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Flirting with a continuum and other balderdash

Sic has been flirting with the space-time continuum, a shifty concept invented by Parmenides or some other Greek guy, to the effect that if you step in the same river twice you’ll wet both feet. We begin with this remark because people read cautiously the first sentence of whatever they’re contemplating reading, to test the waters, and we want them to see that if they stick with Sic there will be no frivolity.

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After 20 years of tedious restoration, Michelangelo’s “Last Supper” is back on display in Milan, according to comedian Bob Mills. Experts were amazed to find, when the soot was stripped away, a sign on the wall behind Jesus, “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Salvation.”

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Speaking of brains, this from pundit Argus Hamilton: “George W. Bush spoke to Catholics in Ohio and compared himself to John F. Kennedy. He can’t name foreign leaders and he compares himself to JFK -- no wonder President Bush always said that Dan Quayle was like a son to him.”

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It seems The Washington Post recently challenged readers to improve on the meanings of well-known words. Some examples:

Abdicate -- to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

Balderdash -- a rapidly receding hairline.

Bustard -- a very rude school bus driver.

Coffee -- a person who is coughed upon.

Flabbergasted -- appalled over how much weight you have gained.

Semantics -- pranks conducted by young men studying for the priesthood, including such things as gluing the pages of the priest’s prayer book together just before Vespers.

Laughing stock -- cattle with a sense of humor.

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Mary Ann Herman of El Paso writes to you-know-who on page 2: “Is it official that you’ll rename Sic to Straight Talk Express”? As if Page 2 had anything to say about it. This Space is a big tent, sort of like the Republican Party when they try to include Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, so Sic and Straight Talk are learning to live together.

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Herman goes on: “When there’s a power outage at night most people grab the nearest flashlight or light a candle, reason being, of course, to continue reading NCR.”

Sic is gratified by this. We have often wondered where and under what circumstances people read our favorite paper -- e.g. at the breakfast table, while driving, at the movies -- but have been afraid to ask.

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No matter how This Space tries to spread the conversation around, readers seem unable to refrain from expressing their esteem for Cardinal Ratzinger. A good example is John N. Pfeffer’s “Ode to Joe #2.” Sic may have said this before: Pfeffer can write bad verse better than anyone alive.

I love being a cardinal dressed in red and black,

I remind them all there’ll be no talking back.

Just sign here, I said to one venerable bishop,

If I can get enough of you guys

To buy these truths in disguise,

I’ll go home to see what else I can dish up.

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Jay Banta submitted a picture of Buttons O’Connor for Pet of the Millennium. The photo, if you ask Sic, has been severely doctored, with odd folderals in the background, but it’s meant to cheer up her mother Sherri. Some will say we did Pet of the Millennium just weeks ago, but for the record some millenniums are shorter than others.

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Tabloid heading from the Weekly World News: “Noah Kicked Some Animals Off the Ark.” This, not surprisingly, made them extinct. Among the alleged victims: a beast resembling a hairy turtle without a shell, expelled for wetting Mrs. Noah’s carpet.

But that’s nothing. The same paper, presumably on a different week (to stay free from sin, Sic doesn’t read those ourself), led with “New Antichrist Detector Can Detect ‘The Beast’ Up to 500 Yards Away.”

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It’s no secret that the Straight Talk Express is backing George W. Bush for president on the reasonable assumption that an empty suit can do less damage in Washington than a full suit. In an effort to stir up dialogue, we asked readers to list their Top Ten Empty Suits (NCR, March 31). Two weeks have passed, and only one such list has arrived. This shows how democracy is in the doldrums. There is, though, time for redemption -- and if you don’t know 10, a few will do.

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Sic, furthermore, says Robert Frost got it wrong. Those two roads actually converged in a yellow wood.

And the Bible got it wrong, twice. The Sixth Commandment, on closer inspection, translates as “Blondes have more fun.” And the Ninth, in the original, actually says, “My wife has gone to Ur for the groceries.”

One can only imagine how different life would have been had we known this all along.

National Catholic Reporter, April 21, 2000