My paternal grandfather insisted that the reason Massachusetts drivers were so terrible was that Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to require liability auto insurance. Grandpa said deep in the heart of every Massachusetts driver is the ancestral urge that, having been forced to pay for this insurance, they’re damn well going to use it.

It seems like I need to post something funny on this blog, to balance out certain recent posts. So I share this joke I heard from my oldest child recently. She got it from the Internet someplace. And it is:

“Welcome to this meeting of Plastic Surgery Anonymous! I am happy to see so many new faces.”

(I chuckled.)

There was a time in this country, not so long ago, when the structure of generations made sense. To wit:

Elderly people were veterans of the Second World War, and their wives. From the tumult of their youth and the prosperity of their prime, they enjoyed the serenity of the golden Autumn of their years.

Middle-aged people had made the Nineteen-Sixties. Grappling with consequences of that era’s hedonism, they at the same time attempted to uphold its ideals while raising families and coming to responsibility.

Young people were those who grew up in the shadow of the Sixties, dealing with the wreckage of the new freedoms yet attempting to live out the promise that went before them.

This was a most vibrant arrangement, rich in sociological and narrative promise, and it bore much fruit for the republic. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the television program “Twin Peaks”, to give two examples.

But recently, it has come to my attention that the situation has changed.

Now, increasingly, Elderly people are those of Sixties, leading to, for instance, the spectacle of septuagenarian rock stars shuffling on stage in a grotesque parody of their salad days. Meanwhile their children have been forced into Middle Age, burdening them with responsibilities for which they were in no way adequately prepared.

Whereas the World War II generation is, by and large, deceased.

I don’t know when this change occurred. I don’t know who authorized it. I certainly wasn’t consulted. nor was anyone I know. Frankly, the entire situation is a disgrace, and it has gone on long enough. I intend to lodge a complaint. Manifestos and petitions must be pursued. I demand redress of grievance. Let no mistake be made: the country will be restored to the state it should be, and all made well again.

Quite a long time ago, I did my senior thesis on the era of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In the thick of it, I would find myself making up little songs, such as this one, about the first of Japan’s unifiers Oda Nobunaga, to the tune of Phish’s “Golgi Apparatus.”

I look into the Sansom book
just to check my saga (saga!)
I look into Azuchi times,
I see Oda Nobunaga

But Oda, oh, woe to you
You can’t even rule Honshu
Oda, Oda, Oda, Oda, Odaaaaaaaaa

They call him daimyo-man
’cause he told them to
If you served the Oda clan,
you’d do it too

But Oda, oh, woe to you
You can’t even rule Honshu
Oda, Oda, Oda, Oda, Odaaaaaaaaa

With the shogun’s head in your lap
With the shoguns’s head in your lap!

Run through Japan,
Get to the can,
Couldn’t get it wrong,
So I’ll have to-

Look into the Sansom book
just to check my saga
I look into Azuchi times,
I see Oda Nobunaga

But Oda, oh, woe to you
You can’t even rule Honshu
Oda, Oda, Oda, Oda, Odaaaaaaaaa



I have been informed that WordPress puts ads on this blog. I don’t see them in the Author view, so I didn’t know. I find the idea that anyone thinks my writing could somehow be leveraged to sell anything unaccountably amusing, but, y’know, if I’m being called on to endorse products, I want to choose which ones.



Yes, Mr. & Mrs. America, you too may have need of FLEISCHMANN’S YEAST! FLEISCHMANN’S YEAST combats the dread ailments of tired blood, fallen stomach, and enryphasia. When asked, nine of ten doctors recognized that FLEISCHMANN’S YEAST were two words in the English language. For years, I suffered in silence. Now I take FLEISCHMANN’S YEAST three times a day, and suffer as loudly as I want!

But don’t take my word for it. Ask TV funnywoman Laraine Newman!

(Laraine Newman is shown standing in a verdant glade, smiling. She withdraws her lips to reveal a cube of yeast held between her teeth.)

Friends, don’t delay! Ask for FLEISCHMANN’S YEAST anywhere it’s still 1935!



(LYSID is in a darkly lit piano bar. LYSID is in a tuxedo. LYSID is at the piano)

Folks, I know I’ve been playing some pretty heavy numbers tonight…the apologia, the whole philosophy trip…but now I want to change the mood a little, take it to a different level…

(LYSID plays a bit of “Girl From Ipanema”)

I don’t know if you’ve ever visited, but in recent years, the town of Meredith, New Hampshire has heavily invested in public art. They have what they call the Sculpture Walk, from the lakefront up to the Town Hall, works from local artists, sharing their visions made solid, providing a surprise for the stroller, a gift for the visitor. I love it. It puts a song in my heart—but I gotta be honest, I can’t sing that song. So tonight, I asked some very dear friends to come help me out.


(A curtain lifts, lights go up. The band launches into the tune of “Hungry Heart.” Bruce, circa 1980, steps up to the microphone and begins to sing:)

It dots the waterfront in Baltimore, Jack
Gives the place some class, makes the tourists come back
A eight-foot man made of buffalo bone
A glass Klein bottle that just keeps flowin’

Everybody wants some public art
Everybody wants some public art
You pay your taxes so you own a part
Everybody wants some public art

I saw it in a Kingstown park
Hammered copper pans, in the shape of a hen
Vandals took it and they ripped it apart
But they restored it down in Kingstown again

Everybody wants some public art
Everybody loves that public art
You pay your taxes so you own a part
Everybody wants some public art

(Bridge. Dancers dressed as the “Chicago Picasso” come out and do the Swim.)

Everybody likes a faceless man
Everybody likes a coral throne
Don’t make no difference what the critic says
Ain’t no town should be unadorned

(LYSID joins Bruce at the mic. Bruce screams “EVERYBODY NOW!”)

Everybody wants some public art!
Everybody needs that public art!
You pay your taxes so you own a part!
Everybody loves some public art!


(reprise the chorus…)

The title of the last post comes from a witticism heard among the chattering classes in Paris in March of 1815:

“The monster has broken out of his den; the brigand has landed at Cannes; the general has reached Lyon; Napoleon passed the night at Orleans; the Emperor is expected hourly at the Tuileries; His Imperial Majesty will address his loyal subjects to-morrow.”

Except from a different version of the joke (one with the word ‘monster’ in it) than I first learned, in David Johnson’s The French Cavalry 1792-1815.