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September 13, 2015

My worst caption so far

Here’s this week’s New Yorker caption contest cartoon:

Cars piled up

My hilarious caption? And I’m only telling you this because obviously there’s no change it’s going to be one of the chosen three:

Hey, could someone tell Google Highways that the buffer is full?


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August 30, 2015

July 10, 2015

A solution to the Greek crisis

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May 28, 2015

I’m a winner! A limerick winner!

After many years of intermittent entries, I have at long last won the monthly mini-Annals of Improbable Research Limerick Competition. Woohoo! Ish.

AIR presents research that one might find celebrated at the Ig Nobels. In fact, AIR is the creator of the Ig Nobels. AIR’s monthly mini version is free and amusing.

The limerick had to be about: “Preoperative and postoperative gait analyses of patients undergoing great toe-to-thumb transfer,” from the Journal of Hand Surgery, vol. 12, no. 1, 1987, pp 66-69. Rich comic material, obviously.

“Your gait will be fine, understand,
If we sew a toe onto your hand.
   If we did the reverse
   It might be much worse,”
Said the doc in remarks made off hand.

This month’s article for your limericking is: “Improving Phrap-Based Assembly of the Rat Using ‘Reliable’ Overlaps.”

I shall see you on the five-line field of battle!


March 22, 2015

New definition of “cringeworthy”

The House Judiciary Committee has posted a page with ten gifs to explain to the nation’s youth the folly of President Obama’s immigration actions. (Hat tip to Peter Kaminski.)


January 27, 2015

Reality answers.

Tattered Question Reality sticker

imgur link

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September 13, 2014

Something positive about Ronald Reagan

On Christopher Lydon‘s excellent Radio Open Source program, I heard him interview the historian Rick Perlstein about his book The Invisible Bridge. Kissinger tells it in his memoir.

When Kissinger was in the White House, he had to call Reagan, whom he despised. This was during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In the course of the conversation he said that the Egyptians were claiming to be shooting down an absurd number of Israeli planes. Everyone knew they were lying, but the White House wasn’t sure how to counter the propaganda.

Ronald Reagan immediately said, “Well, Henry, announce that the US will replace every downed Israeli plane, one for one.”

Yes, Ronald Reagan had a brilliant idea.

Tomorrow: You won’t believe what Sarah Palin told the Dalai Lama that changed his life forever.

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August 1, 2014

Time to invoke the Streisand Effect?

The Register just posted one of the most ridiculous pieces of clickbait trolling I’ve ever seen. They’re claiming that by posting the parody video below, the UK’s Open Rights Group is comparing people who defend their copyright to Hitler:

It helps to know a few things:

First, the movie the clip, taken from Downfall, has been used for this sort of re-titling parody well over a hundred times, with Hitler fulminating over everything from Miley Cyrus twerking to spam. (Here are seven recent parodies, and 25 from an article in 2009.) Note that the video above was created and posted by Brad Templeton in 2009.

Second, a few years ago, the producers of Downfall apparently got fed up with their movie becoming so well known and started issuing DMCA takedown notices for the parodies.

Third, two days ago the House of Lords protected parodies against copyright infringement suits — covered in the US by our policy of Fair Use. ORG linked to the Downfall parody to celebrate this victory for free speech.

So, it hurts my head how many ways The Register’s trolling gets things wrong. It’s as if someone were accused of violating Godwin’s Law because she invoked Godwin’s Law. [I am taking Godwin’s Law as normative. Sue me.]

Here is the link to The Register article but I encourage you not to go there, just so they won’t feel that this sort of ridiculous trolling is profitable. Instead, we could perhaps invoke a version of the Streisand Effect by posting the video widely.

[A few hours later:] The Register just appended the following to their post:

Since the publication of this story, the ORG has contacted The
Register with this comment: “Earlier this week, the Open Rights
Group tweeted a Downfall parody about copyright on the day that
parody exceptions for copyright were approved by the House of
Lords. Downfall parodies are widely recognised and have been used
to great satirical effect about a wide range of subjects. It is
wilful ignorance to portray a Downfall parody as a direct
comparison with Hitler and Nazism.”



June 14, 2014


Here’s a humor thing of the sort I sometimes write. You know, the sort that isn’t very funny. Enjoy


A restaurant with three Michelin stars is now trying to up its customer service game by Googling its customers before they arrive. According to a report from Grub Street, an Eleven Madison Park maitre d’ performs Internet recon on every guest in the interest of customizing their experiences.

