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Redacting Human Nature

09-13-03 - 4:29 p.m.

"The scripts of the southern group share with those of the northern group most features of their structural make-up, in particular the principle of vowel indication by obligatory diacritics to consonant base signs. While certain differences between the various systems are related to structural differences between the languages for which they evolved, the most salient distinctions pertain to the outer form. They are superficial in a systematic sense; but then they are also crucially important in a social sense because it is these most readily noticeable features of a script to which its users attach symbolic values."

Florian Coulmas,The Writing Systems of the World
pg. 193, on writing in India

"[Assembly Bill] 1045 by Assemblyman Tim Leslie (R. Tahoe City) allows churros--made of sweet fried dough--to be prepared and cooked in mobile food trailers."

L.A. Times, 10-13-03
pg. B7, on bills recently passed by Gray Davis

After people laugh at my joke, I repeat it to myself gleefully, many times, and a habit forms, something structural that guides future half-conscious intuitive making of jokes nobody laughs at because the content is missing and only the form remains. For example, this is knot a pun. I want to strangle people who attempt puns by inserting random homophones in writing and almost-homophones in speech.

A proper pun should take a form something like: "Earlier this year, prescription medication for my attention deficit disorder caused me to suffer intense paranoid delusions. Now I'm on doctor's orders to take an indefinite leave of absence from all potentially stressful activity, including work. It's okay. I guess I needed a break," clearly playing on break in the sense of vacation and break in the sense of psychotic break. But even proper puns are rarely welcome in intelligent company, due to their over-used form.

My weak humor results from misuse of subtler, more complex, harder to define comedic forms not easily explained through systemic analysis. The appropriate positive feedback I receive, however, in situations where both the form and content work famously induces habitual bad joking. I wonder how many other kinds of actions and decisions are influenced by a similar process.

What are your bad jokes?

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Fiction: Ye Most Lamentable Comedy of Dr. John Doe Faustus

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