The Occasional Joke

Nurse: Patient's name?

Centurion: Marcus Licinius Crassus

Nurse: And his date of birth?

Centurion: 115 BC.

Nurse: All right. And what is he here for?

Centurion: Cataphract surgery.

Friday, January 23, 2009

An archival post

Here's a piece resurrected from the Wood-Charles archives, undated but probably from 1995, given the reference to Gingrich and Boy's Town. Just seemed like a reasonable thing to re purpose, in light of this week's inauguration.


Ann Arbor: Time was, Presidents and other popular entertainers would attempt to capture the public imagination with clever analogies and pithy epigrams. Franklin Roosevelt told the nation, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself and whether I'll live long enough to keep Churchill from getting us into a war in Indochina in twenty years or so." Richard Nixon said, "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around any more," and of course, he was eventually right.

But now, it seems as though the thrust and parry of highly-paid speech writers is giving way to a new political pontifical paradigm: the film reference. During his infamous orphanage phase, Squeaker of the House Newt Gingrich suggested that Americans might remember the classic film, "Boy's Town," to understand what he was talking about. Later, he told his college class that the baseball strike could be settled quickly if the players and owners would just pray together and see "Field of Dreams." Whether Gingrich really defines reality in terms of a series of bad movies (after all, Nixon ("Patton") and Reagan ("Bedtime for Bonzo") did), at week's end it seemed likely that we'd see other political figures reaching for filmic metaphors. Within days, this was demonstrated.

For example, a spokesman for Senator Robert Dole, explaining the Senator's views on health care reform, told reporters to go see "A Fistful of Dollars." Dick Armey, explaining subtle changes in the contract with America, urged voters to attend a special screening of "Plan 9 from Outer Space." And it was rumored that Phil Gramm, Gingrich, Norman Schwartzkopf, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Charleton Heston, and the popular musical performers, the Harmonicats -- all likely Republican presidential candidates in 1996 -- were seen at various Washington theatres showing "Dumb and Dumber" and "The Jerky Boys."

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