Friday, August 14, 2015

I Really Should Spend Less Time In My Archives...

     ...but considering how heavy the material here has been lately, I simply couldn’t resist reviving this old Palace Of Reason piece.

De Mortuis Nil Nisi...Ridiculum?

Oftentimes your Curmudgeon has been asked, "If you were given a choice, which famous dead person would you most want to meet?" Inasmuch as the company of the dead has seldom tickled your Curmudgeon's fancy, he's usually demurred and changed the subject. But the thought has lingered.

As conversationalists, dead people have a huge advantage over living ones: they don't talk back. This makes it possible to heap enormous indignities upon them without fear of retribution. And the thought of that can seize the imagination and take it to some very strange places.

Let's do a little slagging-off of some great -- that is, some extremely well known -- figures of history. There's no historical hero completely immune to a bit of ribbing, so we should have an adequate supply of targets. Those who are offended by disrespect shown to their departed idols are invited to exit through the large circular door marked "sewer."

1. The Classical Era.

To Socrates: Did they offer you a chaser, at least?

To Moses: God gave you a nice, neat, ten-point memo. Concise. Clear. Elegantly phrased. Why did you have to go and add all that crap in the Book of Leviticus? Were you having a bad day, or were you planning to blame it on your secretary?

To David: Nice work with the slingshot, but tell us, please: what was your fallback plan? Guns hadn't been invented. Even the longbow was a millenium or more away. So what were you going to do if your rock missed?

To Judas Iscariot: You saw Him cure lepers and blind men, raise the dead, and feed five thousand folks on a few fish, and you still thought it was a good idea to betray Him to the police? Didn't anyone ever tell you about the value of friends in high places? How much higher did you think you were going to get?

To Gaius Julius Caesar: What part of "Beware the Ides of March" didn't you understand?

To Claudius: Okay, clue us in: Was there anyone in Rome who hadn't slept with your daughter?

To Caligula: You didn't really consummate that marriage to your mare, did you?

2. The Dark Ages.

To Attila: You ought to have copyrighted that "rape, pillage, and burn" bit, instead of just releasing it into the public domain. Not only would your legions of imitators have owed you royalties; it would have made a catchy "hook" for a popular song.

To Arthur: Where on Earth did you get the idea that the Holy Grail could be found in England?

To Charlemagne: They called it the "Roman Empire" because it was centered on Rome. Not clear enough for you?

3. The Renaissance.

To Leonardo Da Vinci: Young man, you'll never make anything of yourself if you don't develop some discipline, buckle down, and stick to one subject!

To Christopher Columbus: Would it have been that embarrassing to stop and ask for directions?

To Elizabeth I: Who were you saving yourself for? Was the future of the Tudor line of no interest to you? Or did the boys all shy away at the thought of how you might react to an, uh, advance? (Word about the head-lopping bit did get around, you know.)

To "William Shakespeare:" Couldn't you have come up with a better invented name than that? A "spear carrier"? And who are you really?

4. The Enlightenment.

To Isaac Newton: We've heard a lot of loose talk about you and your inspirations about gravity. 'Fess up, now: the apple had nothing to do with it, right? That was just a ruse, so your mom wouldn't scold you for spoiling your appetite.

To Thomas Hobbes: "Life of man in the state of nature," indeed! That was a law firm.

To Francois-Marie Arouet: What's this "Voltaire" business? And as for the bit about strangling the last king with the entrails of the last priest: don't try that at home. You'll need something stouter. Keep a ball of twine handy.

To Jean-Jacques Rousseau: You fathered five bastards, popped them all into orphanages, and then wrote a book about child-rearing?

To Rene Descartes: Throwing a cat out an upstairs window did not prove that "animals have no souls," though it did demonstrate a certain deficiency in yours. As for "I think, therefore I am," a syllogism must have three parts.

5. America's Early Years.

To George Washington: Put your false teeth back in before you go downstairs to meet that Gilbert Stuart fellow.

To Thomas Jefferson: Not so lurid, Tom. "He hath erected a multitude of offices and sent forth swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance" is the sort of thing that could get you banned in Boston.

To William Henry Harrison: Wasn't your mother cold that day? Why didn't you listen to her?

To Eli Whitney and Cyrus McCormack: Machines that allow one man to do the work of many? Have you any idea what our wives will say to this?

6. More Recent Vintage.

To John F. Kennedy: Vigor is no substitute for bulletproof glass.

To Martin Luther King: Plagiarism is not a viable long-term strategy, Marty. In just a few years there'll be this thing called the Internet, and then...

7. The Ultimate Irreverence.

To God the Creator: NO! Bud Light!


Dystopic said...

My family (my father's side) has all sorts of stories about Queen Elizabeth that are not recorded in any official records. We are descended from the Raleigh family, and the stories of the Queen's advances on him are quite entertaining.

Anyway, family lore has it that this woman was so ugly, that Sir Walter Raleigh was propositioned, and the Queen offered him King-like power as the official Consort, and the crown to his descendants through her...

...and he just couldn't *ahem* make it work. She was THAT hideous, apparently. Of course, he did find her lady-in-waiting an attractive enough choice.

BlogDog said...

One point - David used a sling. Not a "slingshot."

pdwalker said...

If these are the kind of gems in your archives, please, keep digging and put them on display again.