Am I Charlie? Or am I just paying lip service?

ch1057

“The Untouchables 2” – You mustn’t mock us!

In light of the recent tragedy in Paris at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a discussion sprung up on Facebook when a friend of mine, in reference to this article at the Daily Beast, asked the question, “where does humour cross the line into something rather ugly, threatening and repellent?”

I commented as below:

In some ways, Charlie Hebdo is the Westboro Baptist Church of the literary world. It’s a partially flawed analogy because WBC produces nothing positive whatsoever except hatred and misery, while Charlie Hebdo satirizes many things that deserve satire. Are they offensive? Absolutely… but then so is South Park, which show is afraid to pillory nothing. Mad and Cracked back in the 60s and 70s were very similar [1]; the French outfit simply doesn’t have the same restraints on them as American television or magazines, so they’re free to add all the crude sexual [and religious and political and social] humor they want. It may be this “crossing of the line” that some people find so offensive rather than the actual satire itself.

Nonetheless, the same principles of free speech apply here:

1) You’re free to say and publish what you want, and the government can’t come after you for it.
2) You are *not* free from the consequences of your speech.

In this sense, I agree with the thesis of the article. Charlie can be pretty nasty; just look at the comments of Dutch cartoonist Bernard Holtrop (Willem):

“We have a lot of new friends, like the pope, Queen Elizabeth and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. It really makes me laugh,” Bernard Holtrop, whose pen name is Willem, told the Dutch centre-left daily Volkskrant.

“Marine Le Pen is delighted when the Islamists start shooting all over the place,” said Willem, 73, a longtime Paris resident who also draws for the French leftist daily Liberation.

He added: “We vomit on all these people who suddenly say they are our friends.”

The authors and cartoonists who work at Charlie Hebdo are not necessarily nice people, but they know who they are and they know the risks they are taking by being deliberately offensive. Unfortunately, this week some of them paid the price for taking those risks. This is sad, and unconscionable, and they didn’t deserve to die… but in the grand scheme of things this was not totally surprising.

I remember buying some of the first editions of Charlie when I was living in Italy in 1970. There was a parallel publication in Italian called, interestingly, “Linus.” I now wish I still had them – they’d be worth quite a bit.

As part of the discussion, another member of our community indicated she could identify with Willem’s disgust, citing the world leaders who are marching in Paris while pursuing national policies of destruction and/or oppression. And that’s a valid debate. I replied,

It is another debate entirely, and one that needs to continue. There are many who see the outpouring of support for Charlie as a good thing, others see it as superficial lip-service. And certainly, In that crowd of thousands marching in Paris, you would find thousands of reasons for being there.

In this particular case, I see Willem’s reaction (and those of many, many others in the blogosphere) as a confirmation of the axiom that reality is perception. We see things not as they are, but as we are.

Charlie Hebdo in many ways crosses the boundaries of responsible journalism into the realm of “we’re going to be assholes  just because we can.” And while that aspect of satirical organs is repugnant to many, even those not the targets of their caustic commentary, it is and must remain protected – because if you shut them down, where does the censorship stop?

What happened in Paris is a tragedy of immense significance, and it has ignited a vigorous debate on the nature and aims of the Islamic extremist movement. In these attacks some have seen more than just revenge for offensive cartoons; journalists and analysts all over the world have chimed in suggesting that the true motive was to actually inflame hatred for Islam, making it easier for the terrorist groups to recruit the uneducated and the ideologically susceptible.

In the end, Charlie Hebdo is a pretty lowbrow publication, but I will defend to the death their right to be that way (as Voltaire’s biographer stated, although not Voltaire himself) – because if I don’t, it clears the pathway to the censorship of all writing, including my own, just because it happens to offend somebody, somewhere. And by the same token, I’m free to read it or not read it, and free to choose whether or not I will be offended.

So, yes. As Albert Uderzo so elegantly said by coming out of retirement:

asterix-jesuischarlie

“I’m Charlie too.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.


[1] Check out this tasteful ad for a revival of Disney’s Snow White from Mad’s December, 1970 issue:

snow

Found: The Swan Song of a Modern Hiawatha

Hiawatha

For decades, I’ve had a snippet of a poem running around in my head:

“Simple math and shrubbery pruning, checkers, lunch and water polo.”

This comes to mind often when I consider the un-challenging slate of classes for which I see many college freshmen sign up.

