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© Jeff Matthews   entry Sept 2015   Allegro ma non troppo #4   (original pub. date, Lion Magazine, 1990)


Wascals of Wationalism


"Blaise Pascal, flanked by his couple of infinities, gets the cold shoulder before this cosmic jugglery that emphasizes the obsession of changing size. From the dust under foot to the clouds in the sky, Tex Avery scoffs at all notions of landmarks, metric systems, scales of comparison."

--Robert Benayoun, "Tex Avery, ou le cosmos en perdition" in Le Dessin anime apres Walt Disney (Paris, J.-J. PAUVERT, 1961)


"There is one kind of humor, in our opinion specifically modern, which is based on the rational structures of the mind so as to disarticulate the mechanism of these structures by means of the absurd. To characterize this critical humor by means of an image, let us say that it is nowhere to be found in the Disney cartoons, but is omnipresent in those of Tex Avery."

--François Valorbe,"L'humor critique" Medium: Communication Surrealiste No. 1, 1953


(The time: 1649. The place: France. The scene: Blaise Pascal's living room. The television is on and the great philosopher and scientist of the French Enlightenment is fidgeting nervously as he waits for "his program" to come on. Precisely at the stroke of 6 p.m., the Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies opening jingle fills the air. Pascal's wife, Sherry, is "in the kitchen," as they used to say in 17th-century France, "whipping up some grub.")

"...and if we're so damned enlightened, why can't we get a light on this stove, so I can see what I'm burning?! Blaise, my sweet, qu'est que c'est cette  musique la? Time for Elmair and ze Bunny Bugs, n'est-ce pas?"

"Oui, cherie. C'est magnifique!  Dum-de-dum-dum da-da-daaah, ya-ta-ta-taaah! What is Lully compared to zis?! Bah! He is a pig! I tell you, cherie, zis is confrontation between rationalisme and ze absurde. Elmair, ze cool mind, much like myself, put upon by ze likes of zis vermin of a monsieur bunny wiz his "What is up, doc?" Bah! What do I care what is up, doc?!  Ze typical question of ze – ah! watch out, Elmair! Ze little bastaird he has a carrot! I mean, behind ze carrot, he has a hammair. Watch... (WHAM!) ...oooooh! mon Dieu!  how can zis be?! Look, cherie!  Elmair's head it is squished flat like a crepe! ...but...but... and his eyes, look how zey have gazoomed out of his bald little skull almost to ze horizon! Impossible!  All elementary force vectors must be parallel! The internal state of stress is determined by pressure alone, and the pressure must be uniform over any horizontal cross section! But monsieur Elmair's head! His eyes!"

"Hammairs zey do not lie, my sweet!"

"Yes, but look at zese couple of infinities I have devised, they show... here, look!" (Pascal hands two infinities to Sherry as she comes out of the kitchen with his supper. They are very big, and Sherry has to balance both the wine glass and the supper dish on one hand so she can clamp the infinities under her free arm and carry them to the sofa, where she lays them down.)

"Very nice, Blaise."
"Oui. Well, maybe it should be something like, 'if a hammair hits... no... if a bunny and a hammair apply non-parallel force vectors... no... wait..."
"It needs more work, my sweet."

"Hmmm, maybe I talk zis ovair with Descartes, if Monsieur Enlightenment Big Shot he gets off his high horse! 'Cogito ergo sum unable to come to the phone right now!"  Hah! Anyway, cherie, what do you think of zis? I worked it out yestairday: "If God does not exist, the skeptic loses nothing by believing in Him, but if He does exist, the skeptic gains eternal life by believing in Him." Eh?

"That definitely needs more work. Here." (Sherry brings him his supper, a dish of finely crafted French peasant pie. But she has put so much hot pepper in it, that at the first bite, in quick succession Pascal's head turns into a wildly clanging fire-alarm bell, smoke shoots out of his ears and as he screams, great tongues of flame erupt rocket-like from his mouth with enough force to propel him backwards and carom him off the wall, then the ceiling and finally out through an open window and into the birdbath in the garden, where he comes to rest, happily extinguished. As the scene ends, Sherry, the infinities, and the finely crafted French peasants left over in the kitchen are seen making a break for the door.)

That's all, folks!

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