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What's So Funny?
Do you have a sense of humor? Of course, you answer ‘yes.’ We all would, even the poor devil who doesn’t have one. We have to think that; to believe otherwise would be to admit that you are not attractive, not lovable — that you are somehow less than human. But that’s certainly not you. I shouldn’t even suggest that it is. So let’s assume you have a ‘friend’ who doesn’t know when to laugh; how do you help your ‘friend?’

Let us be forthright: there is no cure for humorlessness. It is a lifelong affliction, like bad hair. There are, however, ways to cope. For bad hair, the solution is a hat. For the humorless, it is a lifetime of pretending you get it when you really don’t.

That said, one must always remember that the safest way to indicate amusement — at least until you’ve gained proficiency — is with a simple smile. No belly laughs for beginners, please. You’re blind to humor, remember? Let’s not start by running full tilt into the blackness. Just smile and try shaking your head. Not up and down, but side to side, as if you don’t believe what you just heard. Easy enough, right? Ah, but how will you know when to smile? Here are some simple guideposts.

B, as an example, is the funniest letter. I think that’s pretty generally accepted, except among P freaks. Boob, bustle, bozo, blimp, banjo, bupkis, boondoggle, even Beelzebub — the list is endless. If you hear a word with a prominent B or two, that is your cue to smile.

The funniest number is six. It’s also the most beautiful, but don’t let that throw you. It looks like a boob or a buttock, both of which can be lovely, but both of which are also hilarious (see the letter B, above). It also looks like a testicle. Ha ha.

The funniest color? Orange is not only clownish, but everyone looks bad wearing it. It’s almost as if they want you to laugh at them.

The dachshund is the funniest dog. “Wiener dog” says it all, I think. (There are no funny cats, by the way, unless you think tormenting them with a laser pointer is funny. And it isn’t; those YouTube clips are made by the humorless for the humorless.)

The funniest bird is the duck, with penguins coming in a close second. Daffy, Donald, Dirty, and (God, I miss him!) Duckman — there is no higher humor pantheon among all the animals. Ironically, neither ducks nor penguins do the single funniest thing that most birds do: that doofish head-bobbing walk. In truth, you can’t go wrong laughing at any bird, though I’d advise you not to get too cheeky with ostriches.

Vegetable? Beans, owing largely to their long association with farting, obviously take the top spot. Let’s be honest: even at your wittiest, you’ll never be as funny as flatulence. Childish, but true.

There is hope, then, for the humor-challenged. You can be assured that smiling at any of these cues is completely appropriate. After a while, after a lifetime of careful observation and practice, you’ll be able to add other cues to this list. Train yourself, like Pavlov’s wiener dog, to smile or laugh automatically at their mention, and you’ll finally become a functioning, lovable member of society. Fully human in every way.

That’s a joke, by the way.
Naming Rights
Let’s talk about your body for a moment. I don’t mean your body, per se, but rather your body as a representative of all human bodies, everywhere and forever. It’s hard to believe, given all that time and all those bodies, that some parts of your body remain unnamed.

It is my purpose to begin to fill in those blanks and thereby to exercise my right — the right of all sentient creatures — to put a name to anything in my sphere of experience. Whether these names stick, of course, is up to you and everyone else. I merely submit them here for your consideration.

First, let me identify the gold standard for the naming of body parts: thumb. Brief, unique, and manifestly organic in origin. Moreover, the word conveys the essence of the thing it names — sturdy, strong, yet nimble and savvy. The hut-dwelling Pict who thought up that word deserves a first-ballot induction into the English Language Hall of Fame.

So let’s get started — with the big toe. But that has a name, you may interject; it’s the Big Toe. Sadly, I am forced to reject that name. It is a sizeist term, and I think it’s time we moved beyond such divisive modes of thought. Instead, I submit the name flumb. Notice that I have honored the flumb’s common heritage with the thumb while substituting the F and L to intimate “foot” and “flat.” It’s one syllable, one-of-a-kind, and linguistically organic. Furthermore, it communicates the personality of the body part it identifies — modest, homely, trustworthy. (I should say in passing that the rest of your toes are low priorities on the List of Things to Be Named. They are so uniform in function that they could all have the same name. In fact, I endorse surgical unification of these redundant digits as a way of avoiding confusion. If you must name them, however, I recommend more familiar names such as Carl or Mitzi.)

Let’s move on. Have you ever looked closely at the underside of your tongue? Good, that’s where we’re going next. I refer in particular to that small flap of skin that runs along the axis of the tongue and attaches it to the floor of the mouth. You don’t even have to look at it; you can actually feel it with the tongue itself. For this nameless bit of flesh, I propose ulia. Three syllables, I know, but only four letters! And I think it captures the moist flexibility of this unsung body part. If you doubt me, try saying it out loud. Ulia. Did you salivate? I rest my case.

Finally, we will focus on a part of the body that has been the cause so much angst and shame throughout history. No, it’s not what you’re thinking, whatever that is. It’s the bald spot. “Bald spot,” in itself, is not a name; it is merely a description of a condition. The spot deserves better, and so does our language, but this is no easy challenge. We are trying, after all, to name something that doesn’t actually exist. A bald spot is the absence of hair; the unhair, if you will. It’s a vacuum, a void, a glistening expanse of nothingness, nothing but nothingness.

