Nine People Worse Off Than You

Having a bad day? The bakery on the corner gave you the wrong kind of muffin? Was one of your expenses rejected? Did your little sister mouth off to you? Oh poor you. If you’re having that kind of day, it might pay to keep these people in mind. It won’t make the hurt any less, really, but it would certainly distract your thoughts for a bit and get you thinking “I’m glad that didn’t happen to me!”

1. Charlie Parker
The seminal Jazz saxophonist became a huge success at a young age. He enjoyed money, fame, and women, but threw it all away for heroin and just about anything else he could put in his body. At one point the Kansas City native was forced to perform on a cheap plastic saxophone, having sold his in order to buy smack. Parker led such a hard life that by the time he died at age 35, the coroner believed him to be around 60 years old. And he was a fatass. You don’t want to piss off the pallbearers. Not that I know from experience.

2. The Stolen Generations
If you were an aboriginal child in Australia any time between the early 1900s and the 1970s, your life was fairly horrid. You were likely brutally torn from your parents’ arms at a young age, placed into a squalid orphanage, and if you were lucky you weren’t raped. Upon reaching adulthood, you were released back into society; angry, in great emotional pain, and probably a drunkard. I’m sure you feel really bad about missing out on the subway seat in the morning now.

3. Socrates
Most people think the Greek philosopher led a great life because of all the respect given to him since his death. This, however, is untrue. To start with, Socrates was incredibly ugly. He was also short. The man fought in three wars, had no job, a wife he didn’t love, and three sons who sound like shiftless layabouts. But Socrates liked to talk, and he like to be annoying. For which he was eventually forced to drink poison. Oh, I’m sorry, are you working a crappy restaurant job?

4. Ryan White
White was a young hemophiliac who contracted HIV through a contaminated blood transfusion. His infection was discovered in 1984 and his school expelled him. While he did gain national attention and help promote understanding of HIV/AIDS, he died at 19 without graduating from high school or ever getting laid. I’m sure that last sounds callous, but how would you feel if you died only ever having kissed your Mom?

5. Joanna the Mad
She ruled Spain, her husband was king, and her son was a Holy Roman Emperor. Imagine living in opulence, but being chained to a patriarchal system where you Father hated the idea that your son from elsewhere would rule. Then end your life imprisoned and unable to come to grips with reality. You never change clothes, bathe, or eat. I’m sorry, are you reading this and late for work?

6. Stephen Hawking
So you’re the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a position Newton once held. You’re one of the leading minds of your time, certainly amongst the top three in physics. You’ve made money from books and television, and you even left your wife for your hot nurse. But, you needed a nurse. And you needed her because you’re paralyzed. There’s no doubt you’re respected, but your mind is trapped in a body communicating through a robotic voice you control with your teeth and you can’t fuck the hot nurse. Remember our well-respected and good friend Stephen when you haven’t been laid in a while.

7. Mohammad Jawad
You’re fifteen years old and hanging out in Afghanistan. Things have pretty much already sucked your entire life, what with the Taliban banning dancing (amongst other things). Suddenly your country is invaded and you get picked up by some U.S. servicemen who say you tossed a grenade into their camp. Then you’re sent to a speck of land on the tip of Cuba and tortured for six years. Cuba of all places! You’re now old enough to drink in the U.S. (if you weren’t Muslim), but you probably couldn’t even hold a bottle with those shaking hands of yours. Yes, it’s a damn shame they didn’t put enough sugar in your Dunkin’ Donuts today, sugar.

8. The Ammonites
Hey, the Jordan River Valley is great. It’s some thousands of years BC, there are nice crops, good sunlight, sultry Mediterranean women, and only the occasional cattle raid. That is until a pack of scraggly, bedraggled, smelly desert wanderers come over the dunes and murder you, your family, and everyone you know because their God told them to do so. Just so they can get the land and sunlight. Yes, you just had an awkward moment with that girl you kissed a couple of weeks ago. Beats death.

9. Ferdinand Magellan
He’s got strait and two dwarf galaxies named after him, how is he worse off than you? Well, first he worked for years to get Portugal to send an expedition past South America, through the Pacific Ocean and on to the Spice Islands. They told him he could take a hike. Then he went to Spain and tried the same thing, but they were suspicious. It took them a year or two, but they finally gave in. At which point they were still suspicious because he was Portuguese. So he makes his trip, fights off mutiny and starvation, saves most of his crew across the Pacific, and then is killed in a land he doesn’t know, by someone only known to history because they killed him, and his body was never recovered. Plus he never actually made it around the world.

I ended the list at nine purely to annoy you. Number 10 would’ve been interesting, though…

History’s Top Curmudgeons


Andy Rooney
Called a humorist by “the free encyclopaedia anyone can edit,” Andy Rooney is the modern epitome of curmudgeon. For decades now, Andy Rooney has made a career over complaining that things aren’t as good as they used to be. You see, apparently back in the day the music had fewer Negroes in it, women wore skirts, and everything was full of puppies and rainbows, candy tasted better, gas was cheaper, and telephones were attached to walls for Christ’s sake. Sure, movie popcorn may have tasted better back in the old days, but I’ll take slightly less flavour-full popcorn over say, spending my days in an iron lung because of polio. Nothing you say or do will keep Rooney from spouting his nostalgic babble each week, because if we ever got rid of Andy Rooney someone new would just come along to complain about how good things were back when Andy Rooney was around.

