HUMOUR FROM MY INBOX
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WARNING: Some of this Material is Adult Humour

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This is a small collection of jokes mostly taken from my e-mail over the
past few years. It is only a fraction of the total humorous e-mails that
I have received. My approach to e-mail has been similar to my approach
to the internal office mail that it replaced. The old paper memos and
letters used to sit on my desk in piles that grew steadily. When these
mounds grew too large -- I turfed the whole lot out, or stuffed it into
a little corner. This approach, when applied to electronic mail, has
resulted in a lot of the items being either discarded or hidden away in
some giant file that I can't be bothered sifting though just to get the
jokes out of it.

However, sometimes I regret having discarded or lost some of that
material. Others turn up in forgotten corners of old computers. For
example the computer nerd humour in KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid), which
outlines the various ways that one might shoot oneself in the foot with
various computer languages. This was rediscovered on an old DOS PC
recently. It was actually a re-write of gag from the eighties, but had
been upgraded with some early nineties additions. I need not have
worried about losing it however. There are many examples of this old gag
on the web with some very modern addenda. I will upgrade this gag with
the recent additions.

Of course it has only become feasible to keep all my e-mail in the last
few years. Until recently, the high cost of storage media, incompatible
file formats and the sheer volume of data has made it difficult to
archive e-mail. Although the problems of incompatible file formats and
high volume remain, the cost of storage has fallen so dramatically that
it is now possible to store the data cheaply. Most of the pre-2000
e-mail from my inbox has been shredded into electrons.

Having said that, I must admit that I haven't received many humorous
e-mails since late 2001. The reasons could be:
* There is less humour around these days.
* I get less e-mail.
* People don't send me jokes, because they think when someone gets to
  my age they lose their sense of humour.
* All of the above.

Humour has always been problematic for bureaucracies. A good example of
this is the so-called "Ethnic" jokes. There is an International
Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. As far as I know
Australia is a signatory to this convention. At present however, the law
seems to have been implemented at the state level. There was some talk
about the fact that "Ethnic" jokes might be classified as "Racial
Vilification". Fortunately Australian comedians do not seem to have been
intimidated by this mindless bullshit. It is very easy to tell whether
something is Racial Vilification or Hatred. If it's funny then it is not
Racial Hatred. If it's Racial Hatred it's not funny. And how do you tell
if it's funny? Well, did you laugh? If more than fifty per cent of the
audience laughed, I think we can safely assume that it was funny.
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), this test has to be democratic.
That is, it must be based on majority opinion. It's not good enough if
The Dallas Chapter of the National Socialist White People's Party think
it's a real hoot and 5 billion other folk fail to see the humour. Such
an imprecise definition of humour is bound to bother bureaucrats.
Comedians, on the other hand, have an instinctive understanding of the
definition, because they constantly tread the thin dividing line between
humour and bad taste. That's what makes them funny. And that's why they
get paid to do it. If there is a humorous side to this it is the fact
that for a brief time the possibility of legislating about what we could
laugh at was actually considered. Which is a bit of a joke!

It seems that geo-political systems go through phases where the
acceptability of humour varies considerably. Throughout history various
zealots have arisen with humourless dispositions ranging from rather
dour to frighteningly psychopathic. In the 16th century, hot-eyed
iconoclastic Protestants and the cold-eyed sadistic Inquisitors who
opposed them, showed little if any inclination towards humour. In the
17th Century, the famous Puritan fanatics of New England were seriously
unfunny. In the 18th century, revolutionary fanatics in France unleashed
"The Terror" on their fellow citizens quite mirthlessly. The 19th
Century saw the rise of modern military technology that was capable of
inflicting large scale destruction and death from a considerable
distance, and was deployed effectively against less developed societies.
And if you think that gloomy bunch of dipsticks were bad, have a gander
at the 20th century, which unfortunately boasts more cheerless fanatics
than the rest of them combined. Take your pick from grim communists,
whose struggle necessitated the "temporary" imposition of dictatorship,
or the saturnine fascists who opposed them. There is a bevy of groups
who are just as dismal if less dangerous, all of them inspired with
commitment to "the cause", which is, needless to say, very serious,
demanding a sombre prosecution of their duties, and leaves little time
for frivolous matters that are amusing. The Taliban, whose recent
departure from the world political stage, will be widely unlamented,
actually made it illegal to laugh. Yes it would be funny if it wasn't
true. But it really was a crime to sing, dance, smile, laugh, play a
musical instrument or otherwise show any signs of merriment or levity
under the heavy yoke of that wretched regime.

