Tag Archives: humor

Voltaire on Stupidity and Etiquette

“To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.”

Voltaire

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Big Curmudgeon. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007.

The Doubter’s Companion: Abasement

“Abasement: In a society of courtiers or corporatists, the question is not whether to abase or to be abased, but whether a favorable balance can be struck between the two.

Simple folk may have some difficulty mastering the skills involved, but the sophisticated innately understand how the pleasure of abasing others can be heightened by being abased themselves.

The illusion among the most skilled is that they can achieve ultimate pleasure through a type of ambition or drive, which they call competence. This causes them to rise higher, and so to win ever-greater power. But what is the value of this status in a highly structured society devoid of any particular purpose except the right, for a limited time, to give more orders than are received? Courtiers used to scurry around palace corridors with much the same illusion of importance.

When the time comes to retire from the functions of power, many collapse into a psychic crisis. They feel as if they have been ejected into a void. This is because society has not been rewarding them for their competence or their knowledge, but for their occupation of positions of power. Their very success has required a disembodied abasement of the individual. And when they leave power, the agreeable sense of purpose which it conveyed simply withers away.

Of course, power must be wielded or there is no civilization. But in a society so devoted to power and run by hierarchies of expertise, the elites are unconsciously addicted to an abstract form of sadomasochism. This may explain why success so often translates into triumphalism and constant complaints about the incompetence of others. The underlying assumption of most civilizations, including our own, is the exact opposite. Success is supposed to produce a flowering of modesty and concern for others.”

Excerpted from: Saul, John Ralston. The Doubter’s Companion. New York: The Free Press, 1994.

Evelyn Waugh on Manners

“Manners are especially the need of the plain. The pretty can get away with anything.”

Evelyn Waugh

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Big Curmudgeon. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007.

Peter Ustinov on Experts

“If the world should blow itself up, the last audible voice would be that of an expert saying it can’t be done.”

Peter Ustinov

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Big Curmudgeon. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007

Charles Schultz on Misanthropy

“I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand.”

Charles Schultz

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Big Curmudgeon. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007.

Steve’s Trail Descriptions: Salisbury 2020 Trash Trail Connector to Eastern Marsh Bike Path

[My good pal Steve lives in Salisbury, Massachusetts, which is in the far northeastern corner of Massachusetts; indeed, Seabrook, New Hampshire is the next town north. I received this text from him this morning with the announcement that he plans, in his retirement, to o become a Bike Guide author. Here’s an excerpt from his upcoming article, “Salisbury on a Bike?” He asked me to read and critique the piece. I laughed out loud, then knew right away that I wanted to pin it to the top of this blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Riding the Trash Trail from the back door.

This short transit to the real bike trail gains a pathetic 20 feet of elevation over 1/8 mile cresting atop Garbage Truck Heights. 
A sassy eight foot section of single track along the way up will keep the short attention span crowd occupied for about 2 seconds.

The descent down Cemetery Ridge to the crossing of Route 1 should be uneventful save for Halloween and when the biker gangs are in town (no, not mountain bikers). Once across Route 1 ride south against traffic 100 yards or so and try not to get hit by someone texting in a car or pickup.

A left onto the dirt road known as Murderer’s Meander (M.M.) promises a thrilling 1/2 mile descent on dirt and gravel to one of the most scenic ambush locations on the North Shore.

You are now on The Eastern Marsh Bike Path

Something to look forward to coming back home?
 When you are huffing back up M.M. after a 16 mile ride heading home…don’t mind the 300 lb bearded gent with the giant German Shepard if he’s around.

He’s friendly. I promise the encounter will make you go faster up that last 70 feet of vertical than you thought possible.

Dave Barry on Meetings

“Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other large organizations habitually engage in only because they cannot actually masturbate.”

Dave Barry

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Big Curmudgeon. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007.

Write It Right: Individual

“Individual. As a noun, this word means something that cannot be considered as divided, a unit. But it is incorrect to call a man, woman, or child an individual, except with reference to mankind, to society, or to a class of persons. It will not do to say ‘An individual stood in the street,’ when no mention of allusion has been made, nor is going to be made, to some aggregate of individuals considered as a whole.”

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. Write it Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2010.

Elbert Hubbard on Editors

“Editor: A person employed on a newspaper whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff and to see that the chaff is printed.”

Elbert Hubbard

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Big Curmudgeon. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007.

Rotten Reviews: A Moveable Feast

“Judging by this memoir, it would seem the Hemingway estate is prepared to dribble out some very small beer indeed in the name of the master. This book was apparently completed in Cuba in 1960 and, for all the good it is likely to do Hemingway’s reputation, it could very well have stayed there—permanently.”

Geoffrey Wagner, Commonweal

Excerpted from: Barnard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.