George Carlin
Believe it or not, there was a time when George Carlin was actually edgy. Of course, this was also back in a time when the adjective edgy actually meant someone was subversive. And despite his stint as Mr. Conductor, Carlin really was subversive and funny and irreverent. Unfortunately, over his five decades in comedy Carlin has slowly graduated from observer of overt ridiculousness to white-haired and cranky curmudgeon. And not a particularly fanciful one, either. Edginess and subversion, unfortunately, come with an expiration date. Guys in their seventies complaining about how everyone wears backpacks these days have traded in their street cred for curmudgeon-hood.

History’s first recorded curmudgeon, Socrates shows up everyone ever with how things used to be. You know why? Because he didn’t complain about how things used to be. He complained about how things were and pissed off everyone doing so. And he was good at it. So good that they killed him. Okay, you know how two year olds are really annoying with their questions once they learn to talk? Imagine a sixty-year old guy with nothing to lose behaving like that. That was Socrates. Religion as practiced by the populace was a sham. Virtue was an illusion of ignorance. Integrity was something only the dead possessed, and barely even then. We’d kill ourselves too if we were that good. The only direction to go would be down.

William Jennings Bryan
Combine liberal leanings, the sternness of Scottish religion, and a capably analytical brain which conveniently ignores painful facts, and you’ve got the makings of a lot of crank. And, basically, that was most of why Bryan was a curmudgeonly man, even by 19th Century standards. Bryan is famous for two fits of pique: The Cross of Gold and The Scopes Trial. In the first Bryan brought out one of the most curmudgeonly examples of over-exaggeration in the history of spoken American English when he said “You shall not press down upon the brow of labour this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” Jeez W.J., it’s only the value of the dollar, not sister Betty’s virtue. In the Scopes Trial Bryan took to court to help in the prosecution of a science teacher for teaching science. Now, we’re not going to get all science preachy here, but come on W.J., that’s like prosecuting a chimpanzee for having opposable thumbs.

Oliver Cromwell
There’s basically one plot that they recycle for every Christmas movie; some heartless, greedy fiend is going to hatch a plan and only the plucky heroes can help Santa save Christmas. Well you don’t see any of them running to the rescue of the Commonwealth where Oliver Cromwell actually did ban Christmas for eleven years in the 17th Century. How’s that for curmudgeon? Not only did Cromwell ban Christmas, but he outlawed theatre, gambling, bear baiting, and basically everything else fun. The only thing he did allow was work and church. That’s a curmudgeon for you. But, if nothing else the period of the Protectorate at least proves once and for all that there is no Santa Claus.

Right after his friend God (subject of his own article), Samuel comes traipsing into the curmudgeon charts. Samuel was so much of a grump that he would go out each year on a circuit throughout the land to tell people just how bad they’d been and that they needed to repent. For Samuel, things were always better back when the people didn’t worship Baal. Of course, with God whispering in his ear we can’t completely blame Samuel for his behaviour. But still, anointing the king (twice!) and then telling everyone how much better judges are than kings is just this side of gauche. Even when dead, Samuel raises a ruckus at even being bothered, as if he had much else to do.

James Randi
Old, bearded and crusty James Randi claims to run an “educational foundation,” but in reality he just spends his days pointing out how everyone else isn’t as smart as he is. And he tries to tell jokes. Except, he’s exactly like that old guy at every family reunion, who tries to tell over-memorized jokes and still messes them up anyway. Of course, only he gets the jokes away, but that doesn’t matter either because if you don’t laugh, he just coughs and then points how you’re not as smart or clever as he is. It doesn’t matter if he has an asteroid named after him, he’s still just an old guy who complains about people and that makes him a curmudgeon by any definition.

Frederick Nietzsche
Nothing was ever good enough for Frederick Nietzsche. So, he spent his lonely, unhappy life writing down his ideas about how everything wasn’t good enough. In fact, he even believed himself to be a superman, despite being a useless, over-educated, pathetic drunk. Apparently, all the people who actually had jobs just weren’t super enough, not like ol’ Fred. Well, maybe having a nice moustache is all the license you need to complain about everyone and everything.

Those Two Guys in the Balcony from The Muppet Show.
Statler and Waldorf just really didn’t like anything, did they? All those felt-covered puppets were working hard to get the show together and these two never did anything but complain. Kermit was always stressing out and just trying to entertain the nice people and these two old, useless guys were just picking at every little problem or joke or gag, without contributing anything. They just lived the true curmudgeon’s life; sitting there, doing nothing but complaining. If only a tomato would miss Fozzie and hit them instead.

Wilford Brimley
Little hasn’t already been said about the man rounding out our top ten curmudgeon list. He says diabetes funny, he’s an activist for cockfighting, and he made a lot of commercials about oat meal. Any old guy who’s out there, using their gruff, unpleasant demeanour to help sell oat meal is definitely a curmudgeon. In fact, you can, as a rule of thumb, be sure that any person who tries to talk to you about oatmeal and diabetes is a curmudgeon. For curmudgeons, oatmeal and diabetes are like sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. They can’t get enough of them.

The Caliguly 2006 Issue is Here!

When Socrates stated “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for” he probably wasn’t talking about Axes & Alleys: the world’s greatest tractor-related publication. It doesn’t matter. Just because the Classical Greeks never invented the tractor, doesn’t mean that you can’t spend your time improving yourself by reading the latest issue of everyone’s favorite magazine.

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