I’m Thinking Of The Days


I had a reputation as a calendar-giver, based on something like fourteen years in a row going by in which I figure that a calendar just the appropriate gift to give about three-quarters of the people I want to gift with something or other, mostly calendars. I’m not one of those johnny-come-latelies who’s gotten into giving out calendars because all the cool kids are. I gave them out because I have a deep belief that the people I care most deeply about could use a little more warning about just when this year April is expected to start and end.

What’s got me thinking about this is I was in one of those odd little shops, that only exists in malls in November and December, that sells calendars and special editions of the board game Sorry, and it had a calendar of animals telling jokes. Not one of those page-a-day calendars where someone had worked up 365 jokes that could be matched with photographs of animals, or even one of those chintzy ones where they combine Saturday and Sunday and only give you approximately 313 of them. It was a monthly calendar. One of the jokes, coming from a pig, asked what you get from a pig that’s taking karate lessons. Answer: pork chops.

The calendar fascinates me. Who’s the person who wants a calendar which will, for not less than 28 days running, taunt you with the question “what do you get from a pig that’s taking karate lessons” and the answer “pork chops”? The first day, sure, you smile as broadly as anyone ever would. The second day, maybe a bit of a grin. The third, it registers as a kind of cute picture of a pig, I guess, with some text creeping around it. The fourth, you start to wonder what color belt the pig’s got to. The fifth, it’s now a question of how the pig would even tie the belt? Or would he have someone to do the belt-tying for him? Is it a him? Are boy or girl pigs more likely to take carate lessons? The sixth, you realize you spent all day yesterday treating the problem of pig karate as if it were serious and probably drove right past the turn for home three times before getting it right.

Oh, sure, you can give the calendar to a little kid who’s too young to be driving and that avoids the issue on the sixth, but that just means whoever’s responsible for the kid is going to have to answer whether the pig in the picture wanted to take karate lessons and, if so, was it just for the fun of it or was it because of bullies in the farmyard. Maybe it is. Then you’re going to have to explain why the farmer puts up with bullies, and that’s going to lead to questions about whether they’re doing it to impress the cows, and the question of why they aren’t called cowies, and you don’t really have a good answer to that. The English language is able to attach a diminutive ending to any word that’s got an ending, so why should it step briskly back from a cowie? Before long you’d be peeking ahead to the next month hoping it’s something blissfully simple like a sheep making a pun on “ewe” but then someone has to explain why that isn’t pronounced “eewiee” and that’s exactly what you were hoping to not explain.

If this had been a joke-a-day calendar I’d understand, since by the time you’d got to being haunted by the implications of the pork chop joke you’d have had four or five other gags about fish schools or owls asking who’s there and cow astronomers discovering the Milky Way to crowd them out of your mind. But this presentation just sits on you and makes you think about it and keep on thinking about it.

On the other hand, the joke isn’t going to be there more than 31 days, unless you lose so much interest in continuing to live that you never advance the calendar again, in which case the karate pig probably isn’t the real issue. So maybe it’s for people who want to be haunted by these kinds of problems but not indefinitely.

An Open Letter To The Coffee News Jokes Editor (Not Really)


Dearly Beloved and I recently picked up a copy of Coffee News, your two-page flyer of all sorts of undated, un-sourced bits of mild interest, and reports of small towns that have outlawed cussing or droopy pants or whatever because they can’t figure a way to just make “being a teenager” illegal without getting unwanted attention, plus lots and lots of advertising for local businesses, plus the challenge of spotting the Coffee News guy hiding somewhere in an advertisement. Among the “On The Lighter Side” items was this joke.

Teacher: “I said to draw a cow eating some grass, but you’ve only drawn the cow.”

Johnny: “That’s because the cow ate all the grass.”

We both wondered at this gag, because we couldn’t figure who it was meant for. Surely anyone old enough to be picking up the Coffee News would have read the joke and appreciated whatever humor value it had decades, possibly appreciable portions of a century, beforehand. Whoever assembled this pile of words into this week’s installment can’t have been thinking she or he had a cracking good joke, or even that this was a fresh or well-told version of this joke. So … who selected it for inclusion? Why have it? Who’s the audience for this joke?

I know, I know, stuff like the Coffee News isn’t actually written by anybody, or for anybody; it’s just there so the columns of advertisements won’t slump against each other. There’s no credits on it that I can find. But the text has to come from somewhere; unwritten, unsourced, uncomposed words don’t just run themselves off to the printer. Someone, somewhere, decided that this joke was sufficiently lacking in detectable properties to get bundled into this set. Who? How? Why is this joke there? What goes on in the imaginary offices where Coffee News is created, if it is created, and granting that it isn’t, how can it exist?

The Coffee News guy was hiding in one of the divorce-separation-alimony-child custody case lawyer ads.