Re-Inventing History


I like reading a wide variety of subjects, and keep certain volumes around, like a book of quotable quotes, a rhyming dictionary, and the New York Public Library Desk Reference.  Now, I’m not entirely an academic reader – I’ve been known to carry on a relationship with a good novel from time to time, and I especially like some of the things found on the Wal-Mart bathroom wall, but generally I enjoy sticking my head in books that give me plenty of trivial knowledge so I can bewilder and dazzle anyone unlucky enough to be trapped in an elevator with me.  Well, I was poring over a book that tells when certain things were invented, and who the inventor was, when I came across an entry that read that in 1866 a fellow by the name of Alexander Melville Bell (evidently not the Bell that invented the graham cracker – you know, Alexander Graham Bell) came up with the idea of lip reading.

As soon as I read that, I knew someone was making things up.  Do the writers of that book of inventions mean to say that no one did any lip reading before 1866?  What about the poor slave in ancient Egypt who watched two task masters chatting at the bottom of the pyramid?  I suppose since this is before the invention of lip reading, he looked at the one task master’s lips moving and thought he said “Let’s free the slaves after lunch,” when the fellow actually told his buddy “Let’s beat the slaves for lunch.”  Imagine the letdown.  How can someone invent something like lip reading?  That’s like saying Herman Toot invented the fart.  Before that everyone had to pass gas through their ears.  I’d be willing to bet that Oog the caveman was sitting in his cave, saw Mrs. Oog grunting with their neighbor and was able to tell by watching her lips that she said Eekanbeack instead of Hottontott.  I’m not trying to take anything away from Mr. Bell.  If the scientific community felt the need to give him credit for being able to tell what the people down the street were saying, so be it.  It made me wonder, though, what other silly things have been attributed to a single individual, so I did a little research.

In 1285 a fellow by the name of Alessandro de Spina is credited with inventing eyeglasses.  I suppose before that, people had to prop their reading material on a tree stump and back away until they could see it.  Before eyeglasses people actually had to look through coke bottles.  Before eyeglasses you could flip an old geezer off without him throwing his dentures at you.

Sir John Harington invented the flush toilet in 1589.  If he didn’t get a ticker tape parade for that one, he should have.  Can you imagine what people had to do before that?  “Harriet, could you hand me some toilet paper and a fork?  I’ve got a floater here.”  I would have solved the unemployment problem by starting the world’s first pooper scooper business.  Its motto would have been: “Like it never even happened”.

The medical thermometer was invented in 1616 by Santorio Santorio.  He’s probably the ancestor of Duran Duran.  Before his invention patients had to hold mercury in their mouths and then spit it into a bowl of tea leaves.  I bet he had a few bumps in the road along the way, though.  “Mr. Feliciano, I TOLD you not to bite down!  Now you’ve got to hold the mercury and broken glass in your mouth until I can get some tea leaves.”

Of course, everyone knows the sandwich was invented by the Earl of Sandwich.  I’m just glad his name wasn’t the Earl of Crap.  “Would you children rather have a peanut butter and jelly crap, or a bologna and cheese crap?”

A man by the name of Edward Beard Budding (someone should have invented a better name for him) brought the first lawn mower into the world.  Goats around the world began dying of starvation.  Yeah, well they should have been grateful they didn’t have to drink all that gasoline anymore.

I could probably go all day like this, but I’ll save you the incredulity.  I do need to mention one of the greatest inventions of the modern world: in 1860 a Mr. John Newnham came up with the idea of the snap button.  Think about how much time and effort he saved!  I’ve got another book that chronicles famous last words, and one of my favorite is the suicide note of a man who obviously lived before Mr. Newnham’s invention.  It simply said: “All this buttoning and unbuttoning.”  I feel you, sir.  Where was the snap button when you needed it?

