Dear Dr. Boli: The news media (by which I mean KDKA, which is the only station my old Philco radio gets) keep saying that the resignation of Benedict XVI sets a “precedent.” Is that true? What does it mean? —Sincerely, Raoul Castro, Havana (North Dakota).
Dear Sir: It means simply that other people in positions of power who find their labors more difficult than they anticipated will now feel empowered to step down. Already we see the effect of the precedent in Pittsburgh’s Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who suddenly refused to run as the machine candidate for mayor, explaining that he had stopped enjoying politics because sometimes people were mean to him. The difference is that the Vatican knows exactly what to do when a pope retires, but no one has any idea what to do when the machine candidate for mayor of Pittsburgh drops out at the last minute. Right now the Vatican is cheerfully implementing the Celestine Protocol, but in a smoke-filled room somewhere near the City-County Building in Pittsburgh there are men praying sincerely for a comet to strike the earth before the primaries in May.
Each chapter of Dr. Boli’s Complete and Utter History of the World has been written on one of a large number of typewriters Dr. Boli keeps for the purpose. Dr. Boli ordinarily sticks to his steel pens, but the typewriter seems to encourage the brisker and more utilitarian style demanded by readers of serious historical works. Below, a page written on a Hermes 3000 typewriter with an unusually attractive script face.
Dear Dr. Boli: Is there a Mrs. Dr. Boli? If so, is she as long-lived as you are or have you had many Mrs. Dr. Bolis over the years? Do you refer to her by a pet epithet? Did you have Boli children? —Sincerely, Curious in Churchill.
Dear Sir or Madam: There is a Mrs. Boli and a number of children, and Dr. Boli is fairly certain that they are still around here somewhere. It is a big house, after all, and Dr. Boli does not have time to keep track of what goes on in every room. He has not seen the south wing, for example, since 1892, when he had to move into it temporarily until the Burne-Jones murals were finished in the main hall. At any rate, now that you have mentioned the matter, Dr. Boli will have to look into it. Perhaps the servants know something.
The Blandville Area School Board would like to remind parents that our new zero-tolerance anti-bullying policy is in effect. It is vital that your children understand that serious measures must be taken against bullies in school, and all incidents of bullying must be reported to a guidance counselor. Students who fail to report that they have been bullied will be assigned in-school suspension, in which they will be forced to sit on a stool at the front of the class wearing the “UNCOOPERATIVE VICTIM” smock. Second offenders will also have their lunch money confiscated. Remind your children, especially the funny-looking ones who are frequent bullying targets, that these stern measures are necessary, and that failure to collaborate with the authorities will not be tolerated.
Dear Mr. Flounder: My boyfriend is like nice and all, but last week I plucked my eyebrows like I saw in some magazine, so they make like thin arches over my eyes, and I asked him what he thought, and he said it looked like McDonald’s had bought advertising space on my forehead. Should I dump him or just hit him? —Sincerely, Madison, Age 17.
Dear Miss: The spirits have an important message for you, but the vision is cloudy, and the images are perhaps allegorical. I see a ship, with three masts, and square sails of bright yellow silk; and on the top of the tallest mast is an eagle, and on the eagle’s back is a lemur. The lemur is saying something, but it is distant and muffled and overwhelmed by the sound of the waves, and I can only hear part of it: it sounds like “Greasy flies boiling eels,” or perhaps “Cheesy fries spoil the meal.” Then the eagle takes flight, but the lemur is still hovering above the mast, as if it were sitting on the back of an invisible eagle; and the lemur is chanting now, over and over, “Greasy flies, greasy flies,” or possibly “Cheesy fries, cheesy fries.” And the yellow sails billow in the fresh ocean breeze, and the ship is gently rocked by the waves, and the lemur keeps chanting, and the eagle flies in a northwesterly direction and disappears over the horizon.
Well, I hope that vision sorted things out for you with your boyfriend. As for the eyebrows, yeah, you kind of overdid it, but they’ll grow back.
Dr. Boli recently received this kind note from the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, who is a very busy man, but not so busy that he cannot take a moment to do a favor for an old friend—even, perhaps, an old friend he has never met.
CONTRACT FUNDS – CREDITED FROM THE FEDERAL RESERVE AND WORLD BANK AND IMF BOARD!
We received the instructional letter to credit $18.7 Million to your account or any means of payment of choice you want your Fund to be remitted to you .
Your response is required to urgently enable us get this funds to you without any further delay and you are also required to get back to us with the process how you choose to receive your fund , because we have two way your funds can get down to you(Diplomatic Delivery, And ATM Card ) also confirm your Full Information for us to know if what we have in file is correct and to avoid delivering your fund to wrong address.
CONGRATULATION ON YOUR CONTRACT FUND.
EMAIL : (suppressed to preserve Mr. Bernanke’s privacy)
Please be fast on this matter. Thanks and God bless you.
Chairman Federal Reserve Board New York.
(Telephone numbers suppressed)
Dr. Boli is pleased to hear from his old friend Mr. Bernanke (and he is sure he will recall when they met any moment now), but he does have one suggestion. Would it not be possible to hire, say, an advanced-placement English student from a local high school to tune up the punctuation and wording a bit? For someone who apparently controls not only the Federal Reserve but also the World Bank and the IMF Board, it should not be a ruinous investment. Nevertheless, if Mr. Bernanke finds himself temporarily short of cash, Dr. Boli would be willing to donate, say, a hundred thousand out of the 18.7 million dollars that are already making their way to him by Diplomatic Delivery. It is, perhaps, a small amount, but a motivated high-school student would probably consider the experience more valuable than the nominal remuneration.
About three and a half years ago, Dr. Boli gave his readers a few optical illusions to amuse them in their spare moments. For reasons he cannot pretend to explain, that article has been consistently popular since then, and has attracted a lively discussion in the comments section. The sociologist or the educator attempting to delve into the secrets of the modern American (or English) mind could find no better starting point than these comments.
Dear Dr. Boli: It is nearly midnight on January 1 in my time zone, and I have not yet come up with any New Year’s resolutions. Do you think you could help me out? —Sincerely, Unresolved.
Dear Sir or Madam: With pleasure.
You resolve not to place any televisions in public places where they cannot be avoided.
You resolve not to double-park in front of the pizza joint and pretend you can’t hear the clang-clang-clang of the streetcar trying to get by—a streetcar that may in fact be carrying a desperate passenger downtown on a vital tea run.
You resolve not to stage a dramatic breakup with your boyfriend or girlfriend via cell phone while you are riding on the streetcar.
You resolve to learn Lithuanian, because it is a fascinating language that preserves many primitive features that have been lost in other modern members of the Indo-European family.
If you happen to be running a tea dealership, you resolve to keep a larger stock of Yunnan on hand at all times, so that there will be no shortage in case of emergency.
You resolve to read this Magazine every day and await the coded instructions that will tell you where you should be and what you must do when the revolution begins.