Category Archives: Comic silliness

My students put me in pictures

Two of my creative writing students from last semester also got creative with a photo of me from this blog. Here, Sam M. puts my face (from this post) into a charming/creepy holiday depiction:


and Mark B. put my face on currency,


and in my own trading card (Mark also decided I was “secretly … president of the United States”),


and in Mount Rushmore (left of me is my teaching colleague Mr. Fonfara).


I appreciate the wisdom that I, a Humble Genius, should be given the spot of Thomas Jefferson, the president so smart that he was an “extraordinary collecti0n of talent, of human knowledge … when [he] dined alone.

Hanukkah card, anyone?

Before the holiday season gets too far past, I’m posting these photos of the greeting card aisle from my rural-town’s drugstore. Specifically, I’m posting photos of the Christmas card section:

Snyder Pharmacy, Byron, Illinois, 6 Dec. 2014. Look carefully, all the way to the left, for Hanukkah cards.

Snyder Pharmacy, Byron, Illinois, 6 Dec. 2014. Look carefully, all the way to the left, for Hanukkah cards.

And, down at the very end, a closer-in shot of the entire Hanukkah card section:

Note that the entire Hanukkah is all-but-hidden behind another Xmas display.

Four choices! Note that the entire Hanukkah is all-but-hidden behind another Xmas display.

What I’m debating: Whether it’s better for there to be a pathetic selection of Hanukkah cards, or none at all?

If you liked ‘Great Gatsby,’ you’ll love …

It’s so thoughtful of retail stores to put up book suggestion displays that are so easy to mess with:










Harmacy: When your pharmacy’s out of P

Missing letters can kill.

When the ‘P’ went dark on this sign outside of a Target store, the mood inside the store got dark, too.


‘He’s stabbing her bun’: Quotes of the week!

Here’s the countdown of the best quotes I overheard from my students this week:

5. “He’s stabbing her bun,” said a girl as a boy was pushing a pencil into another girl’s hair.

4. Two young women in the hallway. One said, “You don’t give ME any gum.” The other answered, “I’m just saying, I’m giving you gum right now.”

3. In an argument between a boy and girl about outdoorsmen’s excretory practices, student said, “I know five hunters who took a crap in the woods.”

2. Student informed the class (during work-time) that she expected to be grounded Saturday for what she would be doing on the Friday night yet to come. When her mom asks what she did, student can’t lie, she said, adding, “They say they love you but I don’t think they do.” Classmate asked for clarification: “Are you talking about your mother?” Yes, student said.

And the week’s best quote is: 

1.  After student said he didn’t like a girl’s shoes, another girl said that was like saying he didn’t like her face. He answered, no, it wasn’t like that at all because “you don’t go out and buy a pair of face.”


20 Unsatisfying-To-Read Stories

Many popular stories — in everything from fairy tales to Hollywood movies — depict low-probability outcomes: the hero saves the day at the last minute, the lovers overcome all obstacles to be together, and the world is a place of cosmic/karmic justice. Sure, I get that there’s something satisfying about long odds being overcome, and yet I also get a little tired of how predictable these story conclusions are. There ought to be ways of telling stories that aren’t simply about the unusual, infrequent circumstances. Below, then, is a list that is not meant to be cynical (even if  some of these scenarios may reflect real-life experiences), but is meant to demonstrate stories that are not often told (in fiction or nonfiction):

1. The better team wins, and the score’s not even close.

2. Two people meet, and are polite to each other, and that’s it.

3. Both combatants act unethically.

4. Someone dies in a car accident and it’s not his fault.

5. An attractive couple has a wonderful house, adorable children, satisfying work, and long lives.

6. A father tells his daughter to marry a man she doesn’t love because, her father says, the man will be a good provider. She marries the man and is provided for but never loves him.

7. A species goes extinct, and nobody is able to save it at the last minute.

8. The bully/criminal/abuser/harasser gets away with it.

9. Scientists warn that human activity will, in coming years, radically change conditions across much of the planet, and most of the population seems uninterested in trying to prevent it.

10. The conflict was never necessary and was joined because of a lack of imagination, wisdom, or patience on both sides.

11. Grass grows; paint dries; taxes accrue; people die.

12. The first person to die in an action story narrates the story, and stops narrating when he dies, and the story stops there.

13. Readers see a few moments of stream-of-consciousness of every person at a public event, like a concert or a football game.

14. A war is going on, but it’s meaningful only to the humans involved. Animals in the war zone go about their business, and we see the story from the animals’ P.O.V.

15. The writer stops telling the story and never finishes it.

16. The characters in a book are revealed to be merely ideas and not really relatable to real people at all.

17. The story, if indeed there is a story there, never quite gets conveyed by the words that make up the text that purports to tell the story.

18. The would-be writer stops thinking of his own life as if he were the main character of a novel.

19. The characters resist the author’s directorial control and refuse to carry out what the writer writes.

20. A reader sits in the grass and realizes that the story was all just made up B.S. anyway.

P.S.: I’ve got a theory lately that there are two kinds of stories: those that show characters getting the consequences they deserve, and those stories that are about story-form itself.

Funny sports writing: Bill Barnwell on Charlie Whitehurst

This piece by Bill Barnwell at Grantland, describing the charmed career of backup QB Charlie Whitehurst, amuses me:

Just for a moment, let’s go back and run through Whitehurst’s career:

• Whitehurst grows to 6-foot-5.

