The Curmudgeon

January 01, 2004

"People who love sausage and respect the law should never watch either one being made."
-- Otto von Bismarck --

Old Reichskanzler Bismarck 's oft-misquoted admonition would have been truly exhaustive if it included a warning against observing the creation of  humor. Believe me, it ain't pretty.

People have the notion that crafting drole musings for this noble publication (Query to self: Is this the piece I promised to Atlantic Monthly?) is all beer and skittles. It's not. Alright, perhaps some beer, but definitely few skittles.

First of all, it's a lonely occupation. My scrivening must be done in isolation from those family members still sensitive to the regular ejaculations of epithets directed towards my miscreant word processing software:

"Waddya mean you can't spell check obscurantist, you lousy ?&*^%#@>!!!!"

Second, the job's drenched with the constant disappointment of editors hacksawing finely crafted prose into gibberish.

The frustrations are so great, in fact, that I often think of chucking it all and walking away. So, for those who aspire to the vaunted position of financial humorist, be prepared: a job could open up at any time. To help you ready yourselves, I offer this step-by-step guide to creating quality humor.

Not that I ever actually did that, mind you.  

  1. Sit in a straight, comfortable chair in a clean, well-lighted place with plenty of freshly sharpened pencils. Ask yourself, "Why do I need pencils when I'm using a word processor?"

  2. Read over Journal articles for column ideas. Try to suppress your laughter; the bloviation is sometimes its own humor treatment. 
  3. Stroll to the kitchen for coffee. It'll help you concentrate.
  4. Ponder, while in the kitchen, the prospects for tonight's repast. Rummage through the recipe file for Böttenlos kock fisken; reorganize the recipe file by nationality, tossing out all dishes made with yak milk or cabbage. Make a second pot of coffee.
  5. Trudge back to your clean, well-lighted place; sit in your straight, comfortable chair. Count your stash of freshly sharpened pencils.
  6. Peruse the Journal articles again. These guys can't actually be serious, can they?
  7. Check your e-mail; reply to everyone, including those offering you printer cartridges at "!!!FANTASTIC SAVINGS!!!". 
  8. You know, your computer's clock may be off. Call up the Naval Observatory's atomic clock for synchronization. Then move room-by-room through the house to ensure all timepieces are correct.
  9. While in the kitchen, get a coffee fill-up. Make a third pot.
  10. Return to your clean, well-lighted place with the straight, comfortable chair. Gaze at your collection of freshly sharpened pencils. Mutter obscenities.
  11. On the blank word processing screen, type the letter "I." Pause to regard its lonely beauty. Utter fresh oaths.
  12. Check your e-mail again. Surely those printer cartridge guys got your message by now.
  13. Rearrange the icons in your computer's writing folder, first by type, then in alphabetical order. Try to decide which method is more esthetically pleasing.
  14. Return to the kitchen for a coffee refill.
  15. Back to the hell-hole of a clean, well-lighted place with its straight, comfortable chair and its cursed collection of freshly sharpened pencils.
  16. Hit the Journal articles again; marvel at the pomposity until your eyes glaze over.
  17. Lie face down on the floor. Moan softly. Fend off your dog's well-meaning tonguewash. When did he nose his way in, anyway?
  18. Check the TV listings for "inspiration." At the sight of a listing for "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," phone a friend. Unfortunately, he won't be a writing colleague. You'll end up discussing the finer points of tomato gardening for three-quarters of an hour.
  19. Reality will come crashing through in the form of a voice from down the hall: "We're due at my folks' in a half-hour. Are you DONE yet?"
  20. You'll now be possessed by the muse. Words will fly from your fingertips.; you'll finish the piece in 20 minutes.

Find your next ETF

Reset All