Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dance, Slimbo, Dance! Post-Diluvian Follies

Zena wants "a funny story from long ago, and a silly quasi-philosophical question":

Happy to oblige.

The funny story from long ago:

How about a recounting of my initial return to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina: the muck, the mold, the misery; the tarps and tribulations and travesties? How about that?

But wait, you say, that doesn't sound funny at all. That sounds bitterly miserable. Ah, yes. Well, that conveniently brings us to our quasi-philosophical question.

The quasi-philosophical question:

I once asserted that "funny" could be interpreted as "bitterly miserable but happened a long time ago". So our quasi-philosophical question is:
Is this true? Is miserable-but-long-ago, in fact, the same thing as funny?
Or is it a subset of funny? Can we (quasi-)formalize it and represent it (quasi-)symbolically? Perhaps:
funny = misery + time
Or is it more complicated than that? (I'll wager it is. Do we need to bust out the Venn diagrams?)*

But let's not debate it in abstract; the proof is in the funny-misery-pudding (or is it a gumbo?).** My tale of post-diluvian follies is a longish one, and blogs are not a length-friendly medium, so I'll be doling it out in convenient bloggy-bite-sized pieces over the coming weeks, starting bright and early tomorrow morning. Don't touch that dial.

* Is the function additive or multiplicative or something else? Are there constants? Is any misery too miserable to eventually be funny, or are all miseries eventually funny from a great enough distance? So many questions. Talk amongst yourselves.

** I actually cooked up this funny-misery-pudding/gumbo some time ago, at pretty much the exact moment when everyone had had their fill of Katrina stories. (Speed and timeliness have never been my virtues. Though in my defense, I was kind of busy doing stuff like trying to get back in our house.) But perhaps the K-fatigue has passed, and with the five-year anniversary fast approaching and a new show giving its take, now's an appropriate time for retro-reminiscences. (And while we're on the subject of "Treme", a note for anyone inclined to compare and contrast: The show is set "three months after" the storm. The events I'll describe occurred at the end of September and beginning of October, approximately two months after. In the hyper-compressed time line of
New Orleans, Fall 2005 , this is a big difference. When I first reentered the city, it was essentially a militarized ghost town. A week later, it was a militarized village. A month later, "Treme"-pilot time, it was a town—a weird little messed up town contained in the shell of a once-big city, with a whole bunch of messed up houses and a lot of Humvees, but townish nonetheless.)


  1. - Ms. Ferris' sister4:44 PM

    Anticipating more medium length-friendly stories as you continue the quasi-philosphical question. "Misery" must belong in the depreciating category of mathematical functions, with "funny" resulting at the intersection of "misery" and "too exhausted to even be miserable" to the exponential of time.

  2. It seems like it can't be generally true that misery X time = funny. Some miseries never get funny. Child abuse for instance. So we want some recognition in our calculations of that--is it that certain *types* of misery never get funny? Or is it that some miseries are just too miserable?

  3. I suspect there's a bell curve at work, with "miserableness" plotted on the x-axis and "humor-potential" on the y. On the bottom left are slightly miserable events that might, with time, be slightly funny. Moving to the right, as the misery increases, so does the potential humor, until it plateaus with events that are just precisely miserable enough to someday be really hialrious. And then the curve tapers down again, trailing off into events that are so totally wretched, they will never be funny at all.

    Also, there's some proportion, though I don't know exactly what it is, between the size of a misery and how long it takes to be funny: minor miseries might be funny very quickly; major miseries take longer.

    And yes, "too exhausted to even be miserable" comes into play somewhere.

  4. Ms. Ferris' sister11:25 AM

    "Hope" may be another factor in the equation of "time to funny" status post misery. Hope is likely negated in cases of abuse, starvation, etc.

  5. Indeed. And laughing-to-keep-from-crying fits in this somewhere too.

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