The Seattle Pun Slam

On a recent Sunday night, it was my pleasure to attend the Seattle Pun Slam, called Pundamonium, with a date. It’s held the second Wednesday and the forth Sunday of each month at the Peddler Brewing Company in the Ballard neighborhood. Tickets are 6 dollars.

Pundamonium also happens in Chicago, Los Angeles, Madison, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis. If you live in any of those fair cities, I highly recommend pun slams. They’re a great deal of fun. (But then, I do love a good pun. It’s just how I roll.)

Think poetry slam without the poetry. Contestants compete against each other. In the first round, you are given a topic up to an hour in advance, and you have to come up with as many puns as you can when you take the mic for two minutes. Each contestant is scored by a panel of judges.

In round two, the contestants only get 30 seconds to come up with puns on a topic they pull out of a hat. (Here’s where I would crumble. I’m not a spontaneous punster. I need time to mull things over. My comebacks usually aren’t very snappy.) I have to say that watching this and the next round was increasingly excruciating but also hilarious. Again, they’re scored.

In the third round, the top four punsters go head to head on stage with absolutely no prep. I really admired their courage. (I did kind of lose respect for one guy, though, when one of his puns was a thinly veiled insult directed at a competitor, and it clearly struck its mark. That was unnecessary.)

The puns were running fast and furious, and the beer and the food was good (and clearly that was the only reason some people were there, but what the heck, we’re all adults), so a good time was had by all.

If you do come to the one in Seattle, I recommend that you dress warmly, as it’s held outdoors in a tented courtyard. They do have gas heaters here and there, but I was kind of glad I had someone to snuggle up with.

In this increasingly tense world, it’s a pleasure to have some lighthearted, apolitical fun for a change. It feels good to be laughing again. More, please.

Maybe I’ll see you there sometime!


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It’s All So Fragile

I just read something very exciting on the National Geographic website. It seems that the Mayan city of Tikal and its environs in Guatemala were much, much, MUCH larger than we previously thought. All this time, we were thinking the area was home to about 5 million people during the Maya classic period between 250 and 900 AD, when in fact it was more likely that this civilization’s population was about 10-15 million. That’s much more densely populated than medieval England was.

How did we reach this conclusion? Scholars used LiDAR, which is a sort of penetrating radar that can look through the vegetation to see previously undiscovered structures. (Check out the photos in that NatGeo article. They’re really quite fascinating.) They were able to find the ruins of more than 60,000 houses, palaces, and elevated highways.

Holy cow, talk about a booming metropolis. To put that in context, cities about that size today include Bangkok, Thailand; Los Angeles, USA; Cairo, Egypt; Dhaka, Bangladesh; and Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India. Clearly there was a lot more going on in the Tikal area than we previously imagined.

And how exciting for archeologists! It will take decades to sort through all this LiDAR data, and even longer to clear the growth off the buildings of interest. This is quite a breakthrough. We have so much more to learn about this ancient culture! There are some pyramids in there that are 7 stories high that you can’t see even when you are standing right in front of them. Now, they just look like jungle-y hills, lost in the underbrush.

That, to me, is mind-blowing. Imagine. If we abandoned Los Angeles for a thousand years, it would be so overgrown that no one would even know it was there!

That’s sobering. I mean, we walk around thinking that we are living in the realm of permanence, that we’ve made our mark and staked our claim on the earth, that our skyscrapers will last forever. In fact, from a cosmic perspective, all this stuff is fleeting. It’s here, but not for long. Not really. Someday it will be unrecognizable. The dry cleaner’s across the street will not even be there in 50 years, let alone 500 years. This moment in time won’t  be remembered, eventually.

It’s all so fragile. That makes the now seem all the more precious. I don’t know about you, but it has me looking at things with fresh eyes. Who wants to go to Tikal with me?


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Sometimes a Teapot is Just a Teapot

There’s such a thing as being too sensitive.

The other day the mayor of Culver City, California absolutely freaked out over a teapot, because if you squint hard enough it resembles Adolph Hitler. I kid you not. Check out the article. The sh**storm was so immediate that JCPenney actually had to pull the pot from its product line.

Culver City is in Los Angeles County and has a crime index of 11 (100 is the safest), and more than 50,000 people sleep in the streets in that county every night, so you’d think the mayor would have bigger fish to fry. But no. That kettle had allllllll of his attention for a while there.

And then there’s the “huge” scandal about President Obama forgetting to salute a marine before boarding a helicopter. He immediately realized his mistake and went out and shook the young man’s hand, but some took this incident as an outrage.

Lest we forget, the man is the leader of the free world and probably has a few other things on his mind. He’s also never served in the military himself, so saluting probably is not the gut reflex it is for your average veteran. And as this article mentions, some would debate the appropriateness of saluting when out of uniform and not wearing a hat. But the main thing I took away from this story is that many of us have entirely too much time on our hands.

Take, for example, the latest news from the city of Wildwood, New Jersey, where they are planning to ban droopy shorts on the boardwalk. Kids, today. They can’t be trusted to keep their pants up high enough to suit the older generation, apparently, and this means that legislation is required. And what if the kids don’t comply? Will they be arrested by the fashion police? One wonders.

And there are those veterans who still boycott Jane Fonda because she went to Hanoi to protest the Vietnam War. In 1972. Even though it’s long since been proven that she never passed notes from prisoners of war to the enemy as previously alleged. Are these same people boycotting Dennis Rodman for going to North Korea? Not so’s you’d notice. And that happened this year. It seems to me that your energies would be better spent focusing on current and active gadflies to our servicemen such as the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, rather than a rapidly aging actress who does not share your political opinions, but honestly, it’s so much more fun to piss in the wind of the past, isn’t it?

Before you get your knickers all in a twist, I’m not an anti-Semite, I fully appreciate the service of our men and women in uniform, I don’t enjoy gazing at the butt cracks of the nation’s youth any more than the next person, and I don’t think that Jane’s visit to Hanoi was her finest hour even if she did make her point and voice her opinion as every American, fortunately or unfortunately, has a right to do. I just happen to think that there are so many other causes to take up, so many other stands to make that are much more important than the foolishness we so often get spun up about. I just get disgusted with society in general. That’s all.