Today someone posted something on Facebook – which, thanks to the lack of a search function I can no longer find – that made me think of it again, and despite earlier searches on Google coming up poor, this time I got a hit.

The link took me to a page in the Gainesville Sun from August 10, 1985, in a column by Bill Henderson. He credited the source thusly:

“To honor the coming season I would have you read an ode to the football player himself. An ode I stole some years back from some fellow hack that I would acknowledge if I could remember his name.”

Having seen the full text of the poem again, I was pretty sure the original appearance of the poem was in Mad Magazine, of which I was a faithful and voracious reader through the 60s and 70s. A bit more Googling, and I had located the source: Mad #100, January 1966: “The Swan Song of a Modern Hiawatha” – with apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha.”

So here, for your gratuitous enjoyment, is the full text of the poem as it appeared in Mad. Be warned – this is politically incorrect for our day and age, and needs to be framed in the mindset of the 60s.

Edit: With thanks to commenter Dave Meek who pointed out that a line was missing in the first stanza. A search for verification led to a discovery of the entire issue of Mad #100 online in PDF format, enabling me to add the image above, as well as an entire stanza that was also missing.

The Swan Song of a Modern Hiawatha
Text: Tom Koch / Art: Don Martin.

By a pond in Minnesota
Near the stagnant Green-Scum-Water
Stood the campus of Nokomis,
Rotten football school, Nokomis;
Sent forth players weak and gentle:
(Mostly horticulture majors.)

Then one autumn thru the pine trees
Through the black and gloomy forest,
Strode the freshman, Hiawatha;
Strong with limbs like reindeer sinew,
Signed to play for Memphis Normal,
He was lost and asked directions.

“Shut my mouth,” drawled Coach Kowalksi,
‘Ya’ll are here; the South awaits thee,”
Hiawatha gazed in wonder
At the snow up to his armpits.
“This is Dixie?” thus he mumbled,
“Stupid Redskin,” joshed Kowalski.

So it was that Hiawatha,
Son of Ishkoodah, the comet,
Donned his new Nokomis beanie;
Huddled in the bunk assigned him.
“Geez, it’s cold!” wailed Hiawatha.
“Hush, my fullback,” cooed Kowalski.

Soon the young brave, Hiawatha,
Found himself matriculated;
Signed for classes that befit him;
Simple math and Shrubbery Pruning,
Checkers, Lunch and Water Polo,
(Perfect course; wrong institution.)

In their quest for football players,
All the frats sought Hiawatha
‘Til they studied close his features,
Then, as one wheel aptly put it,
“I dunno, Could be an Injun’
Yet to me, he still looks Jewish.”

One by one did Hiawatha
Learn to know the campus creatures;
Erickson, the hot rod owner,
Nippersink, the brooding Commie;
Best of all, he soon discovered
Emmie Sue, the Chi Omega.

“Ee-wa-voom!” yowled Hiawatha,
(Football practice now forgotten),
I was taught by wrinkled Grandma
How to woo the elk and otter,
Speak of marriage to the pine cone.
THIS the old crone failed to mention.”

Days of torment quickly followed
For the harried Coach Kowalski,
Left with three men in his backfield
While the fourth played hanky-panky
Out behind the pipestone quarry;
Fiendish plans engulfed the mentor.

On that frigid autumn evening,
Emmie Sue, the Chi Omega,
Listened with a wide-eyed horror
As the coach, most confidential
Warned her darkly of “the nut who
Thinks he’s living now in Memphis.”

Came the dawn and grieving Emmie
Sought the help of Doctor Swinehorst,
Dean of studies Psychiatric
At the Med School of Nokomis.
“All’s not lost,” the Doc assured her,
“If you think you can afford me.”

Soon the young brave, Hiawatha,
Lay upon the couch of Swinehorst,
Lay there fearless as the birch tree,
“Tell me of your childhood trauma,”
Said that Doc with notebook handy;
“What of Mom and Dad and siblings?”

Hiawatha answered calmly,
“Daddy was a white-fire comet;
Mom a songbird in the willows,
I had many forest brothers:
Brown bear, moose and timid rabbit.”
“Ach du Lieber!” cried out Swinehorst.

Emmie Sue, the Chi Omega,
Heard the tragic diagnosis.
“Crazy as a loon,” said Swinehorst,
“Even thinks the loon’s his sister,
I’d suggest you drop this savage;
Date instead my son, the dentist.”

