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Sic launches yet another contest

Have you ever thought what a nightmare it must be for Cardinal Ratzinger, on those far-flung trips, to stand up there with the pope and look down on a million people and worry how far each of them is quietly straying, at that very moment, from Catholic orthodoxy?

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From Baltimore’s Fr. Joe Gallagher, who, despite denials, is subconsciously running for a Senate seat in New York: “Too often, we lose sight of life’s simple pleasures. When someone annoys you, remember, it takes 42 muscles to frown but only four muscles to extend your arm and whack them.”

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If all goes well, Sic’s sources say, future historians will be able to study at the Jimmy Carter Library, Gerald Ford Library, Ronald Reagan Library and Bill Clinton Adult Bookstore.

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Some SIGNS of the times supplied by Sic’s personal barber, Jim Horton:

Plumber: “We Repair What Your Husband Fixed.”

Psychic’s sign: “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You.”

At a laundry shop: “How About We Refund Your Money, Send You a New One at No Charge, Close the Store and Have the Manager Shot. Would That Be Satisfactory?”

At a towing company: “We Don’t Charge an Arm and a Leg. We Want Tows.”

Billboard: “Keep your Eyes on the Road and Stop Reading These Signs.”

At a car dealership: “The Best Way to Get Back on Your Feet -- Miss a Car Payment.”

At a muffler shop: “No Appointment Necessary; We Hear You Coming.”

In the front yard of a funeral home: “Drive Carefully, We’ll Wait.”

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Last time, This Space, in a fierce surge of moderation, tried to drag the middle ground onto higher ground. Harking to the sober voice of reason, we decided to sever our ties with liberal hotheads and conservative soreheads alike in hopes of being a moderate like Jesus.

That dull thud you heard was our efforts falling on deaf ears. No one ever said mediocrity would be easy.

We consulted our advisers, Click and Clack. We were too moderate, Click said; not moderate enough, Clack said.

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So we advertised for a cardinal who might give our gig gravitas and stature, not to mention lashings of pomp and aplomb. Only one prince of the church responded, and he was extremely eager to please the Vatican. This raises the question: Is it possible to sin against moderation by being orthodox in the extreme, or is there a stage at which one goes beyond the bounds of whatever it is we’re talking about?

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“How about another contest?” asks Julie Howard. “The threads are showing on my Ronald Reagan T-shirt, and it’s cold in Minnesota.” Said T-shirt, lest we forget, was a Sic prize for some forgotten contest back in the old millennium.

Howard has verse in mind. Hark back to old issues of NCR, she suggests, and coax readers to write ditties to match recent pics. This, she slyly suggests, will force them to read stuff they skipped the first time. This in turn will make them better persons. And provide some needy versifier with a threadbare T-shirt.

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So Howard, to get the ball rolling, suggested the photo of John Paul greeting the new millennium from his balcony, with fireworks in the distance:

The pope speaks from Rome (in pontifical tone)

About rules and the natural law.

While he reads from his text on the evils of sex,

He’s missing the cosmic “ooooh, aaaaah!”

He shakes his head “No” to his people below,

And he issues another decree.

While he reads from his text on the evils of sex,

The sky is exploding with glee.

* * *

From “Quick Takes” in the Chicago Sun-Times, Sept. 29:

“The proper closing for a letter to the pope is ‘Prostrate at the feet of Your Holiness and imploring the favor of its apostolic benediction, I have the honor to be, Very Holy Father, with the deepest veneration of Your Holiness, the most humble and most obedient servant and son (daughter).’ ”

Is this a scoop or did someone just imagine it?

* * *

The philosopher sends wisdom of a kind thirsting souls pant after:

“Just because nobody complains doesn’t mean all parachutes are perfect” (Benny Hill).

“Were it not for Thomas Edison we’d be watching television by candlelight” (Milton Berle).

“To err is human -- but it feels divine” (Mae West).

When discovered by his wife kissing the maid, Groucho Marx said, “I was just whispering in her mouth.”

“I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury” (Groucho).

“Marriage is the chief cause of divorce” (Groucho again).

“I never believed in Santa Claus because I knew no white dude would come into my neighborhood after dark” (Dick Gregory).

* * *

“Awaiting publication of Volume One of Sic so I won’t have to be cutting the stuff out of NCR,” writes John Jerbi of Chino. What sagacity.

* * *

A wedding of the Japanese haiku and MS Windows transforms communication as we know it:

A file that big?

It might be useful.

But now it is gone.

The Web site you seek

Cannot be located but

Countless more exist.

(And don’t tell Sic these don’t conform to the pure form of the haiku. Let’s just call these impure haiku.)

The Tao that is seen

Is not the true Tao, until

You bring fresh toner.

Three things are certain:

Death, taxes and lost data.

Guess which has occurred?

* * *

OK, the competition is open to everyone except those working in the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops. The prize is a T-shirt with the logo “Cultural Heretic.” This garment, suitable for risqué liturgical outings or uptown wine and cheese soirees, will be awarded only if the standard is sky-high. The challenge is to write a better bit of doggerel than Howard’s, based on a recent NCR photo. There’s just one rule. Anyone making fun of Cardinal Ratzinger will be disqualified if not downright excommunicated.

National Catholic Reporter, February 25, 2000