Casey Johnson, April 13, 2014, Ars Technica

[SCENE: Interior of the entryway of an upscale restaurant. A large LCD panel on a side wall announces that it is Chez Henri. A casually elegant maitre d’ welcomes a couple dressed for a night out.]

Don: Hello, we have a reservation for…

Maître d’: Welcome, Ms. and Monsieur Hartman.

Don: Wow. Um, I’m Don Hartman…

Maître d’: Indeed! We’re so pleased you have chosen to dine with us tonight.

[Maître d’ claps twice at the LCD. It now reads "Chez Randi & Don."]

Don: Oh, that seems a bit much.

Maître d’: Ah, on a normal night, yes, absolutely. But when Randi Hartman née Fox, co-director of the Rockvale Chamber of Commerce, shows up with Donald Hartman, Revco’s newly appointed Regional Manager of Operations, on her arm, within one week of their fifteenth wedding anniversary…

Don: I don’t think I mentioned any of that when I made the reservation.

Maître d’: You’ve barely changed, Ms. Hartman, if I may say so.

Randi: Thank you. I guess.

Maître d’: So we have tonight decided to adjust our menu to accommodate the difference in tastes exhibited in the — if I may — struggle at your wedding between the contemporary Japanese hors d’oeuvres and the classic French entrees.

[Claps twice at the LCD panel which updates to say "Chez Randi & Don: NY’s Finest Sushi-Poisson Fusion Restaurant.]

Maître d’: As for the salad with mandarin oranges, we’ll just let that go by as a courteous response to a well-meaning new in-law.

[As they are taken to their seats, another couple enters and the LCD panel changes to display "Pat & Miriam’s Yeehaw Chopsticks: NY’s Finest Szechuan-Longhorn Fusion Restaurant"]

[SCENE: Don and Randi are seated at a table. Their waiter steps up.]

Marcus: Hello, Ms. and Mr. Hartman. I’m Marcus, and I’ll be your server tonight. May I offer you a cocktail on the house to celebrate your anniversary and also your reaching the half-way point in paying off your mortgage?

Don: Really? I didn’t realize…

Marcus: Halfway in terms of the number of payments, but unfortunately you won’t hit the halfway mark in the total amount you owe for another 3 years and two months. Do come back to us then!

Randi: That’s very kind of you and simultaneously chilling. I’ll have a …

Marcus: Dirty martini. Tanqueray. Three olives. Very cold.

Randi: Why, yes…but…

Marcus: Dumb luck. There was a thirty-five percent chance tonight was going to be a Cosmo night. Shall I queue up a Cosmo for cocktail #2?

Randi: Oh, I hardly ever have two…

Marcus: No need for pretense here at Chez Randi and Don. We can just accept who we are. In fact, I’ll make that a double. And for you, sir, your usual?

Don: Usual? I’ve never been here before…

Marcus: Of course, but you have cookies turned on in your browser. Firefox. Excellent choice. By the way, you’re two upgrades behind, which I wouldn’t mention except that the latest update has important security patches. Let me know if you’d like me to take care of that. [sotto voce] (I’ll clear your browser history while I’m there. Seriously.)

Randi: I have to say that I’m finding this pretty creepy…

Marcus: I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize you’re so uncomfortable with yourself.

Randi: That’s not the point…

Marcus: I’ll be right back with your drinks.

[Marcus exits.]

Don: Wow.

Randi [fiddling with her phone]: My signal sucks. Can I borrow your phone?

[Lights quickly fade and return. Marcus is taking their order.]

Marcus: And I assume that you would like your fillet medium rare, and with no onions anywhere on the plate, or preferably anywhere in the entire restaurant, haha. I know how you feel about onions, Mr. Hartman! And for you, Ms. Hartman, may I recommend something that will help you get into the size six dress you bought three months ago? By the way, I was able to reach your bathroom scale over wifi, but the pesky thing keeps insisting on telling the truth, doesn’t it?

Randi: Sure, whatever, Marcus. And since you know everything, perhaps you can tell me how a place with three Michelin stars would ever get a health violation for improperly refrigerating its shellfish.

Marcus [flustered]: What? Oh, that was ages ago…

Randi: November 9, 2012.

Marcus: The thermostat on one of our refrigerators went on the fritz and wouldn’t you know it, that’s the night a city health inspector showed up.

