Tuesday, March 31, 2009


REASON, n. Propensitate of prejudice.

2009 Update: Muteness. The lucidity of one listening to a friend's folly.

Monday, March 30, 2009


RECOMPENSE, n. Ingratitude.

2009 Update: Reward, typically inadequate for virtues such as humility and altruism or theft when demanded for goods and services.  Unsatisfaction.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Reformation of Wolfshausen

Teil Dreizehn
To hear Java Jazz, who has a new post up, by the way, tell this story, ask Gretchen to share.

To read this week's part, go to the road and wait for a Samaritan.

This week in The Prattler, The Conservatism of Barack Obama.

Friday, March 27, 2009


OPPOSITION, n. In politics the party that prevents the Government from running amuck by hamstringing it.

The King of Ghargaroo, who had been abroad to study the science of government, appointed one hundred of his fattest subjects as members of a parliament to make laws for the collection of revenue. Forty of these he named the Party of Opposition and had his Prime Minister carefully instruct them in their duty of opposing every royal measure. Nevertheless, the first one that was submitted passed unanimously. Greatly displeased, the King vetoed it, informing the Opposition that if they did that again they would pay for their obstinacy with their heads. The entire forty promptly disemboweled themselves.

"What shall we do now?" the King asked. "Liberal institutions cannot be maintained without a party of Opposition."

"Splendor of the universe," replied the Prime Minister, "it is true these dogs of darkness have no longer their credentials, but all is not lost. Leave the matter to this worm of the dust."

So the Minister had the bodies of his Majesty's Opposition embalmed and stuffed with straw, put back into the seats of power and nailed there. Forty votes were recorded against every bill and the nation prospered. But one day a bill imposing a tax on warts was defeated — the members of the Government party had not been nailed to their seats! This so enraged the King that the Prime Minister was put to death, the parliament was dissolved with a battery of artillery, and government of the people, by the people, for the people perished from Ghargaroo.

2009 Update: In politics, the counter-idiocy.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


OLEAGINOUS, adj. Oily, smooth, sleek.

Disraeli once described the manner of Bishop Wilberforce as "unctuous, oleaginous, saponaceous." And the good prelate was ever afterward known as Soapy Sam. For every man there is something in the vocabulary that would stick to him like a second skin. His enemies have only to find it.

2009 Update: Having the properties of oil, in particular repulsiveness and indispensibility. Electable.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Two Monks at the granary

Once upon a time, the two monks, Abba Abercrombie and Abba Nelson met in front of a granary belonging to a monastery.  Abba Nelson asked his elder "If this granary is full of food and the hungry wait outside the walls, has this monastery not failed in its calling?"

Abba Abercrombie wisely answered, "Not at all, brother.  The people would not stay in the granary nor the grain remain outside the wall."

REDISTRIBUTION, n. The art of making sausage in live casing.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


OUT-OF-DOORS, n. That part of one's environment upon which no government has been able to collect taxes. Chiefly useful to inspire poets.
I climbed to the top of a mountain one day
To see the sun setting in glory,
And I thought, as I looked at his vanishing ray,
Of a perfectly splendid story.

'Twas about an old man and the ass he bestrode
Till the strength of the beast was o'ertested;
Then the man would carry him miles on the road
Till Neddy was pretty well rested.

The moon rising solemnly over the crest
Of the hills to the east of my station
Displayed her broad disk to the darkening west
Like a visible new creation.

And I thought of a joke (and I laughed till I cried)
Of an idle young woman who tarried
About a church-door for a look at the bride,
Although 'twas herself that was married.

To poets all Nature is pregnant with grand
Ideas — with thought and emotion.
I pity the dunces who don't understand
The speech of earth, heaven and ocean.
—Stromboli Smith
2009 Update: A region much explored in college lectures, slide presentations and blog entries. The great out there.
Settling into my chair in a restaurant
Al Gore approached me, earnest though not gaunt
He begged me consider my footprint long
And listen as gravely as he ran on.
"The great outdoors calls you, answer briefly
With sacrifice and appetite chiefly!"
"Where shall I find this suffering sweet thing?"
I asked as he asked the waiter to bring
The fried scallops platter, and a bottle
Of wine, "Seek the fermented to coddle,
The polluted to cleanse, the gassy too
The environment needs me, and I you."
"Where is this environment?" I asked him.
"Outdoors!" He answered, gravy on his chin.
-Calzone Collins.

Monday, March 23, 2009


ORTHOGRAPHY, n. The science of spelling by the eye instead of the ear. Advocated with more heat than light by the outmates of every asylum for the insane. They have had to concede a few things since the time of Chaucer, but are none the less hot in defence of those to be conceded hereafter.
A spelling reformer indicted
For fudge was before the court cicted.
The judge said: "Enough —
His candle we'll snough,
And his sepulchre shall not be whicted."
2009 Update: The art of writing in service to spelling, rather than satire.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Reformation of Wolfshausen

Teil Zwölf
To hear Minka and I read, gather around the sausage merchant.

To read this week's part, go to market with Herr Braun.

This week in The Prattler, Seeking Scandal.

Friday, March 20, 2009


SHAM, n. The professions of politicians, the science of doctors, the knowledge of reviewers, the religion of sensational preachers, and in a word, the world.
All the world's a sham.  Wasp's Sage.
2009 Update: The disapproval provoked by a scandal.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


SESAME, n. Commonly found in the phrase "Open Sesame." Coin.

2009 Update: An oilseed too large for homiletics and too useful for poetry.  The soy of antiquity.

Happy birthday, Jenn.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Godzilla and The Legislature: A fable for Children

Once upon a time, a giant fire-breathing lizard emerged from the depths of the ocean into a great city.  The tottering creature destroyed building after building, ripped out power transmission cables and crushed entire schools of children and teachers under foot.  The teachers had their unions, the utilities their lobbyists and the children were lamented loudly by cartoonists. So, when the legislature convened in extraordinary session, the focus was on any profiteers who might benefit from the ongoing carnage.  The hearings were generally considered probative, albeit tardy in the press.

Moral: There is no crisis so dire that in its midst the prospect of a profit will find thieves reluctant or public servants resistant.

CHAFF, n.  A kernal of legislation, the grain of journalism.  Weep germ.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


SANDLOTTER, n. A vertebrate mammal holding the political views of Denis Kearney, a notorious demagogue of San Francisco, whose audiences gathered in the open spaces (sandlots) of the town. True to the traditions of his species, this leader of the proletariat was finally bought off by his law-and-order enemies, living prosperously silent and dying impenitently rich. But before his treason he imposed upon California a constitution that was a confection of sin in a diction of solecisms. The similarity between the words "sandlotter" and "sansculotte" is problematically significant, but indubitably suggestive.

2009 Update: A dedicated baseball player, worth every penny.

Monday, March 16, 2009


SCARIFICATION, n. A form of penance practised by the mediaeval pious. The rite was performed, sometimes with a knife, sometimes with a hot iron, but always, says Arsenius Asceticus, acceptably if the penitent spared himself no pain nor harmless disfigurement. Scarification, with other crude penances, has now been superseded by benefaction. The founding of a library or endowment of a university is said to yield to the penitent a sharper and more lasting pain than is conferred by the knife or iron, and is therefore a surer means of grace. There are, however, two grave objections to it as a penitential method: the good that it does and the taint of justice.

2009 Update: A sacred ritual wherein experience is applied cosmetically, the wisdom to question sacred rites being skin deep. The profane ritual of applied scar tissue goes under the less reverent "LIFE."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Reformation of Wolfshausen

Teil Elf
To hear brother Andy do the reading, come to Wolfshausen.
To read this week's part, join the bald-pated preacher.

This week The Prattler is on vacation in Portland. Um, taking notes.

Friday, March 13, 2009


DATARY, n. A high ecclesiastic official of the Roman Catholic Church, whose important function is to brand the Pope's bulls with the words Datum Romae. He enjoys a princely revenue and the friendship of God.

2009 Update: A notary unstuck in time.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


DETECTIVE, n.  An official employed by the city and county to detect a crime when one has been committed.

2009 Update:  A peace officer dedicated to the naming of culprits.  A citizen.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Mule's Tale, for Children

Gather round, children, and I'll tell you a tale
Of a mule and the hope that he carries.
No diamond hitch, pack saddle or trail
Weighed on that mule like the gold he'd seen buried.

When still but a foal, he'd left dam and sire
For life with a drunken prospector.
Into the foothills and Italy Pass, higher
The pair climbed with canned food and a metal detector.

The Sierra rose high above talus-strewn walls
A still blue lake full of trout lay below.
Pines lined the trailside, where gold eagles called
And the mule kept his young eye on the crow.

One fine day- bonanza! A thick vein of ore
Fell open before the old man's pick.
He danced with the mule, then hit the bar door
And came back two days older and three times as sick.

He spent his last days picking for treasure
And digging to hide wealth beneath stone
'Til some bad homemade whiskey, drunk in full measure
Stilled the old man, leaving the young mule alone.

Dead man and live mule were finally found
By some packers bringing tourists to spectate.
The prospector they left to rot above ground
Beneath an aulde-looking tombstone marked with an earlier date.

Now the mule carries children, mothers, lawyers and such
To Italy Pass, filled with pine, history and bear
But he still has his dream of the gold, not too much,
But it hold's a drunk's fortune which he's eager to share.

BONANZA, n. A rich lode of metal ore, or any rich discovery easily traded for cheap liquor and low companions.

Happy birthday, Brer Mule!

Update:  Jenn's birthday wish for Mule made me nostalgic.  Y'all remember this?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


DUCK-BILL, n. Your account at your restaurant during the canvas-back season.

2009 Update: The inspiration for the fountain-pen and, through calligraphy and illumination, grandparent to ornate nostalgia.

Monday, March 09, 2009


DISEASE, n. Nature's endowment of medical schools. A liberal provision for the maintenance of undertakers. A means of supplying the worthy grave-worm with meat that is not too dry and tough for tunneling and stopping.

2009 Update: A condition of the psyche or corpus, in which function is diverted from its purpose such that a correction is required. Examples include wrinkles near the eyes, accumulation of adipose tissue near the stomach and uncertainty.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Reformation of Wolfshausen

Teil Zehn
To hear Nessa and her friends' recording, enter humbly into St. Elizabeth of Hungary's Church.

To read this week's part, join the hooded stranger.
This week in The Prattler, The Prattler Colloquy.

Friday, March 06, 2009


MEERSCHAUM, n. (Literally, seafoam, and by many erroneously supposed to be made of it.) A fine white clay, which for convenience in coloring it brown is made into tobacco pipes and smoked by the workmen engaged in that industry. The purpose of coloring it has not been disclosed by the manufacturers.
There was a youth (you've heard before,
This woeful tale, may be),
Who bought a meerschaum pipe and swore
That color it would he!

He shut himself from the world away,
Nor any soul he saw.
He smoked by night, he smoked by day,
As hard as he could draw.

His dog died moaning in the wrath
Of winds that blew aloof;
The weeds were in the gravel path,
The owl was on the roof.

"He's gone afar, he'll come no more,"
The neighbors sadly say.
And so they batter in the door
To take his goods away.

Dead, pipe in mouth, the youngster lay,
Nut-brown in face and limb.
"That pipe's a lovely white," they say,
"But it has colored him!"

The moral there's small need to sing —
'Tis plain as day to you:
Don't play your game on any thing
That is a gamester too.
—Martin Bulstrode
2009 Update: A soil into which crops are sown leaf-first. Smoker's loam.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


MUMMY, n. An ancient Egyptian, formerly in universal use among modern civilized nations as medicine, and now engaged in supplying art with an excellent pigment. He is handy, too, in museums in gratifying the vulgar curiosity that serves to distinguish man from the lower animals.
By means of the Mummy, mankind, it is said,
Attests to the gods its respect for the dead.
We plunder his tomb, be he sinner or saint,
Distil him for physic and grind him for paint,
Exhibit for money his poor, shrunken frame,
And with levity flock to the scene of the shame.
O, tell me, ye gods, for the use of my rhyme:
For respecting the dead what's the limit of time?
—Scopas Brune 
2009 Update: A king or dignitary become modest and circumspect.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Satyr and the Minotaur

A satyr tarried on a hill,
When A Minotaur came through.
The sun was bright, the breeze was still
A perfect day to get one's fill
Of palaver with naught to do.

"Weeds in wine! Weeds in wine!"
The satyr his friend offered.
"You'll never find a meal so fine
Than this recipe that I call mine'
Before a day of chasing someone's daughters."

"Meat and hay! Meat and hay!"
The minotaur corrected.
"That's the best choice for a day
Of making sure the maidens stay
Imprisoned and protected."

As of this much later dawn,
The time for myth's grown late.
Though their vocations soldier on
In drinking room and gazeboed lawn,
Such fused cuisine's too monstrous to update:

MINOTAUR, n. A creature with the head of a bull and the liver of a man, a not inconsiderable improvement to both species.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


MEDAL, n. A small metal disk given as a reward for virtues, attainments or services more or less authentic.

It is related of Bismark, who had been awarded a medal for gallantly rescuing a drowning person, that, being asked the meaning of the medal, he replied: "I save lives sometimes." And sometimes he didn't.

2009 Update: A prestige currently trading at one eighth of a dime bag.

Monday, March 02, 2009


MUSTANG, n. An indocile horse of the western plains. In English society, the American wife of an English nobleman.

2008 Update: A bohemian pony, unaffiliated with man and commerce but nonetheless holding opinions on government.