The one thing this miserable collection of drongos and dickheads had in
common is that they all needed to lighten up a little and maybe have a
good laugh. And even if they were unwilling to try enjoying life, at
least let others do so, rather than devote themselves tirelessly to the
task of murdering anyone who disagreed with them. Of course, the
difficulty with humour is that it is not universal. A joke which seems
quite hilarious to one person may be extremely offensive to another. A
recent video showed Osama bin Ladin having a jolly good chuckle about
the fact that some of the fanatical f***wits who participated in the
attack against New York on 11 September didn't realise that it was a
suicide mission until they actually got on the flight. That was just
soooo amusing Osama, are you still laughing?

Over-zealous devotion to a cause often leads to a humourless
disposition. A recent example of this was the modern feminist movement.
This movement actually started in the USA in the sixties, even though
they claimed to have a tradition stretching back over centuries and
encompassing the entire human species. Many of the political groupings
that arose then were mostly a reaction to the fifties, the golden decade
of US post-war abundance and conformity that preceded them. These groups
were often idealistic and earnest to the point of tedium. In the late
sixties or the early seventies some American academics and writers came
up with with a humorous list of guidelines that were "politically
correct". It was a number of ludicrous recommendations of the way that
language would need to be reformed in order to conform with the
neo-Calvinist ideals of the serious young persons of the era. The
important thing to realise about this list is that it was a JOKE! It was
a tongue in cheek, though rather lame attempt at humour. In a sense it
was an early example of nerd humour. Over the ensuing decades, I watched
with amusement, turning to fascination, and finally to horror as the
media and then our political establishment began to apply these
recommendations as if they were serious! Around about this time the "Bee
Gees" brought out a song called "The Joke", which included the lyrics:
"I started a Joke!" Which is almost a non sequitor but I thought I would
mention it. I wish I could remember who those academics/writers were.
Because they are not just a figment of my imagination. I distinctly
recall reading an article in "Time Magazine" about those jokers. Of
course we have to be suspicious of any distinct memories about the
sixties. As in the old one-liner: "If you remember the sixties, you
weren't really there." This bothers me so much, I even searched the web
to try and discover who they may have been. As is so often the case when
using web searches, I found nothing ... except more jokes! Most of which
I'd already seen. So if anyone, reading this, knows who they were, can
you please tell me? My e-mail address is at the bottom.

Political correctness really started to gather momentum in the eighties.
Newspapers would carry statements like:

  "Ms. Anne Smith, a female silly party spokesperson said "That the
    chairperson was blah blah blah ...""

Actresses would pointedly refer to themselves as actORs, which destroyed
the old conjunctive about what "The bishop said to the actress", but
opened an unthinkable array of possibilities about what the bishop might
have said to the actOR. The very earnest politically correct brigade
became like a new unofficial bureaucracy. They did not even have to
exist. Journalists only had to imagine that they were out there
somewhere reading every word that they wrote. And the "new-speak" was
distinctly bureaucratic. You only have to watch Sir Humphrey, of "Yes,
Minister" fame, to realise that the primary aim of bureaucrats is to use
more words with more syllables to convey less meaning. And occasionally
I met real live proponents of political correctness. When I engaged them
in dialogue I would suggest that the expunging of all female nouns and
pronouns from the English language was maybe not such a big victory for
"feminism". I was often met with glowering hostility. I knew that the
politically correctness groundswell had crested when I finally heard
someone refer to a manhole as a "person hole". This had been the last
item on the joke list from the sixties.

