Monday, June 27, 2011

Piers Anthony's Favorite Book

One of my readers, Mark Geatches, suggested that I set up a FAQ section for the convenience of readers, which should also spare me the inconvenience of answering similar questions repeatedly. I pondered, and finally decided to do that here. He suggested some questions, and I'm adding more, and will add others as they come up. But be warned; I seem to be incapable of giving a simple answer to a simple question.

What is my favorite book? 

That is one you probably never heard of, and might not approve of anyway. It is Rationale of the Dirty Joke, by G Legman, a huge compendium of dirty jokes, and a larger sequel No Laughing Matter. Together they come to more than 1,800 pages. The first was published in 1968 by Grove Press; it may not be easy to find today, though I hope electronic publication is catching up with these invaluable tomes. Here is why they are important: the author's thesis is that a person's true nature can be ascertained by analyzing his favorite dirty joke. I believe he is correct. Humor is a highly personal thing; what regales one person may leave another cold. A joke makes a person laugh, and that inevitably ties in with his fundamental beliefs and prejudice. If I encounter a person who laughs hilariously only at jokes that disparage black people or women or gays, I have a clue to the racism or sexism or homophobia he may not care to admit openly. But the book is considerably more exhaustive than that. He summarizes each joke in italics, then has a discussion of its nature and perhaps also its underlying meaning. There are thousands of jokes, and thousands of discussions. I learned things about mankind from this monumental work, and believe anyone would. There are fifteen major categories ranging from Animals to Marriage to Scatology, each with many subsections. Discussions are wide-ranging; I remember how he made the point that when it comes to pollution, it is shit that is clean (because it composts naturally), and the pure white powders that pollute (being unnatural and long lasting, like DDT). 
So okay, what is my own favorite dirty joke, that gives away my hidden nature? Would you believe, I did not find it in this compendium. So I wrote to the author, and he admitted he had not heard that one before. Score one for me. So what is that joke? It relates to the power of the word, because I am a writer and I do believe in the word. Here it is, in severe summary, with one key word expurgated in case anyone maiden aunt is reading this. A trucker came into a roadside cafe, and when waitress inquired what would he have he said “Gimme a cuppa coffee and a fudging donut.” She was upset by the vulgar word, as was the manager, and they had him hauled into court for obscenity. The judge heard their statements, then said to the trucker “What do you have to say for yourself?” The trucker said “Well, your Honer, it was a fudging bad day. The fudging alarm clock got me up too early, then the fudging truck wouldn't start, and when I finally got it rolling, boom! A fudging flat tire. Got that fixed but I was fudging late on my fudging schedule. Then I saw this nice fudging little cafe, so I said what the fudging hell, and I stopped there for breakfast. And this nice fudging waitress comes up and says what'll I fudging have? And I say “Gimme a cuppa coffee and a donut.” At that point the waitress jumped up and cried “That's a fudging lie!” and there was outrage in the audience. Whereupon the judge banged his gavel and said “Quiet! Quiet, or I'll clear the fudging courtroom!” So there you have it: when a word or a lie is repeated often enough, people start to use or believe it. Politicians know that, of course.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Piers Anthony on Gaming

I'm a workaholic, more properly writeaholic, living to write my fiction. But I do take brief breaks along the way. Such as by playing computer cards. The game I'm currently on is FreeCell, which I think is the best of them because it's playable; you can win every time of you do it right, but the doing is not necessarily easy. And that's the point of this blog: I see it as an analogy of life. On my Linux system the game has hints, and undo, and an indication whether the game remains viable. I use them all. When I play a card and the Winnable indication changes to No Longer Winnable or to Lost, I back off and try something else. Without that indication I would lose many games, because sometimes the mistake is not clear. What is obvious is not necessarily right. Sometimes I play a red 3 on the Foundation, which ascends from Ace to King, and that's an obvious move, but it's a loser. It seems I need to save that 3 to play a black 2 on, farther along. Okay, we don't have a Winnable indication in real life, so we can make obvious moves that turn out to be losers. Think how much better it would be if you had such a warning! The light turns red for cross traffic, green for the pedestrians, and you are about to step out and cross the street. But then a rogue car careers through in plain violation of the law and public safety, and takes you out. If you had had warning you would have waited and not done the obvious, and saved your life. This example is taken from the experience of Jenny, my paralyzed correspondent, who was taken out in just such an “accident” by a drunk driver. If she had had a little magic warning, maybe just an app on her watch that would flash red when she was about to go wrong, she would be in full health and motion today, instead of confined in a paralyzed body. Maybe if my daughter Penny had had such a warning she could have overruled her doctor and insisted on getting that patch on her shoulder cut out now, instead of waiting until it metastasized and killed her. If someone were about to put his money down on a house, a magic warning could stop him even if he didn't know that he was about to lose his job in the recession and the First National Scrooge Bank would foreclose. So many ways such a little warning could really help. But this is Mundania, where magic is frowned upon if not actually outlawed, and no such devices are on the market. So I guess the handy warnings and undo features will remain restricted to things like computer card games and we will have to continue to muddle through on our own. It's really too bad. But I do enjoy the games.