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.
REMINISCENCE, n. The chief luxury of the unfortunate.
2008 Update: The mining of fantasy for the smelter of history. SEE ALSO: FANTASY, HISTORY.
If I can step out of character here for a day, it is the third anniversary of this here blog. My deep appreciation to all of you who have made this so much fun to do and so pleasant to overdo.
Thanks to all of you who entertained me and each other during my time off the blog. Special appreciation to Ariel who was Lazlo to the Waking Ambrose Resistance Movement and to Jamie Dawn who kept a word a day in front of you while I was being more concise. Pia, your new home is ready, magnificent, sturdy, spacious and convenient to drinking and gambling. Also, in Africa. Enjoy and stay in touch.
Now, looking forward, a couple items of avocational business. I expect that for the next four weeks, I will continue to wake up cranky and empty-headed on Saturday morning and immediately begin pacing until an episode of Shahrazade's Wedding writes itself. God willing, the creek don't rise and Blogger don't crash, a new series will begin on March 29, with you all doing the reading. I'm ready to email the first episodes, so please let me know if you're willing to read. That email again, my first initial and last name at mac.com. Also, I plan to re-resurrect a The Prattler this Saturday in a new, lazier format.
In ought-six, when I went on vacation, I left a game for you to play while I was gone. As before, I will leave you with one and, as before, you can feel free to make up your own, if you like.
This year's game is Designing Pia.
As some of you know, Pia, a friend of this blog since day one, is trying to sell her condo in Manhattan and move to South Carolina. The process of fixing up the condo using New York contractors is apparently so maddening she can barely blog, so I though we could help with the other end. In the comments section below, the first person can design Pia's Myrtle Beach floor plan, the next person can change the upholstery, move the furniture repaint rooms, move walls, etc.
SHERIFF, n. In America the chief executive office of a county, whose most characteristic duties, in some of the Western and Southern States, are the catching and hanging of rogues.
John Elmer Pettibone Cajee (I write of him with little glee) Was just as bad as he could be.
'Twas frequently remarked: "I swon! The sun has never looked upon So bad a man as Neighbor John."
A sinner through and through, he had This added fault: it made him mad To know another man was bad.
In such a case he thought it right To rise at any hour of night And quench that wicked person's light.
Despite the town's entreaties, he Would hale him to the nearest tree And leave him swinging wide and free.
Or sometimes, if the humor came, A luckless wight's reluctant frame Was given to the cheerful flame.
While it was turning nice and brown, All unconcerned John met the frown Of that austere and righteous town.
"How sad," his neighbors said, "that he So scornful of the law should be — An anar c, h, i, s, t."
(That is the way that they preferred To utter the abhorrent word, So strong the aversion that it stirred.)
"Resolved," they said, continuing, "That Badman John must cease this thing Of having his unlawful fling.
"Now, by these sacred relics" — here Each man had out a souvenir Got at a lynching yesteryear —
"By these we swear he shall forsake His ways, nor cause our hearts to ache By sins of rope and torch and stake.
"We'll tie his red right hand until He'll have small freedom to fulfil The mandates of his lawless will."
So, in convention then and there, They named him Sheriff. The affair Was opened, it is said, with prayer.
—J. Milton Sloluck
2008 Update: The county official charged with keeping the peace and supplied with a fast car accompanied by shrill siren, bright colored lights and filled with electrical, chemical, ballistic and blunt weapons for the purpose.
SEAL, n. A mark impressed upon certain kinds of documents to attest their authenticity and authority. Sometimes it is stamped upon wax, and attached to the paper, sometimes into the paper itself. Sealing, in this sense, is a survival of an ancient custom of inscribing important papers with cabalistic words or signs to give them a magical efficacy independent of the authority that they represent. In the British museum are preserved many ancient papers, mostly of a sacerdotal character, validated by necromantic pentagrams and other devices, frequently initial letters of words to conjure with; and in many instances these are attached in the same way that seals are appended now. As nearly every reasonless and apparently meaningless custom, rite or observance of modern times had origin in some remote utility, it is pleasing to note an example of ancient nonsense evolving in the process of ages into something really useful. Our word "sincere" is derived from sine cero, without wax, but the learned are not in agreement as to whether this refers to the absence of the cabalistic signs, or to that of the wax with which letters were formerly closed from public scrutiny. Either view of the matter will serve one in immediate need of an hypothesis. The initials L.S., commonly appended to signatures of legal documents, mean locum sigillis, the place of the seal, although the seal is no longer used — an admirable example of conservatism distinguishing Man from the beasts that perish. The words locum sigillis are humbly suggested as a suitable motto for the Pribyloff Islands whenever they shall take their place as a sovereign State of the American Union.
2008 Update: The portion of a Dear John letter providing some closure.
Not that I've been around much anyway, but it's primary day in California so I'll be clerking for the County all day. To my friends in Super Tuesday states, remember to vote before celebrating Mardi Gras. Afterwards, debauchery is appropriate.
SATIRE, n. An obsolete kind of literary composition in which the vices and follies of the author's enemies were expounded with imperfect tenderness. In this country satire never had more than a sickly and uncertain existence, for the soul of it is wit, wherein we are dolefully deficient, the humor that we mistake for it, like all humor, being tolerant and sympathetic. Moreover, although Americans are "endowed by their Creator" with abundant vice and folly, it is not generally known that these are reprehensible qualities, wherefore the satirist is popularly regarded as a soul-spirited knave, and his ever victim's outcry for codefendants evokes a national assent.
Hail Satire! be thy praises ever sung
In the dead language of a mummy's tongue,
For thou thyself art dead, and damned as well —
Thy spirit (usefully employed) in Hell.
Had it been such as consecrates the Bible
Thou hadst not perished by the law of libel.
2008 Update: A mocked man's incomplete revenge and whiskey's favorite chaser.
Programming Note: Your curmudgeon is planning a blogcation the second half of this month to try to get started on a new story which we can do, again, together a la The Meditations of Diogenes, so Waking Ambrose will go off air on the thirteenth and should return, God willing and the creek don't rise, to celebrate its third birthday on February 28.