Hiawatha, brokenhearted,
Now without his love beside him
Turned his thoughts at last to football;
Learn what meant the mumbled signals
Of the quarterback, Wochowicz;
Scrimmaged ’til his bridgework rattled.

Happy then was Coach Kowalski,
Dreamed he in untroubled slumber
Neath the full moon, Nu-see-wah-goo,
Of Nokomis, undefeated;
Dreamed of glory soon to come on
New Year’s Day in Pasadena.

Only Gitchee-Goomee Teachers
Hated rival of Nokomis,
Barred the path the coach envisioned,
Waiting tensely for the kickoff,
Hiawatha eyed the bleachers;
There sat Emmie with the dentist.

“Aush-wea-ecch,” moaned Hiawatha
As the pigskin bounced before him,
Caromed off his furrowed forehead
Toward the goal where Gitchee-Goomee’s
Tackle grabbed it unmolested,
Scored the first of 14 touchdowns.

With the Dean on Monday morning,
Hiawatha got the message:
“F” in Math and Shrubbery Pruning.
“Memphis pledged I’d pass,” he bleated.
Roared the Dean in tones like thunder,
“Memphis! Buster, you’re in Flunksville.”

Quiet reigns now in Nokomis.
Gone is Emmie; gone the dentist;
Gone the mob lynched Kowalski.
All that’s left; a voice heard faintly;
Hiawatha, college dropout,
Back home chatting with the chipmunk.

I can now present you with the original in all its glory, accompanied by Don Martin’s hilarious illustrations (click each image to enlarge):

Hia1  Hia2  Hia3  Hia4

You’re welcome.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

LDS Humor: Correlations’s Review of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

This piece was originally published in “The Seventh East Press,” a newspaper dedicated to Latter-day Saints who didn’t take themselves too seriously. It is one of the funniest things I have ever seen published there, and at this season of joy and gladness, deserves to be seen. Naturally, Mormons will be most familiar with all of the references, but members of other faiths who think their Church bureaucracies can be a bit heavy-handed at times may appreciate the sentiment. Only one bit of PII[1] has been deleted for the sake of propriety.


15 December 1981

The Seventh East Press

CORRELATION’S REVIEW OF
‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS’

Several years ago this review was read at the Church office building Christmas party. It has circulated privately since then.

TO: Director or the Correlation Committee
FROM: Correlation Review Committee

The Correlation Review Committees have reviewed the attached document titled “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and have found several significant problems as follows:

‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, WHEN ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE, NOT A CREATURE WAS STIRRING, NOT EVEN A MOUSE.
‘Twas is an outdated and unacceptable contraction. We suggest — it was. Also, because the idea of stirring one’s form comes from the same word root as the idea of stirring one’s soup, it might be confusing to the reader and we suggest using the word — moving. In addi­tion, we have noticed that a mouse will generally scurry, nibble, dart or quiver, but, almost never, stirs. Also, we think it would be much better to call the house, the home.

THE STOCKINGS WERE HUNG BY THE CHIMNEY WITH CARE, IN HOPES THAT ST. NICHOLAS SOON WOULD BE THERE.
Perhaps the writer should know that unless everyone went outside into the snowy night and hung the stockings (some were probably just plain old socks), it is more likely that they were hung in front of the fireplace than by the chimney. We think it would be well to take note that in some of the developing areas of the Church, people do not have socks, stock­ings, or chimneys. Moreover, the Church does not recognize the canonization of other chur­ches. We feel this man should be called Brother Nicholas — or perhaps, in case be isn’t a member, we should play it safe and call him Mr. Nicholas.

THE CHILDREN WERE NESTLED ALL SNUG IN THEIR BEDS, WHILE VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS DANCED THROUGH THEIR HEADS.
We must be very careful with the use of the word visions. It might be better to use the word non-revelation dreams. We also suggest that “sugarplums” is a rather archaic term. Wouldn’t Tootsie Rolls or Sugar Daddies be more relevant to today’s youth. In any case, shouldn’t sugar plums be two words instead of one?

MAMA IN HER KERCHIEF, AND I IN MY CAP, HAD JUST SETTLED OUR BRAINS FOR A LONG WINTER’S NAP.
The very idea of a long winter’s nap is contradictory. Webster says a nap is a short snooze, taken usually during the daytime. This really must be changed. We would also like to point out that few really wear headgear to bed anymore.

WHEN OUT ON THE LAWN THERE AROSE SUCH A CLATTER, I SPRANG FROM MY BED TO SEE WHAT WAS THE MATTER.
Around the Wasatch front, you would not have to spring from your bed to see what was the matter. Any clatter at night on the lawn means you are getting T.P.’d. Incidentally, spring­ing from bed by our more senior members could he hazardous to their health. By the way, how do you clatter on a snow-covered lawn?

AWAY TO THE WINDOW I FLEW LIKE A FLASH, TORE OPEN THE SHUTTERS AND THREW UP THE SASH. THE MOON ON THE BREAST OF THE NEW FALLEN SNOW GAVE THE LUSTER OF MIDDAY TO OBJECTS BELOW.
We wonder whether throwing up the sash might he rather indelicate wording, especially after a large Christmas Eve dinner. We would also like to suggest that the writer say, “The moon on the chest of the new fallen snow.”

WHEN WHAT TO MY WONDERING EYES SHOULD APPEAR, DUT A MINIATURE SLEIGH, AND EIGHT TINY REINDEER. WITH A LITTLE OLD DRIVER SO LIVELY AND QUICK, I KNEW IN A MOMENT IT MUST BE ST. NICK.
We would like to commend the author for breaking the stereotype that our “more mature” people cannot he lively and quick.

MORE RAPID THAN EAGLES HIS COURSERS THEY CAME, AND HE WHISTLED AND SHOUTED, AND CALLED THEM BE NAME. NOW DASHER! NOW DANCER! NOW PRANCER AND VIXEN! ON COMET! ON CUPID! ON DONNER AND BLITZEN!
We commend the writer for broadening the cultural base of this document by including the German names Donner and Blitzen. We wonder if this could he broadened further. Perhaps-Now Fifi! Now Cheri! Now Jose and Maria! On Chocho and Tojo! On Donner and Blitzen! We also question all this whistling and shouting in the middle of the night by a senior citizen.

TO THE TOP OF THE PORCH! TO THE TOP OF THE WALL! NOW DASH A WAY! DASH AWAY! DASH AWAY, ALL! AS DRY LEAVES THAT BEFORE THE WILD HURRICANE FLY, WHEN THEY MEET WITH AN OBSTACLE, MOUNT TO THE SKY.
We have noted that throughout this document the author has used rather long, complicated, turned-around sentences. This could he confusing to many of our readers. We suggest he write on a lower reading level, perhaps by using short, straightforward sentences such as “Just like dry leaves blow before the wind?”

SO UP TO THE HOUSETOP THE COURSERS THEY FLEW, WITH A SLEIGH FULL OF TOYS AND ST. NICHOLAS TOO. AND THEN IN A TWINKLING I HEARD ON THE ROOF, THE PRANCING AND PAWING OF EACH LITTLE HOOF. AS I DREW IN MY HEAD, AND WAS TURNING AROUND, DOWN THE CHIMNEY ST. NICHOLAS CAME WITH A BOUND.
Win the reader understand what coursers are? (Could he confused with cursers, after all the shouting and whistling). Also – the cavorting around on peoples’ roof tops sets a very bad ex­ample for our youth (who don’t need any new ideas). Also, the chimney trip is a bit much – ­wouldn’t it be better to just have Mr. Nicholas use the front door?

HE WAS DRESSED ALL IN FUR.
We wonder if he shouldn’t he dressed in cotton or polyester after what was said about killing animals in a recent conference. Perhaps it could he said that he was “dressed in a nice Swedish knit.”

FROM HIS HEAD TO HIS FOOT, AND HIS CLOTHES WERE ALL TARNISHED WITH ASHES AND SOOT.
Perhaps polyester would not be good here because of the problems with ashes and soot. If I were his wife I would get him a pair of OSH KOSH overalls. (Of course the use of the front door would eliminate this whole ashes and soot problem.)

A BUNDLE OF TOYS HE HAD FLUNG ON HIS BACK, AND HE LOOKED LIKE A PEDDLER JUST OPENING HIS PACK. HIS EYES – HOW THEY TWINKLED, HIS DIMPLES, HOW MERRY!  HIS CHEEKS WERE LIKE ROSES, HIS NOSE LIKE A CHERRY!
This somewhat extravagant description of Mr. Nicholas makes him sound like an edible, electrical, floral, centerpiece. We suggest that the writer tell it like it is.

HIS DROLL LITTLE MOUTH WAS DRAWN UP LIKE A BOW, AND THE BEARD OF HIS CHIN WAS AS WHITE AS THE SNOW.
Knowing what the current BYU and missionary standards are, we are very surprised that you would allow Mr. Nicholas to be wearing a beard. If he must have hair on his face, it should be a mustache trimmed well above the corners of his mouth.

THE STUMP OF HIS PIPE HE HELD TIGHT IN HIS TEETH, AND THE SMOKE IT ENCIRCLED HIS HEAD LIKE A WREATH. HE HAD A WIDE FACE-
We were more than a little taken back by this flagrant disregard of the 89th section of the Doctrine & Covenants. There could even be legal implications regarding his smoking in public places.

AND A ROUND LITTLE BELLY THAT SHOOK WHEN HE LAUGHED LIKE A BOWLFUL OF JELLY. HE WAS CHUBBY AND PLUMP, A RIGHT JOLLY OLD ELF, AND I LAUGHED WHEN I SAW HIM IN SPITE OF MYSELF.
It is in questionable taste to describe this senior citizen as being so fat, but then to have the narrator laugh at him seems to me to be carrying things too far. It would be better to say, “I smiled when I saw how well he was doing in spite of his handicap.”

A WINK OF HIS EYE AND A TWIST OF HIS HEAD SOON GAVE ME TO KNOW I HAD NOTHING TO DREAD. HE SPOKE NOT A WORD BUT WENT STRAIGHT TO HIS WORK AND FILLED ALL THE STOCKINGS, THEN TURNED WITH A JERK.
We appreciated this fine example of bard work and industry, in the true tradition of deseret. However, we decry his reference to his associate as a jerk.

 AND LAYING A FINGER ASIDE OF HIS NOSE, AND GIVING A NOD, UP THE CHIMNEY HE ROSE.
See our previous comment about using the door. Also, be careful where you have him put his finger.

HE SPRANG TO HIS SLEIGH, TO HIS TEAM GAVE A WHISTLE, AND AWAY THEY ALL FLEW LIKE THE DOWN OF A THISTLE.
Again, he careful of the dangerous springing. Also, if he were to give every member of the team a whistle, they might make a horrible amount of noise. In addition, after checking with the International Mission, we would like to inform the writer that reindeer have no pockets in which to put those whistles. Also, would the increasing urban membership of the Church understand the image of “down of a thistle?”     ‘

BUT I HEARD HIM EXCLAIM, ERE HE DROVE OUT OF SIGHT, HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT.
We feel it would be better to stay with the traditional form of “Merry Christmas.”

Although the document has some major problems, we feel there is enough of worth to justify revising. In the spirit of reduction and simplification, however, we also recommend that the number of lines he cut in half.

IT WAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

(Revised)

It was the night before Christmas and in our home, no animals were moving about. Even the mice were still.

Some preparations were made in anticipation of a visit from Mr. Nicholas.

While the children were sleeping soundly, they were thinking about Tootsie Rolls and Sugar Daddies.

My wife and I had just gone to bed.

We heard a noise out on the front lawn and assumed that we were being T.P.’ed.

I walked to the window and pulled back the curtain.

The moon was shining brightly on the chest of the new fallen snow.

Then I saw a tiny sleigh being pulled by eight reindeer.

The little old driver was 50 lively and quick that I knew it must be Mr. Nicholas.

He came very fast. He addressed the reindeer by name:

“Now Fifi! Now Cheri! Now Jose and Maria!

On Chocho and Tojo! On Donner and Blitzen!”        ‘

Just like a snowball striking a brick wall, they came to a stop in front of our home. Soon I heard Mr. Nicholas at my front door.

He was dressed in a nice Swedish knit suit. He had a briefcase full of packages.

He was smiling pleasantly.

He was clean-shaven and his breath smelled of spearmint chewing gum.

He was a bit overweight, but I smiled when I saw how well he was doing in spite of his han­dicap.

He wasted no time with words, but went straight to his work of putting the packages where they would be found.

Then he went out the front door and got in his sleigh.

As he was driving off, I heard him say, “Merry Christmas!”


The Old Wolf has spoken.

[1] Personally Identifiable Information – Census workers will know just what I mean.