Really Low Surdite Levels

There is a secret element called surdite. It exists inside every thing and every being, to a greater or lesser degree. The amount of surdite in a thing is inversely proportional to how absurd something is. Stuff with less surdite tends to be more absurd because to be Surd is to be normal. To be absurd is to have all the surdite taken out of it.

Q: Why did the monkey fall out of the tree?
A: Because he was dead.

That there’s a joke, son! A joke with almost no surdite. Only a surdless person like myself would get the joke. Otherwise it’s just a ridiculous statement. I can hear my in-laws shouting right now. “That’s not funny! That’s not even a joke.” Awwww man. You’re no fun anymore!

I was musing on humor yesterday. The moments I find myself laughing are so completely different from the ones many of my friends laugh at. Why do otherwise-compatible couples end up in divorce over Monty Python and the Holy Grail? If you don’t laugh at the French knight saying “Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries,” your surdite level is ridiculously high.

I love absurdity. It makes me laugh. Put a weird person in a weird situation, (or put a weird thing in a weird person), and it makes me snort.

Christo Umbrellas
The artist Christo’s Umbrellas of Doom. Kern County, California (around 1991).

Here is a clipping from a 1991 New York Times article:

“A 485-pound yellow umbrella, part of an international project of the environmental artist Christo, was toppled by winds on Saturday, killing a woman near here and injuring several other people, officials said.”

I saw the Christo umbrellas (not the same as a CRISCO umbrella. That’s different). They were huge and yellow. My friend Dina and I were driving over the Grapevine between Northern and Southern California, to visit some friends in Anaheim. Then an umbrella went rogue. (“In a world where umbrellas go rogue…”) When we drove back, the umbrellas had all been uninstalled. Crisco art is not meant to kill.

Yeah. I get it.  A life was lost. But I couldn’t stop laughing. When I told my friends that Christo’s happy yellow 485 pound umbrellas had gone away, I couldn’t manage to supress a little snort of laughter. My friends said “But Brian! That’s just awful!” I know! It was horrible in the most hilarious of awful ways. Maybe if my mother had died in a freakish gorilla’s-umbrella accident I’d have been… Nah. Who am I kidding here? It’d still be funny.

Still not funny?

Here’s the NYT headline from three days later: “Second Death Mars Christo’s Art Exhibit : Umbrellas: A crane operator is electrocuted while dismantling a giant parasol in Japan.”

I don’t know. Christo also covered an entire island in red Saran Wrap for world peace. He also managed, with his Umbrella installations, to create an artistic work with the least surdite imaginable. And don’t get me started about New York Times using the word Mars in a headline. You mean the planet? Death Mars? I played that game on the Nintendo GameCube, I’m pretty sure.

If you mix an unusual person, place or thing, apply a little time, add an unusual catalyst, you can generally reach a level of absurdity. Do they make you laugh?

I’m thinking back to every Coen Brother’s movie I’ve ever seen, except Fargo. I didn’t like Fargo. I don’t know why.

Q: Hey. These balloons blow up into funny shapes at all?
A: Naw. Unless round is funny.

Round, my friends, is HILAROUS. The mini-muffin is the most comical of all baked goods. Asparagus is the funniest vegetable. It even makes your pee smell funny. The snickerdoodle is the funniest cookie available. and haberdashery is the funniest profession. Insanely-low amounts of surdite.


Two days ago, the Guy in Front of Me at the Grocery Store purchased twelve gallons of distilled water, two gallons of liquid bleach, a bottle of Merlot and a baguette. After he cleaned up the murder scene, I guess he was going to have a little picnic?

I remember going to a wedding where the bride sent me on an errand: head to the grocery store, and buy (1) flashlight batteries, (2) mayonnaise, and (3) 4 bottles of sparkling cider.  It was apparently gonna be a hell of a honeymoon. Batteries, mayo, and Martinelli’s are notoriously low in surdite.

Another grocery store anecdote: a few months ago, the Woman in Front of Me bought three dollars in lottery tickets. She won $200 dollars. Cool! So, she bought $195 more in lottery ticket, and a box of Popsicles. She stood there in line eating her popsicles, and scratching off 195 more tickets. She held up the line for whatever-length-of-time it takes to remove the grey stuff from all those Scratchers. Maybe that grey stuff is surdite, because the more she removed, the more weird it seemed, until it was ludicrous. Hilarious. Absurd. Eventually other cash register operators took the patiently-waiting customers and she merrily stood there, scratchin’ the surdite away.

It takes a certain type of humor, and probably a morbid mind, to make the connections I do. Is it objectionable to link giant yellow death umbrellas, and twelve gallons of distilled water, and a ridiculous joke about monkeys falling out of trees? Probably? But my surdite levels have been obscenely low, and as far as I can tell, they will continue to drop for the foreseeable future.


Ahhh it gets me every time…


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