August 21st, 2008

If I had 20 million dollars I'd put Kleenex boxes on my feet and you guys would never see me again.

Adad Hannah

I think myself that I could keep out of bed all right if I once got out. It is the wrenching away of the head from the pillow that I find so hard, and no amount of over-night determination makes it easier.

Jerome K. Jerome

Art teachers leading us through the slums of Boston, then back to the easel to hurl public school gouache with social awareness and fury. Eccentricities, the perils of being too special, were reasoned and cooed from us like sucked thumbs.

Sylvia Plath

If I have always mistrusted Freud, my father is responsible: he used to tell my mother his dreams, thus spoiling all my mornings.



For Sale: original oil painting by me, a guy you don't know, of a lovely seaside scene done entirely in red (several shades though). Really quite good I think. Small handprint in the bottom left corner but it's not mine, I swear it! Box 3.
Why bother cooking or preparing meals when you can get my perfectly good leftovers sent to you in the mail? Currently available: 2/3 of a chicken salad sandwich that smells a bit funny; some croutons that I just didn't feel like eating even though the salad (a caesar) was delicious; something brown and a bit stiff that may be the last sliver of a pot roast or one of my old orthotics. Other fabulous bits pieces arise from time to time. Send for a list. Box 409.
Wally's House of Learning Stuff we're even better than a university cause we're funner! No stupid degrees or ridiculous hats, just learning and fun! C'mon, you know you wanna! We now have over 2 students and faculty. Enroll now. Box 212.
Tired of battling the government, civic, provincial or federal? Just can't be bothered demonstrating against society's various ills? Why not let me do it for you? I'm Larry the Anarchist Guy. For a reasonable fee I will take your place in demonstrations and rallies, hurl abuse at civil authorities or vegetables at politicians. I can be relied on to express anger at injustice at the drop of a hat (or the clearing of your cheque). I accept cash, cheque, and all major credit cards. Why be a slave to your political convictions when I can do it for you? I'm Larry the Anarchist Guy.



Address all correspondence to

(That is, if you actually want it to reach us. If you don't care, write your comments on an old sock and fire it out your window at the exact moment of the autumnal equinox. Be sure to yell "Fore!")

The Compleat History of Civilisation (Part One)

The new and totally "Compleat Persiflage History of Civilisation As We Know It" might seem to you like a daunting task for a publication such as ours to undertake. That is because you have forgotten that this magazine thorughout its many manifestations has never shied from the monumental task of pointing out society's more egregious errors. Throughout Persiflage's long and multi-storied (at last count 15, well really 14, there is no 13th story) career (and I mean that in the sense of a toboggan heading downhill and not in the sense of a worthwhile and well-paying enterprise) we have tackled the big issues head on. It may not have seemed like it but that is merely because you have erred in your judgement of what the big issues are. That is hardly our problem. It is yours and you really should be working on remedying it.

This latest endeavour is only the logical culmination of all our previous strivings. This series will, once and for all, tackle the problem of what the hell went wrong and explain fully, completely and finally how human beings came to be so mind bogglingly stupid as to live in the unbelievably assinine manner that they currently do. Your part in this is merely to read the damn thing. If, however, you disagree and think this civilisation of yours is truly a wonderful thing, then you should probably stop reading write now although I have my doubts about anyone of that caste of mind having read even this much.

Ever since folks started writing things down, early in 3500BC (around the beginning of March I believe), mankind has been obsessed with trying to make sense of life by recording stuff and then reading it over to see how silly it sounds. Despite the fact that this has never been even the teensiest bit helpful we haven't stopped continuing to try. It is this that makes us human. Well, that and...well I guess just that.

When writing was first invented (see above – no a little higher – there you go) it was at first little picture thingys called pictographs (by us that is, it's unclear what the people who used them called them. Actually that raises an interesting point – was there a pictograph for pictograph? On second thought that's not really all that interesting). These were chipped into limestone using something (I'm not sure what but it was probably fairly hard). This form of writing was developed by a group of folks now referred to as, the Ubaid culture. This is the same bunch who built Uruk. They were also more or less responsible for the invention of the city so if we're looking for folks to blame for the mess we're in now we could do worse than pointing the finger at these fellows. However to their credit they were also the gang behind the whole ziggurat thing which you have to admit is pretty cool. (I wonder whyit is that nobody makes ziggurats anymore. Wouldn't this city be so much cooler if we had a ziggurat? I'm sure it would bring back folks to the downtown.)

Sometime between say 3500BC and 3200BC (I realise that's not narrowing it down very much) these little pictographs (I was talking about them earlier before I was distracted by the ziggurat)became a actual system of writing called cuneiform. (The word cuneiform comes from the Latin word for wedge - cuneus. This is also the source of a well-known naughty word for female genitalia which, if it's dark and you really, really squint looks a bit like a wedge.)