And so, let us call it the nuth. As in, “Is it my imagination, honey, or am I getting new growth right in the middle of my nuth?” Or, “Do you carry nuthwax?” You’ll have to admit: it works.

I place these humble offerings at the altar of the god of General Usage. Let them flourish or wither at the whim of my fellow English-speakers. If your body has been stirred in recognition at any of them, then I invite you — use them at your will.
Slo-Mo
Everybody loves slow motion. It’s the oldest, and still the best, cinematic special effect, and it retains its capacity to fascinate even after a hundred years of use.

Or, I would argue, a hundred years of over-use. It’s had a good run, and many filmmakers have used it deftly and with discrimination to entertain and move their audiences. It is time, however, to stop the madness and end our dependence on time distortion as a medium of artistic communication. By legislative fiat, if need be; it’s gotten that bad.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not an anti-slowmo-ite. Nothing I write here, for example, should be construed as an attempt to limit its use in instant replay on sports telecasts. There, it is employed as a means of ascertaining truth — and in some cases, great wisdom. In that context, it should be used over and over and over again. In Super Slow-Mo, if at all possible.

Similarly, I endorse its use as a tool of science. In fact, I request, here and now, that someone with the proper equipment compile a tape of slow motion sneezes. I am convinced that the resulting catalog of twisted facial expressions and violent expulsions of bodily fluids would be quite enlightening.

As a dramatic device, however, as a tool in the hands of the Hollywood storytellers, it has now been taken far beyond the portrayal of dream sequences and bouts of dementia. The turning point came in 1967. That’s the year Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde opened. You know the scene I’m talking about: the last one, where Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty are blasted full of holes by a battalion of lawmen for what seemed like twenty minutes — all in slow motion.

It is very effective cinematography, no doubt. I can still see them twitching and jerking and spurting inside and around that old Ford sedan. If Hollywood had stopped there and never produced another slow motion depiction of violence, then everything would be fine. But, no: the gates opened, and now the flow of slow-mo is at flood stage. Every film seems to be drowning in it: slow motion bullets, slow motion screams, slow motion homages to slow motion fight scene clichés.

Enough, already. Arthur Penn, if he weren’t already dead, would die of embarrassment. Sam Peckinpah is blushing posthumously. Dziga Vertov is spinning in his grave, probably in slow motion.

I’d like to be able to offer slow motion’s homely cousin, time lapse, as a substitute, but in good conscience I cannot. Let’s face it; “fast-mo” is only good for blooming flowers (aww) or rat corpses being consumed by maggots (eww). That’s kind of a limited repertoire. So we’ll just have to go on without access to time distortion as a special effect. It’s a shame to lose it, but I am sure the creative minds in Hollywood will come up with something. They gave us Smell-O-Vision, didn’t they?
A Freakin’ Genius
Did you hear about Jason Padgett? He’s the affable, 41-year-old futon salesman who became a mathematical genius. All he needed to do to was get beaten practically to death.

Mr. Padgett was jumped by several young toughs one evening as he left a karaoke bar in Tacoma, Washington. He was, among other things, given several hard kicks to the head, and those blows resulted in severe, permanent brain damage.

That, as it turned out, was Jason’s lucky day. According to neuroscientists who examined him after he recovered, his brain responded to the injury by commandeering an area of itself that wasn’t doing much at the time. For Padgett, a college dropout with no history as a numbers whiz, that area happened to be the one responsible for mathematics and mental imagery.

Suddenly, the lights went on in the math department. Cascades of formulae and numerical relationships exploded across his brainpan. Everything he saw, from buildings to mountains to single blades of grass, was instantly translated into precise fractal imagery. Furthermore, he is now able to draw intricate geometrical renderings of the mathematical relationships that have flooded his mind. He had become, through some accidental application of violence, a gifted, brilliant savant.

All of which is very nice — a great story and a stunning rejuvenation of Jason’s unremarkable life. Still, I have to ask: how can the rest of us get in on this action? How do we go about turning on the lights in some dark region of our own minds and so become the next Mozart, the next Einstein, the next Thomas Kinkade? Or, better yet, how do we get all the lights turned on everywhere in our brains? How do we become super-beings with godlike powers? Is that too much to ask?

I suppose you could start by trying to kick yourself in the head, but I can’t imagine that would produce anything more than some amusing clips for YouTube. You could ask a loved one to go at your noggin with a ball-peen hammer, but that might only serve to undermine the relationship. Besides, if all there were to becoming a genius was random, blunt force trauma to the head, then everyone in the NFL would be a Nobel laureate.

So how do we get those lights turned on and grab some super-powers of our own? I figure the only way is for some poor schlub like Jason to be brutally attacked and later wake up with a fundamental grasp of the wiring of the human brain, becoming a kind of accidental neuroscientific savant. Then that guy could tell the rest of us where the light switch is.

Would someone like to volunteer?
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee