Friday, July 31, 2009


ESOPHAGUS, n. That portion of the alimentary canal that lies between pleasure and business.

2009 Update: The umbilicus joining predator and prey.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


EDITOR, n. A person who combines the judicial functions of Minos, Rhadamanthus and Aeacus, but is placable with an obolus; a severely virtuous censor, but so charitable withal that he tolerates the virtues of others and the vices of himself; who flings about him the splintering lightning and sturdy thunders of admonition till he resembles a bunch of firecrackers petulantly uttering his mind at the tail of a dog; then straightway murmurs a mild, melodious lay, soft as the cooing of a donkey intoning its prayer to the evening star. Master of mysteries and lord of law, high-pinnacled upon the throne of thought, his face suffused with the dim splendors of the Transfiguration, his legs intertwisted and his tongue a-cheek, the editor spills his will along the paper and cuts it off in lengths to suit. And at intervals from behind the veil of the temple is heard the voice of the foreman demanding three inches of wit and six lines of religious meditation, or bidding him turn off the wisdom and whack up some pathos.
O, the Lord of Law on the Throne of Thought,
A gilded impostor is he.
Of shreds and patches his robes are wrought,
His crown is brass,
Himself an ass,
And his power is fiddle-dee-dee.
Prankily, crankily prating of naught,
Silly old quilly old Monarch of Thought.
Public opinion's camp-follower he,
Thundering, blundering, plundering free.
Respected contemporaree!
—J.H. Bumbleshook
2009 Update: A subsidiary grouch employed to moderate writers with sobriety, solemnity, circumspection, brevity and britches. For these vices, the editor would be exiled if he did not delete.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A lighter dark

Troubles in a troubled mind
Silently might lead to crime,
In days of yore, forlorn and noir,
Or evanesce in a brawl-strewn bar.

The modern world's a softer place
Imperiled only with disgrace
Where violence, misery and grog
Can now be lumped up on a blog.

TROLL, n. Once a monster made of stone, now of sand.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


ELECTED, adj. Chosen to discharge one duty and a hundred subordinates.

2009 Update: Judged by a jury of peers for their crimes. Sentenced to carry their grievances for eternity until the next election.

Monday, July 27, 2009


EXCESS, n. In morals, an indulgence that enforces by appropriate penalties the law of moderation.
Hail, high Excess — especially in wine,
To thee in worship do I bend the knee
Who preach abstemiousness unto me —
My skull thy pulpit, as my paunch thy shrine.
Precept on precept, aye, and line on line,
Could ne'er persuade so sweetly to agree
With reason as thy touch, exact and free,
Upon my forehead and along my spine.
At thy command eschewing pleasure's cup,
With the hot grape I warm no more my wit;
When on thy stool of penitence I sit
I'm quite converted, for I can't get up.
Ungrateful he who afterward would falter
To make new sacrifices at thine altar!
2009 Update: A large quantity of something best enjoyed in smaller quantities or not at all. Examples include whiskey by the gallon and temperance by the drop. The threshold of excess increases when the measured substance is quantified in two or more portions and stretches beyond the horizon when gauged locally.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Reformation of Wolfshausen

Teil Neun-und-Zwanzig
To hear Weirsdo read this week's episode, you must cross the first line of defense (click photo at right.)

To read it yourself, you must cross the second line of defense (click photo at left.)

The story so far is here.

Friday, July 24, 2009


You've heard, my dear, "the woman's lost
Who hesitates." Then stand
Not foolishly to count the cost,
But kiss me on demand.
2009 Update: Precipitate of sloth. The measure of estimation.

Welcome back, all. And thank you, Mark Buehrle.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Reformation of Wolfshausen

Teil Acht-und-Zwanzig
To hear this week's episode promenade past the Beech trees.

Or, to read this week's episode, scurry under oak.

The story so far is here.

Have a good week, y'all. Waking Ambrose will return, Insha'llah, on July 24.

Friday, July 10, 2009


HUMORIST, n. A plague that would have softened down the hoar austerity of Pharaoh's heart and persuaded him to dismiss Israel with his best wishes, cat-quick.
Lo! the poor humorist, whose tortured mind
See jokes in crowds, though still to gloom inclined —
Whose simple appetite, untaught to stray,
His brains, renewed by night, consumes by day.
He thinks, admitted to an equal sty,
A graceful hog would bear his company.
—Alexander Poke
2009 Update: An entertainer who laughs on the platform and dances beneath the scaffold, hanging on his own every word.

Thursday, July 09, 2009


HEARER, n. A person who finds in the remarks of a public speaker something singularly stimulating to thought about his own affairs.

2009 Update: The speaker, at times.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Poetic License

I saw a woman on the street
With a large basket on her head.
She held the basket straight and neat
And here is what I said:

"You tote your burden lightly.
Your neck must be strong, I say-
I'm curious, just slightly,
What's worth carrying all day?"