This cuneiform system was a syllabary (A syllabary is a system in which each symbol stands for a syllable rather than a letter( that would be an alphabet). This is best illustrated by that old Electric Company thing (or was it Sesame Street?), you know pha-----at, ph---at, pha—at, fat) Get it?). In order to write using this system the sumerian scribes who developed it needed a reed (a Rico #3) to make their little marks in the clay (not Aiken) tablets that their mums had baked for them. They put together little clumps of these syllables in a way that made some kind of sense to somebody. They did this because they were told to.

This raises the question of what they were writing. The best evidence is that they were making up lists of stuff. The Sumerians were apparently real beggars for keeping track of their things. They seemed to be pretty concerned that they were going to lose track of a goat, or a jug of grain. They must have been extraordinarily scatter-brained in order to have invented writing merely to remember how much stuff they had or where they left it. But there it is. They left us (well they probably didn't have us in mind) many, many lists of stuff. They seemed to have had an enormous amount of crap and lists of it mostly make for pretty dull reading.

But perhaps we should backtrack a bit. The idea that the Sumerians had too much stuff has made me think that we should examine the question of how it was that they came to have so much stuff in the first place. In order to do that we have to back up to the time when people stopped wandering around with all their stuff and settled down more or less in one place. That is, the beginnings of farming - the planting of gardens and the domestication of animals.

Next issueThe goat becomes our friend

Hugh Briss


Not-so Great Lakes

There's something goofy about the earth when viewed from above. Something contrived and a bit phony. Not in a mean-spirited or sneaky way but it looks a little like someone's trying too hard. It's like a guy who's trying to convince his boss that he's really working. He is working and working reasonably hard but he's not sure his boss knows it. He wants to make sure his boss notices that he sharpened all the pencils when he came in this morning, not just his own or that those papers on his desk are not all over the place but in thirteen neat separate stacks. It's a tad pathetic and I, for one, am not all that impressed.

Now, I'm not suggesting that I am the target audience for this. I just happened to notice. I was in a position to. Recently I had occasion to fly over the Great Lakes and in the winter there's a certain amount of ice and snow on the things. The problem is it's not very convincingly distributed. It looks a tad contrived. Like it was worked over a bit in order to convince someone (and once again I'm not saying whom) that these lakes are particularly cold and icy and it wasn't all that easy being a lake, especially a Great one and especially in winter. "You try this" they seemed to be saying "and see how you like it!". Well, I wouldn't and I know it and I would have been just as convinced by an open expanse of blue. I can see the snow on the shoreline and it was only a couple of hours since I was outside and I had to wear a toque and not just to look cool (That ship may have already sailed. In fact, it may be down there somewhere resting next to the old Edmund Fitzgerald). I am well aware of the fact that it's cold. You don't have to try so hard. That doesn't seem like something a truly great lake should have to do.

Hugh Briss

Little Help?

I'm beginning to think I might need a valet. At home in my room with the TV turned up really loud and my favorite socks on it doesn't seem so necessary but once I'm out and about and attempting to interact with other people it starts to seem, not just like a good idea, but that it might, before very long, become an absolute necessity. I think it's been quite clear to a number of people for some time that I am essentially incapable of handling my own affairs but this possible solution has only recently dawned on me. Previously I assumed that my inept bumbling was so endearing that others would, at some point, spring to my aid and take me in hand (I mean nothing salacious by that). This is not happening. I think if I want help quite frankly I'm going to have to pay for it. How I can possibly swing this financially I have no idea but I am assuming that merely by having a valet I am going to be so much more productive that I am bound to make so much more money that I will be able to easily pay "my man's" wages.

I just read over that last sentence and I realised that I have no idea what I meant by the phrase "more productive". Since I don't actually produce anything other than this silliness (which so far has not proved to be amazingly lucrative), it's hard to see what an increase in my productivity would do for me. If some one were ironing my shirts instead of me (ouch) what would I do with that extra time? Well, since I don't remember the last time I ironed one of my shirts I probably wouldn't save that much time so perhaps that is a lousy example but you get my point. Would having someone cook me a three minute egg in the morning enable me to make a bigger, better (well, okay bigger anyway) Persiflage? Possibly, but is that a really laudable or worthwhile goal? Who asked you?

I seem to have strayed somewhat form my original point. I got caught up in the whole productivity thing and forgot that the main reasons for my wanting a valet were laziness and incompetence. It hardly matters whether I am more productive or not. I could quite happily lie in bed while my gentlemen's gentleman runs an endless series of baths. Why isn't that a good use of my time?

Hugh Briss