There were some good signs that humourless feminists were at last
starting lighten up when some feminist jokes appeared. Jokes like:
  Q: How many men does it take to tile a bathroom?
  A: Oh about one and half, if you slice them thinly enough.

And of course there was the inevitable backlash against political
correctness. The Internet has proven remarkably quick at distributing
some information and in other areas it has been slow to catch up. When
the jokes about sexism and the backlash finally started arriving in
my e-mail most of them were at least ten years old. I have put them in
the category of "Battle of the sexes". This is a battle that seems to
have been going on for a while. We can find evidence in Shakespear and
Chaucer. And it is a battle that will probably continue as long as there
are men and women on earth. You will probably find fifty per-cent of
these jokes quite amusing.

Nearly all the feminist and backlash jokes were in circulation before
the Internet really got into full swing in the nineties. Up till then
the Internet had been the domain of enthusiasists and the humour had
been nerdy computer humour. You can see some of this in this list under
the heading of "Computer". There still is lots of Computer humour being
generated. Most of it, these days, is directed at Microsoft. Which does
not bode well for the Redmond Giant. In fact one of these jokes was
reported in "The Age" newspaper as fact. This was the Microsoft vs GM gag
which at the time was not even news, and certainly not true. Well it may
be true, but it is not fact. That is to say, General Motors did not
actually publish this. It was joke of course. It was a several months
old when it arrived in my inbox in 1998. I did not take a note of the
page and date when "The Age" ran the story. It was in the Tuesday
Computer section in March 2002. It does serve to illustrate the way that
the Internet can generate its own news. The Microsoft vs GM gag is
nonetheless a good gag. Although Citizen Gates might possibly say: "We
are not amused."

The subject of computers has of course been covered in great detail on
the web. If you are an experienced programmer or a hacker (I use the
term in the original and correct sense) you will have no doubt seen the
emacs_humour text which used to be part of the emacs tarball (and may
still be). It is included in this collection. I found it very amusing,
especially the contribution about "the mighty ed". If you are not a Unix
programmer, you will probably just shake your head sadly, that anyone
could find such inane techno-babble entertaining.

The Internet has been a great source of hoaxes, especially computer
related. These usually take the form of chain mail, and are easy to
recognise and often amusing. With one exception, I have not included any
of these here. They can cause mischief and can mislead some people,
especially those who are unwary and not well informed about computer
technology. However there is one exceptional hoax which deserves a
mention. This was an email which arrived in my inbox in July 2001. Some
well intentioned person sent it to me as a "virus warning". Take some
time to read the message in aol.exe.hoax.txt, if you haven't already
seen it. Now, would you be fooled by this warning? If you would, then I
must say you have done well to stay with me this far. It is probably the
longest your attention span has ever stayed on a single topic in your
entire life. But take it easy, ok? You don't want to over-tax yourself.
And I'd hate to be held responsible for over-heating your brain. For the
rest of you, I hope you will forgive my rather snobbish attitude to
comprehension. It's just that when I went to school, it was compulsory
to pass English. And it is fair to say that anyone who would have been
fooled by the AOL hoax would not have passed English, and as a
consequence, would not have achieved a school Leaving Certificate.
Nevertheless many people in the USA were fooled by this hoax, which is a
sad comment on that country's education system. Although, I shouldn't
get too smug. Recent trends in our own political system suggest that
Australia's education system may be on a similar downward spiral.

Sex of course is perennial. Why do so many of these jokes seem similar
to those we used to tell at school. Maybe there is no such thing as a
new joke. Jokes are often interchangeable. For instance, many of the
"Irish" jokes told in the British Isles surface in Australia as "Kiwi"
jokes and not unsurprisingly they are recycled in the "Land of the Long
White Cloud" as "Aussie" jokes.

If anyone has a good joke. Please send it to me at my e-mail address,
below.

Gerry Patterson April 2002
    E-mail: Webmaster

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