"I keep the basket perched there,
As I walk from north to south,
To keep the news that people share
From nesting in my mouth."

GOSSIP, n. Scandal camouflaged in the industry of a neighbor. The idle approach to sin.
Happy birthday to G
Programming note: Due to an impromptu and late-planned vacation, Waking Ambrose will be idle after the story posts Saturday until Monday, July 20th.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


HURRY, n. The dispatch of bunglers.

2009 Update: The American approach to recreation, inebriation and leisure.

Monday, July 06, 2009


HALO, n. Properly, a luminous ring encircling an astronomical body, but not infrequently confounded with "aureola," or "nimbus," a somewhat similar phenomenon worn as a head-dress by divinities and saints. The halo is a purely optical illusion, produced by moisture in the air, in the manner of a rainbow; but the aureola is conferred as a sign of superior sanctity, in the same way as a bishop's mitre, or the Pope's tiara. In the painting of the Nativity, by Szedgkin, a pious artist of Pesth, not only do the Virgin and the Child wear the nimbus, but an ass nibbling hay from the sacred manger is similarly decorated and, to his lasting honor be it said, appears to bear his unaccustomed dignity with a truly saintly grace.

2009 Update: The distinctive evacuation of context that makes tolerable the innocence of a saint.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Reformation of Wolfshausen

Teil Sieben-und-Zwanzig
To hear this week's episode read by Terry and- wait for it- Bear, click on the stylish merchants of Germany.

Or, to read this week's episode, click on the shore-left sailor.

The story so far is here.

Happy Fourth of July, all.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Looking Glass

LOOKING-GLASS, n. A vitreous plane upon which to display a fleeting show for man's disillusion given.
The King of Manchuria had a magic looking-glass, whereon whoso looked saw, not his own image, but only that of the king. A certain courtier who had long enjoyed the king's favor and was thereby enriched beyond any other subject of the realm, said to the king: "Give me, I pray, thy wonderful mirror, so that when absent out of thine august presence I may yet do homage before thy visible shadow, prostrating myself night and morning in the glory of thy benign countenance, as which nothing has so divine splendor, O Noonday Sun of the Universe!"

Please with the speech, the king commanded that the mirror be conveyed to the courtier's palace; but after, having gone thither without apprisal, he found it in an apartment where was naught but idle lumber. And the mirror was dimmed with dust and overlaced with cobwebs. This so angered him that he fisted it hard, shattering the glass, and was sorely hurt. Enraged all the more by this mischance, he commanded that the ungrateful courtier be thrown into prison, and that the glass be repaired and taken back to his own palace; and this was done. But when the king looked again on the mirror he saw not his image as before, but only the figure of a crowned ass, having a bloody bandage on one of its hinder hooves — as the artificers and all who had looked upon it had before discerned but feared to report. Taught wisdom and charity, the king restored his courtier to liberty, had the mirror set into the back of the throne and reigned many years with justice and humility; and one day when he fell asleep in death while on the throne, the whole court saw in the mirror the luminous figure of an angel, which remains to this day.
2009 Update: The portal by which Alice enters a strange and mythical world. Most Alices, in fact.
(Present company excepted, of course. Our Alice enters by graduate school.)

Thursday, July 02, 2009


LAOCOÖN, n. A famous piece of antique scripture sculpture representing a priest of that name and his two sons in the folds of two enormous serpents. The skill and diligence with which the old man and lads support the serpents and keep them up to their work have been justly regarded as one of the noblest artistic illustrations of the mastery of human intelligence over brute inertia.

2009 Update: A Trojan priest wise enough to warn his comrades against Greeks bearing gifts but impetuous enough to father two sons. For their lesser incaution, the Trojans were punished with death but allowed to retain some dignity.

Update: Good eye, Jim. The slip, however Freudian, isn't mine. I copied and pasted from The online Devil's Dictionary and missed the error you caught. I checked the book and Bierce is also innocent.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


What is freedom?

Is it liberal elbow room at the knees?
The remembered duty to prune and plant trees?
Or treatment for every possible form of disease?

A coherent social safety net?
Ten to one odds on even a sure bet?
Models wearing wisps, modest but wet?

Caveat emptor in all of your commerce?
Or thick men with guns watching your purse?
Is it days that grow longer, more freighted and worse?

Is it safety in offering all of your views?
Sympathy from the judge for your fears and your blues?
Or something silly each day on the six o'clock news?

Does it mean every child learns to count and to spell?
If freedom means one thing and means that thing well,
The philosophers, poets and prigs must all be in hell.
-James Madison Garvey

CONSTRAINED, n. Seated near the center for a liberty lecture.