Tag Archives: humour

Wheezing Marc

So, listen.  I don’t know if you realize this, but I haven’t posted for nearly two weeks. That’s pretty bad.  I’ve been busy with other things, OK?  Things such as: soaking up some rays on an Okanagan beach, diving for my brother’s eye-glasses in Okanagan Lake, sleeping, playing Canasta with my mom, driving. And so on.

What brings me back today, friends, is something big. BIG. Are you familiar with Talking Carl?  It’s an iPhone app that repeats everything you say in a high voice with a vaguely sarcastic tone. I had some good times with my kids and nieces and Talking Carl on my brother’s iPhone. Good times of the wheezing and crying kind.

For your education and edification, I bring you this: a Talking Carl duel. Watch and listen and laugh, friends:

(via Dixie, who said my wheezy, teary response was predictable. She, in turn, found it at Dooce.)

Am I doing some kind of cyber cross-pollination by suggesting you read @XIANITY on Twitter?  I just found him/her via @boydston and it’s absolutely gold material. GOLD, I tell you!  I’ve just started reading the nearly 600 Tweets.  Here’s my favourite so far (they’re posted as news items by various categories):

PURITANS: Jonathan Edwards to @JohnPiper “You complete me”. John Piper to Jonathan Edwards “You had me at Hell”.


(Also, I’m a sucker for a good pop culture reference.  Here’s another one: “CHURCH: Seeker friendly ‘There Will Be Blood’ communion service goes too far after use of milkshake for the cup.”)

(OK, just a few more:

“TULIPS: Unpublished reformation manuscript confirms 6th point of Calvinism that many suspected existed all along: Smug Superiority”

“PROPHECY: Touring Israel & out of his mind with hunger, John Hagee unwittingly delays rapture by eating the red heifer.”

“MUSIC: “I’ll Fly Away” with Tuvan throat singers last straw for creative but troubled worship leader.”

“TECH: Steve Jobs descends from Mt. Sinai and smashes Apple Tablet in anger upon finding impatient mac users worshiping Kindles”

“THEOLOGY: Feuding nerds come to agreement that regular orcs could become Christians, but the Uruk Hai are beyond redemption.”

“THEOLOGY: Young Earth & Old Earth creationists agree to Middle Earth compromise, Hobbits object.)

Steam, Balls and Brass Monkeys: A Lesson in Hermeneutics

Wednesday morning in Hermeneutics class, we were discussing Biblical wisdom literature, and Proverbs in particular. Our professor, the esteemed August Konkel, was telling us that Proverbs function like riddles. He then used a cliché as an example: “He ran out of steam.”  The meaning behind this phrase is not self-evident–it requires a context outside of the text itself in order to be understood. The Korean students in the class did not know what this phrase meant, so we discussed steam power briefly in explanation.

Then Dr. Konkel said, “Here’s another good example: ‘It’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.'” The Korean students didn’t understand this one either.  The North American students all started to laugh. The incongruity of the president of an evangelical seminary using such a crass phrase as an example in class was both shocking and delightful. We were all, of course, thinking of that brass monkey’s testicles.

The professor went on to explain that it is an old naval term, from back in the day when ships had cannons. “Brass monkey” was the name for a ring or triangle of brass that was used as the base to stack cannonballs in a pyramid (think of the thing you use to rack up billiards balls). Metals shrink in cold weather and brass shrinks faster than the iron in the cannonballs.  When it got really cold in the North Sea, the brass monkey would shrink and cause the pyramid of cannonballs to topple. Hence: it was cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.

Whether this explanation for the term is true or not (it appears that it is not) is beside the point.  The Westerners understood the term to be a crass phrase referring to a particular part of a monkey’s anatomy; the Easterners in the class simply did not understand the phrase at all; people from say, somewhere in Africa, may have interpreted it in another way. But none of our interpretations reflected the meaning of the phrase.

The point of the lesson was what a proverb is, but the unintentional lesson was one about how the inevitability of our cultural and experiential biases influence our interpretation of a text.  “Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey” made perfect sense to me, so I assumed to know what was meant by the phrase when in fact, my interpretation of that phrase was not even close to its actual meaning.

We do this with all sorts of “texts”: books, advertising, films, and even (perhaps especially) the Bible.

Which, incidentally, is why not even the most ‘literal, word-for-word’ English translation of the Old Testament will retain the phrase “hot of nose” in reference to God’s anger, because that phrase simply does not translate into English (just as “He ran out of steam” did not translate into Korean).

The Pencil Man Can


I wrote last June about my developing love for pencils. It carries on. Was ordering a gross of my favourite pencils a bit too much?  Perhaps.  But they’re not only nice to write with, they’re nice to look at.

