Stupid Remarks Continue to Offend and Entertain

We who make, report, attack or defend stupid remarks have helped make the Internet what it is today, whatever that is. As my 160 (!) followers would attest, I’ve made my own tiny contribution to this ongoing effort. That is, they would attest if any of them actually read the stuff I painstakingly write here at WOCS. (Unfortunately, Internet statistics don’t lie.)

Furthermore, I promise to keep contributing as long as Republicans keep talking.

Keeping with this practice, although in a relatively non-political vein, I’m now going to discuss a few stupid remarks that have recently been reported, criticized and even defended.

First, it’s hardly worth noting that someone on FOX TV said that Santa Claus is white and Jesus was too. As a friend recently pointed out, saying things like that is what people on FOX do for a living. What was more remarkable was the story about a New Mexico high school teacher who criticized a black student’s decision to dress up as Santa Claus, implying that it would have been better if he had dressed up as an elf, reindeer or candy cane. 

According to the school district, the teacher apologized and was placed on “administrative leave”, so there is some truth to this story. Even though the student was deeply embarrassed, I hope the teacher was making a joke (the kind of jocular remark colloquially known in some quarters as “breaking balls”, as in “Hey, Ralph, don’t you know Santa Claus was white!” “No, I thought he was Italian.” “Boom!”). If the teacher wasn’t trying to be funny, we’d have to conclude that yet another education professional has lost his or her mind.

Another recent controversy involves a person with a very long beard who is part of a TV show called “Duck Dynasty”. He got into trouble when he said that it’s more logical for a man to want to put his penis in a vagina than in another man’s butt, suggesting that vaginal intercourse should be more pleasurable for a man than gay anal intercourse. He added, in an apparent attempt at explanation, that sin (in this case, gay sex) isn’t logical. It seems clear from the context that he wasn’t joking.

Now, it isn’t surprising that this person believes gay sex is sinful. Lots of misguided people believe that and say it all the time, even people who aren’t on FOX or in Congress. Nor is it interesting that he thinks sin is illogical. After all, if there are such things as sins, you could wind up in Hell by committing one (that, as Randy Newman once sang, would put you in a terrible position).

What I thought was interesting about this particular stupid remark was that the speaker may misunderstand evolution (even though he apparently spends a lot of time outdoors). It does make sense that vaginal intercourse is pleasurable for both men and women, because men and women who enjoy it tend to have children who will enjoy it too (and so on, and so on, until the nth generation). But that’s no reason to think that a person with a penis might not get a lot of pleasure, and even more pleasure, from putting it somewhere else or doing something else with it. Behavior evolves because it contributes to the survival of one’s offspring, not because it’s more pleasurable than other behavior. People on TV should grasp standard biological principles like this.

A third stupid remark hasn’t received much attention, so far as I know. But it’s also interesting in a way. A woman who works for a “leading internet and media company” sent this out on Twitter yesterday: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” In this case, the speaker claimed to be making a joke.

When I read about this, I had the impression I’d heard the joke before. Then I remembered watching a video of Sarah Silverman telling a similar joke at a benefit concert:  “Last month I did two benefits. One was for AIDS… It was great, but tonight’s benefit is going to be better. I won’t have to worry about who I hook up with. (pause) That’s terrible! (pause) WHOM I hook up with!”. She got a very big laugh.

What would the reaction have been if it was funny Sarah Silverman who tweeted the Africa AIDS remark? People on Twitter might have thought it wasn’t up to her usual comedic standards instead of calling her a stupid racist. I wonder if Justine Sacco’s co-workers in the London office of IAC thought her tweet was yet another example of Justine being her wild and crazy self (as when, earlier this year, she tweeted “I can’t be fired for things I say while intoxicated right?”).

It’s doubtful, but perhaps Justine Sacco goes to Africa on her vacation every year to work with AIDS patients. But, so far as most of us are concerned, she might as well be a talking, albeit insensitive, dog (ok, I’ve finished writing this post, will someone take me for a walk now?).

Breaking news update!!! Steve Martin has apologized for tweeting a lame joke about the African-American spelling of “lasagna” yesterday. Communication continues to be a dangerous thing, even for talented communicators. (The TMZ site, by the way, actually labeled this story BREAKING NEWS.)

Woof, woof!

nYdog

Liking What Dorothy Parker Said (or Didn’t)

Amazon bought a site called Goodreads earlier this year. It’s a social network thing for readers that supposedly has 20 million members. I’m not one of them, but I noticed today that they have a selection of quotes from famous authors. And since it’s the internet, they allow you to click a button and say you like a particular quote.

Goodreads features more than 200 quotes from Dorothy Parker, the extremely witty woman who said, among other things:

“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”

“By the time you swear you’re his,
Shivering and sighing.
And he vows his passion is,
Infinite, undying.
Lady make note of this —
One of you is lying.”

“If you wear a short enough skirt, the party will come to you.” 

“Women and elephants never forget.”

“I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I’m under the table,
after four I’m under my host.”

“I hate writing, I love having written.”

“You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.” 

“Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
a medley of extemporanea,
And love is a thing that can never go wrong,
and I am Marie of Romania.”

Yet the most popular Dorothy Parker quote on Goodreads, by a very, very large margin, is this lame observation:

“The cure for boredom is curiosity.
There is no cure for curiosity.”

Which isn’t even true: 

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Postscript:  According to a comment from Mr. T. Pedersen, the most-liked quote isn’t something Dorothy Parker actually wrote. Which, assuming he’s right, is to her credit.

http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/24956.Dorothy_Parker

https://www.facebook.com/NewYorkerCartoons

The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee by Sarah Silverman

Sarah Silverman is very funny. This book is funny too, sometimes. It’s her autobiography, which details her youthful bedwetting, what it was like to grow up Jewish in New Hampshire, her life as a stand-up comic, and her experiences being on TV. Comedy and philosophy have a lot in common and she is frequently philosophical.

But the book isn’t as funny as I expected, and she spends too much time justifying herself and complimenting the people she knows. If all the people who worked on her TV show were as brilliantly funny as she says, it would have been a much better show.

She also offers good advice, such as the idea that we should Make It A Treat, that is, don’t overindulge in the most enjoyable things in life. Keep them relatively rare and special. (7/1/10)