Temper, Temper

Temper, Temper



Trip the light fantastic

Trip the light fantastic


It’s My Way or the High Way


In honor of National Cannabis Appreciation Day – called 4:20 among those who can’t say cannabis – I’d like to devote my thoughts to the subject, if I can keep my attention focused that long.  4:20 means April 20th, which means some stoner thought that up while staring at the calendar one day.  Marijuana has been called a ‘lefthand’ cigarette, among other things, and if you put your left forefinger and thumb together like you’re holding a joint, your digits will actually look like 3:15 on a clock, so imagine you’re high and your hand is relaxed – voila!  4:20.  Actually, I used to get so relaxed I could only celebrate on June 30th.  In the end, though, some genius ganga smoker thought marijuana users should have a day all their own, so here we go.

I first heard about it while living in Michigan.  The University of Michigan has an annual event on April 20 of each year called the Hash Bash.  That’s when students all get together on the commons area and fire up their weed so cops will have something to do that day.  I kinda thought it should have been done in private, but hey, I’m not the one having to bail a few thousand people and myself out of jail.  The organizers actually meet at a designated time and everyone sits around in the open and gets wasted.  They call it the Hour of Power.  The only ones with the power are the po po (that’s slang for police, in case you were born before color TV), but they really don’t go in guns a blazin’.  They dress up like students – you know, smelly holey jeans and tee shirts that once belonged to someone born before color TV – and hang out in the crowd waiting for someone to pass them a doobie.  Evidently smoking your own shit is a mere civil infraction, but sharing it with your neighbor is a criminal offense.  No matter how many times the organizers tell people about this, there’s always some doper that gets a little too buzzed and wants to spread the happiness.  That’s like trying to tell a cabbie to drive safely.

There is an actual establishment that has been formed to try and get marijuana legalized, called NORML.  I can’t make this stuff up.  It’s full name is the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which would technically make it NOFTROML, but then, only the partiers would understand it.  I actually thought of starting a splinter group called America Believes the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, but I was shouted down.  NORML is really well organized, though.  Willie Nelson is their official front man, but Snoop Dog really runs the show.  I would love to be a bong at their shareholders meetings.  That reminds me of the student Joseph Frederick who in 2002 held a sign that read BONG HITS 4 JESUS across the street from a school in Juneau, Alaska while the Olympic torch was passing through.  The school principal expelled him, but the kid’s lawyers took it all the way to the Supreme Court, who ultimately ruled that his constitutional right of free speech had been violated.  The school’s attorneys knew the Supreme Court might side with the student when five of the Justices came out of the deliberation chambers in dreadlocks and ordered pizza for everyone.  Clarence Thomas rolls the tightest joints I’ve ever seen.  Now there’s a Christian Reggae group out of Philadelphia called Bong Hits for Jesus.  The scary thing about this, folks, is that their music is infectiously good.

Now, marijuana is a plant, which means God invented it.  This is the number one reason pot heads say it’s ok to smoke it.  Camel dung is natural, too, but you don’t see people making spliffs out of it.  Well, there was that one guy from Istanbul . . . Just because something is found in nature doesn’t make it fair game for ingestion.  Ok, there’s buffalo wings, but do you know how difficult it is to track one of those creatures down, especially if they’ve got a good tail wind?  Another reason tokers claim that it’s cool to light up is because you never hear about some guy stoned out of his gourd crashing into school buses or running over bicyclists.  That’s because he’s driving two miles an hour.  You also never hear of a stoner coming home and beating up his wife and kids.  That’s because half the time he never makes it out of the car after driving two miles an hour all the way home.  The other half of the time he goes straight to the pantry and refrigerator and inhales everything that’s not nailed down, then crawls into the den, turns on Robot Chicken and laughs until he vomits then passes out.  Man, I miss those days.

So, if you’re one of the millions blazin’ one for the cause today, it’s ok to drop by and let me have a hit.  I’m not an undercover cop, promise.  I’ll leave you with the pot smoker’s national anthem, set to the tune “Row Row Row Your Boat”


Roll, Roll, roll your joint,

Twist it at the ends.

Light it up, take a puff

Then pass it to a friend.

Now if I can only remember where I hid that stash back in ’77 . . .