Apparently taking notes in pencil is odd. I’ve received a number of looks, second looks and chuckles from classmates when I pull my handheld pencil sharpener from my book bag and sharpen the stub of wood and graphite in my hand. Another classmate commented twice on my pencil use, saying he likes pencils too. But he takes his notes in pen. Maybe he needs to come out of the proverbial closet when it comes to his writing instrument preferences. Perhaps I am to be the agent of his outing, to give him the courage to name it.

I don’t see the guy taking notes with the fountain pen getting funny looks. What’s the deal?

Barbecues and Training Wheels

I spent most of yesterday afternoon outside.  First, I removed the training wheels from Madeline’s bike.  Second, I assembled our new barbecue.

It feels like it might be a little too much barbecue for us: it has a side element, which is something I never used on our old barbecue; it has a “back burner” and I’m not sure what it is for; it also has an electric rotisserie thingie, which we may use, but still–possibly too much barbecue.

You may recall that last August/September I was looking for a barbecue (I can’t find the post), and I complained that at what seemed like prime barbecue end-of-season time, there were no barbecues to be had, other than high-end way-beyond-our-budget models and cheap low-end ones–nothing that fit what I was looking for.

So when at Costco in early January I saw almost the exact barbecue I wanted at pretty much the exact price I wanted, I just up and bought it without much thought (I didn’t notice the unnecessary side-element until I got home with it).  I was pleased as punch (except I didn’t really like spending the money).  But wouldn’t you know it, a month or so later Wal-Mart had switched their “Seasonal” section from winter supplies like tobaggans and snow shovels to summer stuff like barbecues.  And they had quite the selection of barbecues which fit my specifications, didn’t have some of the unnecessary extras, and were cheaper!

The barbecue we purchased is just fine, but we could have saved a few bucks. Alas.  Many of our possessions are a monument to impulse buying.  Lesson learned. Again.

So back to the training wheels thing.  One of Madeline’s friends told her that training wheels are usually removed around age 4. And it seems that our neighbours are planning on removing the training wheels on their four-year-old boy’s bike this year. Madeline is 7 years old (as of last December). Until Madeline told me what her friend said, I didn’t think she was too old for training wheels.

We bought Madeline’s bike two years ago, after realizing that it just wasn’t going to work for her and Luke to share/fight over the Dora the Explorer tricycle.  We automatically put training wheels on because she had only ridden a tricycle, but we left them on for two years.  And she was nervous and uncertain, and she did rely on one or the other training wheel for balance, but  that may have simply been because that crutch was available to her.

At any rate, I had been planning on removing them this year.

Today was that day. And, boy, let me tell you, it was such an anticlimactic event. I had envisioned that glorious moment when I would release my hand from the seat of her bike after running her to a start, Madeline tentatively venturing off on her own two wheels, each second passing in slow-motion to the tune of “Chariots of Fire”, Dixie and I jumping up for joy whilst angels sang and trumpets rang from the heavens.  And so on.

As it was, I released my hand and off she went without a hitch.  I was still very proud of her and it did fill my heart with gladness, but the fact is, we could have taken those training wheels off last year or the year before.  Maybe she only needed them for a week or two.

Here’s the footage (in terms of sound, it’s mostly wind in the microphone, and there’s a big lull in the middle):

Now that I’ve watched it again, there may have been some angels singing.  Seeing the smile on her face on the return ride–full of pride and excitement–fills my heart with such joy.  The background picture on our desktop is Madeline on the skating rink, smiling proudly, just like she did on her bike today.  These are the highlights of parenting.

Also: I walk funny. I have never noticed this before. After watched the video, I asked Dixie, “Do I walk funny?”

Without batting an eye, she said, “Yes, you do.”

She married me anyway.

Footprints in the sand…

You are all, I am sure, at least vaguely familiar with the “Footprints in the Sand” poem.  If not, here’s the poem and here’s a typical picture with the poem.

Somehow I ended up at a blog which has a section on bad Christian art.  Readers sometimes post captions to the posted pictures.  Here’s one with the winning caption:

“When you only saw one set of footprints in the sand, that’s when I let the bear eat you.”

Actually, the title of the post is pretty hilarious, too: “Jesus wants you to prevent forest fires.”

Buy me this t-shirt:

Somehow or other last week I wound up at the Cafe Press website looking at this t-shirt. It reads:

God said it.

I interpreted it
as best I could in light of all the filters
imposed by my upbringing and culture,

which I try to control for but you can never do a perfect job.

That doesn’t exactly settle it
but it does give me enough of a platform
to base my values and decisions on.

It is a satirical reworking of the old saying, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”  If I didn’t have such bad experiences with fun t-shirts shrinking and wearing out very quickly, I might order one.  Perhaps there’s a mug available.

My hermeneutics classmates and I had a good laugh over that one, as it happens to be a fitting t-shirt for the stuff we’ve been discussing in class.

A couple of friends and I were talking about some “facts” one of them read on the internet and we came up with another variation: “The internet said it, I believe it, that settles it.”  Good times.