bothered to correct them. This paid off in dividends, allowing him to purchase more than a dozen shallow water punts.

6) When people are “down in the dumps,”
They’ve been saddened by life’s little bumps.
But that phrase’s first sense
(Please do NOT take offense)
Was “plunged in what comes from our rumps.”

(I wrote these in response to a Washington Post Style Invitational contest that challenged us to write “bogus stories of the origins of familiar expressions.” You can read the winning entries here. And alas, I didn’t win.)

Mary, Mary? Au Contrairie (Limerick)

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Abe Lincoln historians and art historians alike have been stunned by this newly discovered art hoax:

For 32 years, a portrait of a serene Mary Todd Lincoln hung in the governor’s mansion in Springfield, Ill., signed by Francis Bicknell Carpenter, a celebrated painter who lived at the White House for six months in 1864.

The story behind the picture was compelling: Mrs. Lincoln had Mr. Carpenter secretly paint her portrait as a surprise for the president, but he was assassinated before she had a chance to present it to him.

Now it turns out that both the portrait and the touching tale accompanying it are false.

There’s a lot more to this story, so I recommend that you read the entire New York Times article. But before you leave me, here’s a limerick:

Mary, Mary? Au Contrairie (Limerick)
By Madeleine Begun Kane

Art historians suffered a shock:
Mrs. Lincoln’s famed portrait’s a crock.
A rip-off took place–
The pic hasn’t a trace
Of Abe’s Mary — it’s scam-ridden schlock.

The Vibrator Play on Broadway (Review and Limerick)

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

A period play about vibrators? It sounds like an unlikely theme for a Broadway play, but playwright Sarah Ruhl pulls it off in her In the Next Room or the vibrator play.

I highly recommend this funny and insightful comedy about hysteria, a “disease of the womb.” And so does New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood. But Isherwood’s review is missing a limerick:

Vibrant Vibrator Play (Limerick)
By Madeleine Begun Kane

A “Vibrator Play” on Broadway?
Yes, it sounds just a little risqué.
But it’s witty — not crude.
(Though it ain’t for a prude.)
I just loved it, so book it today.

(The details: In the Next Room or the vibrator play is a Lincoln Center Theater production, directed by Les Waters and playing at the Lyceum Theater. It stars Laura Benanti, Michael Cerveris, Maria Dizzia, Thomas Jay Ryan, Chandler Williams, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, and Wendy Rich Stetson.)

Ode to An Earthquake

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Ode To An Earthquake (Limerick)
By Madeleine Begun Kane

It’s ’71.  I awake
In LA to a 6.6 quake.
I feel nothing but terror
And curse out my error
In moving here. What a mistake!

Note: I graduated from Cal Arts in 1971.  Great school, but I could definitely have done without that  terrifying earthquake.

Great Moments In History: Happy Birthday Xerox Copier!

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

Did you know that the Xerox office copying revolution was born on October 22, 1938? This led to two large drops:  Mimeographic machine sales  … and men’s pants.