Friday’s ad is for Anheuser-Busch, from 1913. It’s a beautiful illustration, but the way the boy is pointing down at the field coupled with the authoritarian-sounding “Anheuser-Busch Will Buy This Barley” (say it with a Colonel Klink accent), it almost feels ominous. And does anybody know if A-B only uses Bohemia’s Saazer hops, or ever did exclusively? Stan? But a cool image.
Tonight, many fans of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, will celebrate Burns Night with a meal of Haggis, Scotch Whisky and a night of poetry reading. Though Burns was apparently a whisky drinker, I feel confident saying he probably also drank beer and there are plenty of ways you could incorporate beer and whisky into your evening. I nominate for your poetry recitation, Burns’ version of the popular folksong John Barleycorn, which is believed to have originated sometime in the 16th century. Burns wrote his in 1782, and because of his fame, is one the most oft quoted versions. Here’s how I summarized it in a post about John Barleycorn a few years ago:
Primarily an allegorical story of death, resurrection and drinking, the main character—the eponymous John Barleycorn—is the personification of barley who is attacked and made to suffer indignities and eventually death. These correspond roughly to the stages of barley growing and cultivation, like reaping and malting. Some scholars see the story as pagan, representing the ideology of the cycles of nature, spirits and the pagan harvest, and possibly even human sacrifice. After John Barleycorn’s death, he is resurrected as beer, bread and whisky. Some have also compared it to the Christian transubstantiation, since his body is eaten as bread and drank as beer.
There were three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
An’ they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.
They took a plough and ploughed him down,
Put clods upon his head;
An’ they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.
But the cheerfu’ spring came kindly on,
And show’rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surprised them all.
The sultry suns of summer came,
And he grew thick and strong;
His head weel armed wi’ pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.
The sober autumn entered mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bending joints and drooping head
Showed he began to fail.
His colour sickened more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.
They’ve ta’en a weapon long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
Then tied him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.
They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgelled him full sore;
They hung him up before the storm,
And turned him o’er and o’er.
They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim;
They heaved in John Barleycorn,
There let him sink or swim.
They laid him out upon the floor,
To work him farther woe,
And still, as signs of life appeared,
They tossed him to and fro.
They wasted, o’er a scorching flame,
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller used him worst of all,
For he crushed him ‘tween two stones.
And they hae ta’en his very heart’s blood,
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.
John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
‘Twill make your courage rise;
‘Twill make a man forget his woe;
‘Twill heighten all his joy:
‘Twill make the widow’s heart to sing,
Tho’ the tear were in her eye.
Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne’er fail in old Scotland!
While I had a logic class in college, and dabbled in debate, I’ve probably forgotten more than I ever learned. But I still love the notion of breaking down the thought process. My son, who’s 11 and autistic, often has trouble understanding humor. As a result, I increasingly find myself trying to explain the punchline of a joke — why it’s funny — and I’ll break it down for him. What invariably happens, of course, is that in that process, the joke is stripped of its humor and is no longer funny. For some reason, that never deters me. I’ve always had a thing for jokes and thinking about why they’re funny. If I wasn’t so damn shy I would have loved to have tried my hand at stand-up comedy back when I was a younger man. I think that’s why I loved The Aristocrats so much. Ninety minutes breaking down and re-telling one joke. What’s not to love?
So check out the comic strip below. It’s mildly amusing, at least to me. You most likely won’t laugh out loud, but you may smile, at least. But from the point of view of logic, it’s also quite correct, and instructional. It was originally posted by Spiked Math Comics, who admits he doesn’t know the strip’s original creator.
But here’s where it veers headlong into geekdom. It was picked up by a Danish University linguistics student, Emil Kirkegaard, who posted Three Logicians Walk Into a Bar: A Formal Explanation, a breakdown and analysis of the joke, complete with formulas, and explanation of the logic principles behind it.
Here’s one expressing the root problem: E↔(Wa∧Wb∧Wc)
The whole explanation is just as funny as the original strip, to me at least, in its own right and certainly does explain the joke, although if you didn’t think it was funny to begin with, this probably isn’t going to help. But us geeks have to stick together, no matter what geekworld we belong to.