Thursday, September 30, 2010


CREMATION, n. The process by which the cold meats of humanity are warmed over."

2010 Update: The expedited return of ashes to ashes. A university lecture for the dead.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Redneck Speaks of Rivers

I've known rivers;
I've known rivers as long as long that start as mountain dew and that distill handily in all the things I brew.

My wisdom has grown damp like the rivers.

I bathed in the Colorado, just yesterday it seems
And build deer blinds by the Chattahoochee in all my better dreams
I looked down upon the Platte to reflect Hank, Junior's face
I sang Kern River by the Kern River and imagined lands of native sons where rivers run too wide to jump, and there's no work that needs done but tools every place.

I've known rivers:
Bubbly, lady rivers.

My wisdom is wet like the rivers.

RIVER, n. A natural border, dividing mice from fish.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


CREMONA, n. A high-priced kind of violin made in Connecticut. A genuine Connecticut Cremona is supposed to be mentioned in the following lines of Omar Khayyam:
Hey, diddle, diddle!
The cat got the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon,
But the little do stayed
To hear the thing played,
And died of the very first tune.
2010 Update: A small Italian city notable for her prominent religious figures and renaissance culture, and so indistinguishable from other small Italian cities.

Monday, September 27, 2010


CRESCENT, n. The moon in the early stages of its monthly growth, when it is a little too bright for burglars and a little too dark for lovers. An order founded by Renatus of Anjou is called the Order of the Crescent on account of its membership of lunatics. The services of this Order to San Francisco politics consisted in the establishing of a grand Perquisition to enforce the Salaric Law.

2010 Update: A fertility symbol employed by the moon to represent harvest and the seasons of human endeavor.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Reformation of Wolfshausen

Teil Neunundachtzig
To hear this week's story, eavesdrop on the alleyway.

Or, you can read this episode by following Adalbert's finger.

The story so far is here.

Friday, September 24, 2010


ESSENTIAL, adj. Pertaining to the essence, or that which determines the distinctive character of a thing. People, who, because they do not know the English language, are driven to the unprofitable vocation of writing for American newspapers, commonly use this word in the sense of necessary, as
April rains are essential to June harvests.
W.C. Bartlett
2010 Update: That thing inside a thing without which that thing would be an entirely other thing, or, in fact, not a thing at all but a philosophy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


ESTOPPEL, n. In law, the kind of stopple with which a man is corked up with his plea inside him.

2010 Update: A legal assumption that what a man has said he can be presumed to have meant, providing unamendable evidence that justice is blind.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dawn of the Fall

The day has come to change the season
Though years like this, there seems no reason
No gold nor rust or scarlet's expected
From leaves that summer ne'er detected.
And the shafts of autumn cannot wither
What shoots in Spring did not deliver.

AUTUMN, n. A season for humility located between the seasons of sloth and disappointment.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


ETIQUETTE, n. A code of social rites, ceremonies and observances, constituting a vulgarian's claim to toleration. The fool's credentials.
When first society was founded,
It was discovered as time sped,
That men of sense and taste abounded,
But they were mostly dead.
While, of the women fitted to adorn
The social circle, few had yet been born.

Those, then, that met were rather lonely
And scarce could call themselves "our set";
So they, to swell their numbers only,
Invented etiquette,
And said "Such fools as will observe these rules
May meet us, though they're all the greater fools."

Straightaway the fools then fell to study
The laws of conduct a la mode,
And though their minds were somewhat muddy
They soon had learned the code.
Then seeing its authors hadn't, plainly told them
They'd make society too hot to hold them.
2010 Update: The cultural approach to sequestration by which every human and dog can be elite. The great smallness.

Monday, September 20, 2010


EUCALYPTUS, n. A tree holding, in the animal kingdom, the high and honored distinction enjoyed in the animal kingdom by the blue skunk. The variety most in favor is the E. disgustifolium. The medicinal value of its foliage is very great-it cures happiness.

2010 Update: The only ingredient in the recipe for koala.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Reformation of Wolfshausen

Teil Achtundachtzig
To hear this week's story, eavesdrop on the alleyway.

Or, you can read this episode from behind the window where Adalbert's desk once sat.

The story so far is here.

Friday, September 17, 2010


DECANTER, n. A vessel whose functions are most envied by the human stomach.

2010 Update: An ornamental middle station between bottle and glass designed to contain the difference between wine- and whiskey-drinkers for proper aeration.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


DECALOGUE, n. A series of commandments, ten in number — just enough to permit an intelligent selection for observance, but not enough to embarrass the choice. Following is the revised edition of the Decalogue, calculated for this meridian.
Thou shalt no God but me adore:
'Twere too expensive to have more.

No images nor idols make
For Robert Ingersoll to break.

Take not God's name in vain; select
A time when it will have effect.

Work not on Sabbath days at all,
But go to see the teams play ball.

Honor thy parents. That creates
For life insurance lower rates.

Kill not, abet not those who kill
Thou shalt not pay thy butcher's bill.

Kiss not thy neighbor's wife, unless
Thine own thy neighbor doth caress

Don't steal; thou'lt never thus compete
Successfully in business. Cheat.

Bear not false witness — that is low —
But "hear 'tis rumored so and so."

Covet thou naught that thou hast not
By hook or crook, or somehow, got.
2010 Update: The ten commandments as described by scholarly atheists who observe the laws in failure rather than in speech.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Redneck Love Song

I hauled my ol' gal off the porch
Yee-haw, darlin! Yee-haw!
And sawr her grinnin' 'neath the torch
Yee-haw, darlin, yee haw.
We puht 'ur signs an' t-shirts on
Jump-start the truck and then we're gone
Yee-haw, darlin! Yee-haw!
The skoal we dip is cool and moist
Yee-haw, sugar, Yee-haw!
And Sarah Palin's in fine voice
Yee-haw, honey, yee-haw!
The angus bull' s nary as proud
As I git when my gal protests loud.
Yee-haw, darlin! Yee-haw.
I look at her peepers, she caught mine, too!
Hot dog, darlin, yee-haw!
And I reckoned what we oughter do:
Yee haw, sweetheart, yee-haw!
Is pawn her fourteen carat pendant,
Sell hogs, pitch hay, vote "independent,"
End the FED an' repeal the fourteenth amendment.
Yee-haw, Darlin, Yee haw!

TEA PARTY, n. A do si do to quote De Toqueville.
This is my stab at Susan's microfiction Monday, but not concise and on the intermittent Wednesday. You can (and should) read the original of this poem by clicking the post title. And TLP gets her wish here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


DEBT, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slave-driver.
As, pent in an aquarium, the troutlet
Swims round and round his tank to find an outlet,
Pressing his nose against the glass that holds him,
Nor ever sees the prison that enfolds him;
So the poor debtor, seeing naught around him,
Yet feels the narrow limits that impound him,
Grieves at his debt and studies to evade it,
And finds at last he might as well have paid it.
—Barlow S. Vode
2010 Update: Consent and cement.

Monday, September 13, 2010


DEAD, adj.
Done with the work of breathing; done
With all the world; the mad race run
Through to the end, the golden goal
Attained-amd found to be a hole!
Ignoble end to all the strife!
To lie as ne'er we lay in life,
with legs uncomfortably straight
And rigid fixity of pate,
{ierced through and through by worms that live
To make, with needless skill, a sieve
Out of our skin, to sift our dust.
Vain labor! at the last they just
Bolt us unbolted till they bu'st!
-Squatol Johnes
2010 Update: Concise.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Reformation of Wolfshausen

Teil Siebensundachtzig
To hear this week's story, pass the black door again.

Or, you can read this episode at the tavern or the church below.

The story so far is here.

Friday, September 10, 2010


FEMALE, n. One of the opposing, or unfair, sex.
The Maker, at Creation's birth,
With living things had stocked the earth.
From elephants to bats and snails,
They all were good, for all were males.
But when the Devil came and saw
He said: "By Thine eternal law
Of growth, maturity, decay,
These all must quickly pass away
And leave untenanted the earth
Unless Thou dost establish birth" —
Then tucked his head beneath his wing
To laugh — he had no sleeve — the thing
With deviltry did so accord,
That he'd suggested to the Lord.
The Master pondered this advice,
Then shook and threw the fateful dice
Wherewith all matters here below
Are ordered, and observed the throw;
Then bent His head in awful state,
Confirming the decree of Fate.
From every part of earth anew
The conscious dust consenting flew,
While rivers from their courses rolled
To make it plastic for the mould.
Enough collected (but no more,
For niggard Nature hoards her store)
He kneaded it to flexible clay,
While Nick unseen threw some away.
And then the various forms He cast,
Gross organs first and finer last;
No one at once evolved, but all
By even touches grew and small
Degrees advanced, till, shade by shade,
To match all living things He'd made
Females, complete in all their parts
Except (His clay gave out) the hearts.
"No matter," Satan cried; "with speed
I'll fetch the very hearts they need" —
So flew away and soon brought back
The number needed, in a sack.
That night earth range with sounds of strife —
Ten million males each had a wife;
That night sweet Peace her pinions spread
O'er Hell — ten million devils dead!
2010 Update: The portion of a species that produces eggs, and egg shells.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


A brief lie intended to illustrate some important truth. A statue of Eve and the Apple was accosted by a hippopotamus on a show-bill.
"Give me a bite of your apple," said the hippopotamous, "and see me smile."
"I would," said Eve, making a rough estimate of the probable dimensions of the smile, "but I have promised a bite to the Mammoth Cave, another to the crater of Vesuvius, and a third to the interval between the lowest anthropoid Methodist and the most highly organized wooden Indian. I must be just before I am generous."

This fable teaches that justice and generosity do not go hand in hand, the hand of generosity being commonly thrust in the pocket of Justice.

2010 Update: An allegory in which animals and insects are debased with human motives for the edification of children who only want sugar.
Once upon a time, a baby mouse left his home to seek the advice of a very wise sparrow. He eluded the cat, and braved the streets and darted from bush to bush avoiding wolves and foxes and finally reached the nest of the wise sparrow on a long thin bough of a tall, tall tree. The sparrow was not home, so the little mouse waited and waited patiently until a sudden gale pulled him from the bough and threw him over a cliff. Back at home his little mousie mother finally had time to study latin and prepare for her next litter.
Moral: Only a fool seeks wisdom without knowing what he'll find.

Bonus prophesy: I wasn't trying to be coy in comments. This blog now has more definitions than Bierce's original publication and much of the work is now finding one that hasn't been done already. In fact, that now takes more time than writing most posts. When The Reformation of Wolfshausen ends, theoretically on episode 95, presumably on November 6, I expect to close this site. After that, I intend to continue reading all of you and we can all still be in touch. I'll repeat this later, I'm sure, but I'm very appreciative of all of you for making this a fun project.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Dividing by two

Noah filled his might ship
With pairs of he and she,
And no record from that trip
Upon that wrathful sea
Suggest he suffered confoundation
O'er any critter's assignation.

And yet it seems we modern brothers
Despite our gentle waves
Have trouble telling some from others
Or comparing cribs and graves.
God blessed Noah with more than warning
To know first night from fortieth morning.

And as we struggle to discern,
What distinctions now elude us?
The more we know and more we learn
The more the wise neighbor colludes
The more the scholar deeply delves
The less comes between objects and ourselves.

The stormy, wrath-roiled, boiling sea
That washed the ark to Ararat
Or the modern, gridhewn clarity?
I cannot choose 'tween ours and that
Though the foaming waves reflect much clearer
Than the peaceful lake flat as a mirror.
-Friedrich Schiller

DISCRIMINATION, n. The faculty to behave differently towards distinctive entities, such as discretion and bigotry or subjects and objects.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


FATHER, n. A quarter-master and commissary of subsistence provided by nature for our maintenance in the period before we have learned to live by prey.

2010 Update: A vestige of man's antewikipedian evolution, functioning now primarily as a repository for jokes, the punchlines for which are held in a separate vessel.

Monday, September 06, 2010


FOREORDINATION, n. This looks like an easy word to define, but when I consider that pious and learned theologians have spent long lives in explaining it, and written libraries to explain their explanations; when I remember the nations have been divided and bloody battles caused by the difference between foreordination and predestination, and that millions of treasure have been expended in the effort to prove and disprove its compatibility with freedom of the will and the efficacy of prayer, praise, and a religious life, — recalling these awful facts in the history of the word, I stand appalled before the mighty problem of its signification, abase my spiritual eyes, fearing to contemplate its portentous magnitude, reverently uncover and humbly refer it to His Eminence Cardinal Gibbons and His Grace Bishop Potter.

2010 Update: The transfer of a personal debt onto the divine ledger.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Reformation of Wolfshausen

Teil Sechsundachtzig
To hear this week's story, pass the black door.

Or, you can read this episode at the tavern or the church below.

The story so far is here.

Friday, September 03, 2010


HAUTBOY, n. The least noisy of boys.

2010 Update: A double-reeded instrument named for its similarity to a Parisian waiter.

Thursday, September 02, 2010


HATRED, n. A sentiment appropriate to the occasion of another's superiority.

2010 Update: A halo stuck in the throat.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


An ancient art of flame or pin,
Juggling grants relief from sin
For what could ever be more pious
Than to keep aloft the weights that try us?
But the objects we raise with the hand
Don't err nor grieve on air or land
While as our tribulations mount
It's we who are held to account.
So I wonder if, when heaven's scoring,
Bouncing ain't as grand as soaring.

JUGGLE, v. To deprive a planet the company of its kin.