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Published: Monday, 1/4/2010

Humor, some of it even intentional, is all around us

OVER the years I was a fan of the work of the late Carl Rowan. I valued his perspective as an African-American columnist as much as I did his talent as a journalist and writer.

But recently I came to appreciate him even more when I saw a video of an appearance he made before the National Press Club in Washington several years ago.

Mr. Rowan was relating an exchange he'd had with a white reader who disagreed harshly with something he'd written.

"My Dear Mr. Rowan," she wrote, "what an unfair burden your life must surely be. To be not only black but also stupid."

Mr. Rowan wrote her back, as was his custom, he explained, "for my more reasonable mail."

"Madam," he said, "what a joyful life yours must surely be. To bear only half the burdens I carry."

Our newest nominees for the best T-shirt message:

"It's 4 o'clock somewhere. Why wait?"

"Some people have a way with words. Others not way."

And this one from reader Donna: "Just because it comes in your size doesn't mean you should wear it."

A homicide detective's worst nightmare: a murder at a butler's convention.

Every now and then I'm reminded of the Serenity Prayer, which my grandmother kept in a frame on her kitchen wall: "Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

The prayer is often associated with Alcoholics Anonymous, though it was not written for AA, and no, my grandmother did not have a drinking problem. She just liked the sentiment expressed.

I thought of it the other day as I was recalling my years laboring in the journalism vineyards.

I certainly tried to change the things I could, though I was not especially serene about accepting those I could not.

I wish I had been wiser about recognizing the difference.

Reciting the prayer again provides a dose of humility, something that we can all use from time to time. I once overheard a guy talking to an acquaintance who was getting a little full of himself: "You may think you're hot stuff, but the size of the crowd at your funeral is still going to depend on the weather."

One more sign we're all doomed: A 29-year-old man down in Newark, Ohio, was arrested for drunk driving after crashing his motorized bar stool. Apparently these things are popular. You can order a kit on the Internet and build your own. They even race them, though I imagine they'd be awfully top-heavy even when you're sober.

The guy claimed his stool will tool along at 40 miles per hour but insisted he was only going 20 when he wrecked it. Authorities confiscated it and auctioned it off on eBay to help cut into a shortfall in his child support payments of some $37,000. Mr. Leadfoot also did his three days in jail.

Do you suppose there's a drive-through lane at his favorite tavern?

Just wondering if the military has ever had soldiers named General Store, Colonel Korn, Major Payne, Captain Marvel, Corporal Punishment, or, dare I say it, Private Partz. If so, I imagine those folks worked hard to get promoted as fast as possible.

Even though most of us who buy our coffee beans already ground know this is not the best time to be selling real estate, the high end of the market has apparently weathered the recession just fine. An ad for a home in Franklin, Tenn., describes a 135-acre property called Sweetbriar which includes a main house with 19,000 square feet, a 20-car garage, a theater, a fully stocked 10-acre lake and three ponds, a boathouse, a barn, an infinity pool and spa, not one but four grass landing strips, a horse ring, and a two-bedroom riverside cabin.

The price? A cool $38 million. By the way, the owner is country music superstar Alan Jackson. He's a pretty good guy, so maybe he'll deal.

I read somewhere that it is against the law in Allentown, Pa., for men to get aroused in public. This is a stupid law. By the time the guy gets his day in court, the judge is just going to throw the case out anyway for lack of evidence.

During my years in the newspaper business, I collected headlines that struck me as funny, especially those that weren't intended to be humorous. One of my all-time favorites:

"Grandmother of 8 Makes Hole in One."

I'm happy to report the other seven children are fine.

In defense of headline writers, let me say that their challenge is daunting: to come up with a headline that summarizes neatly and concisely what may be 40 column inches of type, and do so under the pressure of a deadline.

Even so, and to show I don't spare ourselves, here's one from The Blade several years ago:

"Man injured after traffic accident turns ugly."

I sure hope his insurance covered that.

I was sitting at the computer a few days ago when I encountered a problem. A little box popped up on the screen and here is what it said:

"Server Error. Object reference not set to an instance of an object."

So THAT'S it.

Thomas Walton is retired editor and vice president of The Blade. His column appears every other Monday.

Contact him at:

twalton@theblade.com



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