Redefining misanthropy for a fresh generation. Standard posts begin with a definition from Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary followed by a modern adjustment. Miscellany on Wednesday and storytelling on Saturday.
MERCHANT, n. One engaged in a commercial pursuit. A commercial pursuit is one in which the thing pursued is a dollar.
2007 Update: A thief whose victims choose the time, place and amount of their loss in exchange for goods, services and piety of equal or greater value. The criminal culpable for the illegal immigration, outsourcing, price inflation, wage stagnation, mortgage crunch and cost of lunch connected with our shopping habits. Merchants are best denounced wholesale as "corporations," as they are more avaricious in bulk.
PALM, n. A species of tree having several varieties, of which the familiar "itching palm" (Palma hominis) is most widely distributed and sedulously cultivated. This noble vegetable exudes a kind of invisible gum, which may be detected by applying to the bark a piece of gold or silver. The metal will adhere with remarkable tenacity. The fruit of the itching palm is so bitter and unsatisfying that a considerable percentage of it is sometimes given away in what are known as "benefactions."
2007 Update: The portion of the hand offered to display the respect and consideration that hides cards discretely.
A demon met a rich man's son, pious and devout, and shewed him from atop the world a city made of marble, limestone and alabaster which stretched white across the plain below. "Ask me once," the demon whispered," and I will set this city on fire and the tormented will scream your name. Their pain will be your glory, for you alone will know why they suffer and you will be the king of agony." But the man answered "No, imp! My father was a successful man who had fifty wives and he taught me 'To do is to own, to ask is to owe.' Get away from me and tempt me no more. But can I borrow a match?"
Next the demon found another son of privilege, this one frivolous and wasteful, and took him to the same mountaintop. From the peak, he showed the boy a giant carnival that filled the valley below with whirling amusements, bright lights, gentle elephants and the music of a calliope. All the people were enjoying the sights, sounds and smells so much that they never noticed the locked gates around the fiesta or the wide river of boiling sulfur that completed a circle around the gates. "Offer me your soul," the demon whispered, "and I will make you the wisest man in this happy place, for only you will see the trap." But the young man answered, "Begone Beelzebub! For my mother was a debutante who taught me 'A secret is a miser's cash and a merchant's trash.' What's on TV?"
So the sullen but resourceful demon went to a seminary, telling himself, "Evil is unreliable and folly knows not wrong, but a tender-hearted wise man is up for mischief every day by dawn."
Moral: The hateful and indolent can be saved with a rhyme, the honest are lost to reason.
DIARY, n. A daily record of that part of one's life, which he can relate to himself without blushing.
Hearst kept a diary wherein were writ All that he had of wisdom and of wit. So the Recording Angel, when Hearst died, Erased all entries of his own and cried: "I'll judge you by your diary." Said Hearst: "Thank you; 'twill show you I am Saint the First" — Straightway producing, jubilant and proud, That record from a pocket in his shroud. The Angel slowly turned the pages o'er, Each stupid line of which he knew before, Glooming and gleaming as by turns he hit On Shallow sentiment and stolen wit; Then gravely closed the book and gave it back. "My friend, you've wandered from your proper track: You'd never be content this side the tomb — For big ideas Heaven has little room, And Hell's no latitude for making mirth," He said, and kicked the fellow back to earth.
—"The Mad Philosopher"
2007 Update: A book in which the stories are true and the author invented.
DIPLOMACY, n. The patriotic art of lying for one's country.
2007 Update: A raven with poetry on its tongue and plague in its feathers dispatched by vultures with meat on their breath and teeth in their sides. Lies told to foreigners for the purpose of fooling countrymen.
PALACE, n. A fine and costly residence, particularly that of a great official. The residence of a high dignitary of the Christian Church is called a palace; that of the Founder of his religion was known as a field, or wayside. There is progress.
2007 Update: Once upon a time, a grand castle of stone or marble in which there lived a royal eminence with countless servants, slaves, soldiers and sycophants who all worked together in a glorious enterprise taking wheat from peasants. Today, a 6000 square foot house on a 5000 square foot lot or a hovel by a ditch, in which countless royals live with taciturn families and rent their meals.
A man's home is his palace, none are finer.
May he find satisfaction at the diner.
-Anselma de Juan Bautista de Los Flores Gomez Garcia Alarcón