Randi: What are the chances of that? Thirty-five percent?

[Lights quickly fade and return. Antonio is refilling Randi’s water glass]

Randi: Thank you, Antonio.

Antonio: You’re welcome…Wait, how do you know my name?

Randi: I went to your Facebook page. Looks like that new tattoo must have hurt.

Antonio: Uh, thanks. I almost didn’t do it.

Randi: Well, Martina seems like a nice woman. Strong.

Antonio: You don’t know the half of it.

Randi: Are you sure about that? Let me ask you something. Did the restaurant tell you anything about my husband and me?

Antonio: No, not really. Just to be super-sure that your silverware is set perfectly straight, and that your bread basket has to stay full of sweet rolls no matter how many you chow down because your blood sugar is dipping below 80.

Randi: Anything else?

Antonio: Well, just that if you think we’re treating you different because you’re a woman, you’ll go ballistic.

Randi: So, they called me a bi…

Antonio: No, no. Although it’s true your avatar in our system is a pig with a stick up its butt. We hardly ever use that one.

[Lights quickly fade and return. Marcus is back and the dinner plates are being cleared.]

Marcus: And how was everything? Were the Julienne potatoes not to your liking, Randi, or was the portion just too big? I can assure you that the serving size is precisely the same as we offer to people with penises.

Randi: So you talked with Antonio.

Marcus: Let’s just say some texts were exchanged. Oh, don’t worry. You’re not going to have to give another $40 to the ACLU to protect him. By the way, you might consider upping your contribution, although that might mean you’d have to give up your subscription to Us Weekly. Us? Really? Not even People?

Randi: So, you want to do this, Marcus? I wonder how your 57 Twitter followers would feel about learning that MyOwnMan32 lives at home, hasn’t found a hair growth hoax he hasn’t fallen for, and writes erotic Harry Potter fan fiction under the name "Hermiones_Nipple"?

Marcus: You want to go Twitter on me? I’ll go Twitter all over your Spanx-wearing heinie. I will tweet you out so hard that Facebook’s timeline will run in reverse. Just try me, the former Most Likely to Smell Like Sperm.

Randi: That was a mean yearbook comment in high school! That’s not even on the Internet!

Marcus: You want to keep it that way, or do you want to take me on, bitch?

Randi: You do not want to unleash the kraken, my friend. I know where you live. I know who you’re stalking and why she calls you The Leaker. I know the real reason you gave the Fergus Slim Flashlight only one star at Amazon — funny review, by the way. I know why you can never go back to Rum Bay Beach in the Turks and Caicos. I even have a pretty good idea of exactly where to dig.

Marcus: Oh, you think you know alllll about me, do you, Ms. twice-a-week personal-zone waxer, you repeat-instant-replayer of that scene in House of Cards, you know which one. We are a fucking three star restaurant, lady. We don’t just do a Google search and call it a day as if were some goddamn house of pancakes. We do our research the way we prepare our Truite Sauté Sauce Amere: with a thoroughness that burns through sous chefs as if they were cheap votary candles. We’ve already named the constellations of the moles on your back, and we’ve alerted your primary care physician that M44, the Beehive Cluster, needs immediate attention. We know not only your past boyfriends, but have some statistical confidence about who the next one will be. A word to the wise, Don, there’s a point at which a family accountant is paying just too much attention to deposits and withdrawals, if you know what I mean. So, Randi-with-an-i since 1996, if you want to play, you better bring your game, because you are frankly an amateur playing in the big leagues of Knowing You.

Don [putting his hand on Randi’s]: It’s not worth it, sweetie.

Randi: But I could…

Don: I know you could, but he’s not worth it.

Marcus: Excellent choice. Now, [smiling] can I get you some dessert?

[Pause a beat.]

Randi [timidly closing the dessert menu]: Surprise us.


January 1, 2014

A bad year for our annual Top Ten Top Ten Top Ten list

It’s been a disappointing year for those of us who enjoy Top Ten Top Ten lists. Last year I found an arguable ten or so for my Top Ten top Ten Top Ten list.

This year, my Top Ten Top Ten Top Ten lists contains only four:

Then there were some sites that seemed promising but can’t count in a list as rigorous as this. I have my standards, people!

Not only is this a disaster for this year’s list, it calls into question our progress toward the dream: a Top Ten Top Ten Top Ten Top Ten list. But I have hope. We can do this!


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