18 April 2005

Words of wisdom

by Matt Rubinstein at 7:13 am

zappa.jpgI’ve been criticised lately for not posting anything for a while, and also for being too serious. But I’ve been a bit busy with a rewrite and other things, and seem to have less time for frivolous posts, even though I love them so. But to make partial amends I’ve decided to tell you one of my favourite jokes.

Well, it’s not really a joke. It’s from the pseudonymous Kehlog Albran’s The Profit, a delightful spoof of the real Khalil Gibran‘s fantastically popular and much-translated 1923 collection of essays The Prophet, which nowadays seems somewhat overblown and, if not bordering on self-satire, then crying out for satirical treatment:

And the weaver said, “Speak to us of Clothes.”

And he answered:

Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the unbeautiful.

And though you seek in garments the freedom of privacy you may find in them a harness and a chain.

Would that you could meet the sun and the wind with more of your skin and less of your raiment,

For the breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind.

See? Anyway, so here is the joke version:

A priest asked,
What is Fate, Master?

And he answered:
It is that which gives a beast of burden its reason for existence.
It is that which men in former times had to bear upon their backs.
It is that which has caused nations to build by-ways from City to City upon which carts and coaches pass, and alongside which inns have come to be built to stave off Hunger, Thirst and Weariness.
It is that which has caused great fleets of ships to ply the Seven Seas wherever the wind blows.

And that is Fate? said the priest.

Fate… I thought you said Freight, responded the Master.

That’s all right, said the priest. I wanted to know what Freight was too.

I think it’s great. The Profit was apparently published in 1973 by Price Stern Sloan of Los Angeles, which was formed in the 1960s to publish the allegedly hilarious Mad Libs series by Tonight Show writers Roger Price and Leonard Stern. Roger Price also invented (or at least coined a name for) the Droodles, those simple pictures that turn out to have inventive meanings (remember the Mexican riding a bicycle?). He drew the cover for Frank Zappa’s album Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch, pictured above. There’s a good chance that Kehlog Albran is really Price and/or Stern, but who knows.

PSS also published Roger Hargreaves’s Mr Men and Little Miss series, and were bought by Penguin in 1993. They don’t seem to be about to reprint The Profit, which is a shame. But now I really have to get back to work.

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