• He spends four years at Clemson, during which he fails to complete 60 percent of his passes (ending at 59.7 percent) and throws nearly as many interceptions (46) as touchdowns (49). The Tigers go 30-19 during his time in school.

• The Chargers draft Whitehurst in the third round of the 2006 NFL draft.

• Whitehurst spends four years as the third-string quarterback in San Diego behind Philip Rivers and Billy Volek. He does not attempt a regular-season pass. His only experience comes during the 2006-09 preseasons, during which Whitehurst goes 104-of-197 (52.8 percent) for 1,031 yards (5.2 yards per attempt) with five touchdowns and seven interceptions.

• Seattle’s new brain trust of Pete Carroll and John Schneider targets Whitehurst in a trade, getting their man by sending San Diego a future third-round pick and swapping Seattle’s second-round pick (40th) for San Diego’s (60th) in the 2010 draft. They also immediately give Whitehurst a two-year, $8 million contract extension.

• Whitehurst enters into a quarterback competition with 35-year-old incumbent Matt Hasselbeck.

• Whitehurst loses that quarterback competition.

• Whitehurst plays in nine regular-season games over two seasons with Seattle, starting four, most notably the division-clinching win over St. Louis in the fail-in game on Sunday Night Football in Week 17 of the 2010 season. He is benched in his last start after seven pass attempts for an already-injured Tarvaris Jackson. Over the two-year span, Whitehurst goes 84-of-155 (54.2 percent) for 805 yards (a terrifying 5.2 yards per attempt) while throwing three touchdowns and four picks.

• Returning to unrestricted free agency, Whitehurst signs a two-year, $3.05 million deal with the Chargers, including a $1 million signing bonus.

• Now 30 years old, Whitehurst spends 2012 and 2013 as the backup to Philip Rivers without throwing a regular-season pass. He takes 12 snaps during his stint with the Chargers, producing six handoffs and six kneel-downs for a total of minus-5 yards.

• Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt takes over as Tennessee’s head coach and brings Whitehurst along for the ride, giving the now 32-year-old a two-year, $4.3 million deal with $2 million guaranteed.

There are virtually no reasons to think that Whitehurst has any aptitude as an NFL quarterback. He wasn’t especially good in college. He didn’t impress anybody against third-stringers in the preseason. He was downright awful during the brief time he had as a starter, and that came and went nearly three years ago. The most obvious reason Whitehurst has continued to be employed as an NFL quarterback is that he was previously employed as an NFL quarterback.

For that résumé, Whitehurst has earned in excess of $15 million during his time in the NFL, with more than $1 million to come in 2015. Whitehurst is the definition of a replacement-level quarterback; in a totally free market, I suspect you could have offered him $35,000 a year (with serious playing-time incentives) to do the same job and he would have happily taken it.

This may sound like I’m jealous of Whitehurst or bitter about his success. I’m only jealous of his hair. In general, I’m wildly happy for Whitehurst, who is apparently an incredible hustler and a really nice guy, because you don’t get cushy backup quarterback jobs if you’re a dick. Whitehurst has lived in some of America’s most beautiful cities and collected millions of dollars almost exclusively to practice and serve as a de facto coach. God bless Charlie Whitehurst.

More Barnwell on Whitehurst here.

At the diner: ‘Who needs a spanking?’

Sunday morning, Sunrise diner. A local Realtor(tm) walks up to a table of younger adults and children and says, “Who needs a spanking?” To one girl of about seven years, he says, “I KNOW you do.” He leaves, and a couple minutes later, a white woman comes to the same table and says, “Is everybody behaving over here? Or did my husband already get that taken care of?”

Also this morning: the classic Old Farmer conversation at the diner about The Price Of Corn. I had to pinch myself: two adult white men unironically using phrases like “three – dollar corn” and “some politics in there too.”

‘Defuse the Rockets’? School humility

20140916_163514So, this week, we’re apparently defusing the Rockets of Rock Falls. Do rockets even HAVE fuses? I mean, other than toy rockets. After the power-verbs “strip” and “slay” last week, “defuse” sounds pretty technical and uninspiring. Wouldn’t “Apollo 1 the Rockets” be more intimidating?

If “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall,” as the Good Book says, maybe we shouldn’t be demonstrating all this school pride. Let’s get out there and show some school humility!

This week’s cup-spelling: ‘Slay the Trojans’

At least it's not "Wear the Trojans."

At least it’s not “Wear the Trojans.”

This week, the Byron footballers are encouraged to re-enact “The Iliad,” minus most of killings (one hopes) but with all of the divine meddling (one dreams). I know Mendota High School students aren’t the only mascotted Trojans, but I’m struck by the fact that any teams willingly identify with the losers of a conflict. Perhaps, for old time’s sake, Mendota’s quarterback could be dragged around the stadium a few times in ritual commemoration.

This is also a good opportunity to link to a cool site of Greek comics, particularly this entry charting deaths in “The Iliad.

By the way, for bonus military references this week, the cup-spellers did this:


UPDATE: The Tigers did not defeat the Trojans, and thus Andromache did not become a slave (The Iliad, Book 6) and Priam’s genitals were not eaten by dogs (Book 22) — figuratively speaking, of course.