Happy Fourth Anniversary To Us!

It was four years ago today we welcomed ourselves into the world with our premier post.

Please, please, please. We don’t need anything. But, if you are interested in getting us something (and what four-year-old doesn’t like gifts?), we would love to have you share any jokes, jests, and japes which you think might be worthy of our collection. Of course, there’s always sharing us with any of Clio’s minions, be they museum professionals, historians, or reenactors, you think might be amused, delighted, or irritated by our exhibits. Hopefully, they’ll tell others too.

And they’ll tell two friends.
And they’ll tell two friends.
And they’ll tell two friends.
Rinse.
Repeat.

This year’s reminder of why the American Hysterical Society exists comes from historian Lewis Mumford:

Humor is our way of defending ourselves from life’s absurdities by thinking absurdly about them.


An Honest Docent

If you’ve ever served as a docent or interpreter, you’ve wanted to say some or all of this.


Museum’s Audio Guide Informs Visitors How Much More They Getting Out Of Experience Than Others

Actually From The Onion

Vol 50 Issue 44.

CHICAGO—In addition to providing background and analysis of the artwork on display, the audio guide for the Surrealists exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago reminded visitors this week how much richer of an experience they were receiving than was everyone else, sources confirmed. “Dali was heavily influenced by Freud’s The Interpretation Of Dreams and often wrote down his dreams in a notebook, a fact that those passing through this exhibit without an audio guide are woefully unaware of,” the recording reportedly said before inviting listeners to turn their attention to a nearby Marcel Duchamp work whose nuances would “only truly be understood” by those listening to the prerecorded narration. “And if you look to your left, you will notice a number of attendees who are appreciating Yves Tanguy’s The Rapidity Of Sleep far less than you are. Their lack of a portable audio device—and therefore insight into the prominent political movements during the period or the importance of Andre Breton’s artist collective—renders them incapable of grasping the true brilliance behind Tanguy’s post-war output.” Sources added that the museum’s members received a special audio track that mentioned no art at all and instead provided wearers with an 80-minute continuous stream of praise.


But Whose Work Will Stand the Test of Time: the Past Painters or the Modern Pigmentmonger?

Curator’s Comments: It should be noted that while these ads are for one paint company’s home improvement channel-inspired paints, sold exclusively through a national box store chain, we at the American Hysterical Society have received absolutely nothing in return for sharing them (which is why we didn’t use their names).

Also, even though Michelangelo is shown in the group ad, he doesn’t seem to have his own featurette.

Artist Featurettes:


“What I Learned” by Professor Sedaris

https://i1.wp.com/www.newyorker.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/davidsedaris.jpg

He knows because he was there.

Curator’s Comment: It’s graduation season again. Which means it is time to gather on the quad and suffer through graduation speeches while sitting on uncomfortable folding chairs. The following is Professor Sedaris’s 2006 Princeton commencement speech, itself rooted in Princeton’s own history.

It’s been interesting to walk around campus this afternoon, as when I went to Princeton things were completely different. This chapel, for instance—I remember when it was just a clearing, cordoned off with sharp sticks. Prayer was compulsory back then, and you couldn’t just fake it by moving your lips; you had to know the words, and really mean them. I’m dating myself, but this was before Jesus Christ. We worshipped a God named Sashatiba, who had five eyes, including one right here, on the Adam’s apple. None of us ever met him, but word had it that he might appear at any moment, so we were always at the ready. Whatever you do, don’t look at his neck, I used to tell myself.

It’s funny now, but I thought about it a lot. Some people thought about it a little too much, and it really affected their academic performance. Again, I date myself, but back then we were on a pass-fail system. If you passed, you got to live, and if you failed you were burned alive on a pyre that’s now the Transgender Studies Building. Following the first grading period, the air was so thick with smoke you could barely find your way across campus. There were those who said that it smelled like meat, no different from a barbecue, but I could tell the difference. I mean, really. Since when do you grill hair? Or those ugly, chunky shoes we all used to wear?

It kept you on your toes, though, I’ll say that much. If I’d been burned alive because of bad grades, my parents would have killed me, especially my father, who meant well but was just a little too gung ho for my taste. He had the whole outfit: Princeton breastplate, Princeton nightcap; he even got the velvet cape with the tiger head hanging like a rucksack from between the shoulder blades. In those days, the mascot was a sabretooth, so you can imagine how silly it looked, and how painful it was to sit down. Then, there was his wagon, completely covered with decals and bumper stickers: “I hold my horses for Ivy League schools,” “My son was accepted at the best university in the United States and all I got was a bill for a hundred and sixty-eight thousand dollars.” On and on, which was just so . . . wrong.

One of the things they did back then was start you off with a modesty seminar, an eight-hour session that all the freshmen had to sit through. It might be different today, but in my time it took the form of a role-playing exercise, my classmates and I pretending to be graduates, and the teacher assuming the part of an average citizen: the soldier, the bloodletter, the whore with a heart of gold.

“Tell me, young man. Did you attend a university of higher learning?”

To anyone holding a tool or a weapon, we were trained to respond, “What? Me go to college?” If, on the other hand, the character held a degree, you were allowed to say, “Sort of,” or, sometimes, “I think so.”

“So where do you sort of think you went?”

And it was the next bit that you had to get just right. Inflection was everything, and it took the foreign students forever to master it.

“Where do you sort of think you went?”

And we’d say, “Umm, Princeton?”—as if it were an oral exam, and we weren’t quite sure that this was the correct answer.

“Princeton, my goodness,” the teacher would say. “That must have been quite something!”

You had to let him get it out, but once he started in on how brilliant and committed you must be it was time to hold up your hands, saying, “Oh, it isn’t that hard to get into.”

Then he’d say, “Really? But I heard—”

“Wrong,” you’d tell him. “You heard wrong. It’s not that great of a school.”

This was the way it had to be done—you had to play it down, which wasn’t easy when your dad was out there, reading your acceptance letter into a bullhorn.

I needed to temper my dad’s enthusiasm a bit, and so I announced that I would be majoring in patricide. The Princeton program was very strong back then, the best in the country, but it wasn’t the sort of thing your father could get too worked up about. Or, at least, most fathers wouldn’t. Mine was over the moon. “Killed by a Princeton graduate!” he said. “And my own son, no less.”

My mom was actually jealous. “So what’s wrong with matricide?” she asked. “What, I’m not good enough to murder?”

They started bickering, so in order to make peace I promised to consider a double major.

“And how much more is that going to cost us?” they said.

Those last few months at home were pretty tough, but then I started my freshman year, and got caught up in the life of the mind. My idol-worship class was the best, but my dad didn’t get it. “What the hell does that have to do with patricide?” he asked.

And I said, “Umm. Everything?”

He didn’t understand that it’s all connected, that one subject leads to another and forms a kind of chain that raises its head and nods like a cobra when you’re sucking on a bong after three days of no sleep. On acid it’s even wilder, and appears to eat things. But, not having gone to college, my dad had no concept of a well-rounded liberal-arts education. He thought that all my classes should be murder-related, with no lunch breaks or anything. Fortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

In truth, I had no idea what I wanted to study, so for the first few years I took everything that came my way. I enjoyed pillaging and astrology, but the thing that ultimately stuck was comparative literature. There wasn’t much of it to compare back then, no more than a handful of epic poems and one novel about a lady detective, but that’s part of what I liked about it. The field was new, and full of possibilities, but try telling that to my parents.

“You mean you won’t be killing us?” my mother said. “But I told everyone you were going for that double major.”

Dad followed his “I’m so disappointed” speech with a lecture on career opportunities. “You’re going to study literature and get a job doing what?” he said. “Literaturizing?”

We spent my entire vacation arguing; then, just before I went back to school, my father approached me in my bedroom. “Promise me you’ll keep an open mind,” he said. And, as he left, he slipped an engraved dagger into my book bag.

READ THE REST


If American Girl Dolls Were Real Girls


And Let’s Not Mention the Rotary Dialer


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 374 other followers

%d bloggers like this: