David McAlister "Dave" Barry (born July 3, 1947) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author and columnist, who wrote a nationally syndicated humor column for The Miami Herald from 1983 to 2005. He has also written numerous books of humor and parody, as well as comedic novels.
Columns and articlesEdit
- The problem is, when Oprah lost all that weight, her head didn't get any smaller. And so she looks kind of like a person carrying a balloon.
- Playboy interview, May 1990
- The Democrats seem to be basically nicer people, but they have demonstrated time and time again that they have the management skills of celery. They're the kind of people who'd stop to help you change a flat, but would somehow manage to set your car on fire. I would be reluctant to entrust them with a Cuisinart, let alone the economy. The Republicans, on the other hand, would know how to fix your tire, but they wouldn't bother to stop because they'd want to be on time for Ugly Pants Night at the country club.
- “Today's Topic Is About . . . Uh . . . It'll Come To US In A Minute” The Seattle Times, (May 24, 1990)
- But I do think we need to explore the commitment problem, which has caused many women to mistakenly conclude that men, as a group, have the emotional maturity of hamsters. This is not the case. A hamster is MUCH more capable of making a lasting commitment to a woman, especially if she gives it those little food pellets. Whereas a guy, in a relationship, will consume the pellets of companionship, and he will run on the exercise wheel of lust; but as soon as he senses that the door of commitment is about to close and trap him in the wire cage of true intimacy, he'll squirm out, scamper across the kitchen floor of uncertainty and hide under the refrigerator of Non-Readiness.
- Column, August 18, 1991
- The transportation bill had over $5 billion worth of special local projects and favors attached to it, lamprey-like, by various congresspersons. But this is good, because these projects will CREATE JOBS. See, when the GOVERNMENT spends money, it creates jobs; whereas when the money is left in the hands of TAXPAYERS, God only knows what they do with it. Bake it into pies, probably. Anything to avoid creating jobs.
- I think Superman should go on the Larry King show and announce that he would come back to life if people in all 50 states wanted him to.
- As a child, I was more afraid of tetanus shots than, for example, Dracula.
- Column, The Miami Herald, 21 January 1996
- It is a scientific fact that your body will not absorb cholesterol if you take it from another person's plate.
- "The Funny Side of 'Beowulf'", The Miami Herald, November 2, 1997.
- What, exactly, is the Internet? Basically it is a global network exchanging digitized data in such a way that any computer, anywhere, that is equipped with a device called a "modem" can make a noise like a duck choking on a kazoo.
- I say we scrap the current [Social Security] system and replace it with a system wherein you add your name to the bottom of a list, and the you send some money to the person at the top of the list, and then you . . . Oh, wait that IS our current system.
- "Elections could come down to who kisses most orifice," Miami Herald (September 24, 2000)
- Of course it's possible that there really ISN'T any shadow government. The whole thing could be a phony story that was fed to The Washington Post to mislead our enemies. As you recall, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recently admitted that the Pentagon had set up an office-officially named "The Office of Disinformation"-that was supposed to put out false statements to the media, thus throwing our enemies off the track. For example, if we were getting ready to attack Iraq, officials of the Office of Disinformation would hold a press conference and state: "Well, we're certainly not going to attack Iraq!" The news media would report this, and Iraq would relax. France, meanwhile, would surrender.
- Column for week of April 15, 2002
- Winter's here, and you feel lousy: You're coughing and sneezing; your muscles ache; your nose is an active mucus volcano. These symptoms -- so familiar at this time of year -- can mean only one thing: Tiny fanged snails are eating your brain.
- The Miami Herald, originally 16 November 2003
- But this should serve as a reminder to brides of the importance of discouraging reception guests from discharging their firearms unless they have a good reason, such as the band vocalist attempting to perform "I Will Always Love You" in the official Whitney Houston Diarrhea of the Vowels version ("And IIIIIIeeeeeIIIIIIIII, will alwaaaaays love yoooooeeeeeeeooooooouuuuueeeeeeeeeoooooo" BANG)
- The Miami Herald, 2 April 2004
- We must always remember that, as Americans, we all have a common enemy -- an enemy that is dangerous, powerful and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government.
- A sense of humor is a measurement of the extent to which we realize that we are trapped in a world almost totally devoid of reason. Laughter is how we express the anxiety we feel at this knowledge.
- Originally published in "Encyclopedia Tropicana: A Reference Book for the Modern World, Volume 1" by Joel Achenbach, The Miami Herald, May 4, 1986; quoted by Bryan Curtis, "Dave Barry: Elegy for the humorist," Slate, January 12, 2005
- I'm sure that this year we'll try to cooperate fully with the IRS, because, as citizens, we feel a strong patriotic duty not to go to jail.
- “Believe me, you'll pay for this” Tampa Bay Times (Oct. 16, 2005)
The Taming of the Screw (1983)Edit
- The only really good place to buy lumber is at a store where the lumber has already been cut and attached together in the form of furniture, finished, and put inside boxes.
- Electricity is actually made up of extremely tiny particles called electrons, that you cannot see with the naked eye unless you have been drinking.
Stay Fit and Healthy Until You're Dead (1985)Edit
- Although golf was originally restricted to wealthy, overweight Protestants, today it's open to anybody who owns hideous clothing.
Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States (1989)Edit
- The first major president to be elected after the War of 1812 was President Monroe Doctrine, who became famous by developing the policy for which he is named. This policy, which is still in effect today, states that:
- Other nations are not allowed to mess around with the internal affairs of nations in this hemisphere.
- But we are.
- p. 62
- Stalin's strategy at the end of World War II was to acquire a small "buffer zone between Russia and Germany, consisting of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Albania, and most of Germany. In an effort to garner public support in these nations, Stalin mounted a public-relations campaign around the upbeat theme "Maybe We Won't Have Your Whole Family Shot," and in 1945 Eastern Europe decided to join the Communist bloc by a vote of 28,932,084,164,504,029-0. Heartened by this mandate, Stalin immediately ordered construction work to begin on the Iron Curtain, which was given its name by Sir Winston Churchill, who, in a historic anecdote at a dinner party, said, "Madam, I may be drunk, but an iron curtain has descended upon BLEAAARRRGGGHHH."
- p. 126
- In 1948 the Democrats had little choice but to nominate President Truman, under the banner HE'S GOING TO LOSE. Everybody felt this way: the politicians, the press, the pollsters, the piccolo players, Peter Piper, everybody. The Republicans were so confident that they nominated an individual named Thomas Dewey, whose lone accomplishment was inventing the decimal system. Truman campaigned doggedly around the nation, but his cause appeared to be hopeless. A Dewey victory seemed so inevitable that on election night, the Chicago Tribune printed the famous front-page headline DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN. This was because Dewey had defeated Truman, who immediately threatened to drop an atomic bomb on Chicago, so everybody went ha-ha-ha-ha, just kidding, and wisely elected to have the feisty ex-haberdasher have another term.
- p. 131
- So there's no question about it: by the mid-fifties, America was definitely in a Golden Era, an era of excitement and opportunity for all citizens, regardless of race or creed or color, unless the person happened to be black. Then there was a problem.
- p. 137-138
- Thus was born the civil rights movement, an epic struggle that has required much sacrifice and pain, but which has enabled the United States to progress, in just three decades, from being a nation where blacks were forced to ride in the back of the bus, to being a nation where, due to federal cutbacks, there is no bus.
- p. 138
- In 1980 the Democrats were pretty much stuck with Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale, who ran under the slogan "Four More Years?" The Republicans, meanwhile, had a spirited primary campaign season, which came down to a duel between Reagan and George Herbert Walker Norris Wainright Armoire Vestibule Pomegranate Bush IV, who had achieved a distinguished record of public service despite having a voice that sounded like he had just inhaled an entire blimp-load of helium.
- p. 167
- Reagan finally won the nomination by promoting "Reaganomics", an economic program based on the theory that the government could lower taxes while increasing spending and at the same time actually reduce the federal budget by sacrificing a live chicken by the light of a full moon. Bush charged that this amounted to "voo-doo economics," which got him into hot water until he explained that what he meant to say was "doo-doo economics." Satisfied, Reagan made Bush his vice-presidential nominee. The turning point in the election campaign came during the October 8 debate between Reagan and Carter, when Reagan's handlers came up with a shrewd strategy: No matter what Carter said, Reagan would respond by shaking his head in a sorrowful manner and saying: "There you go again." This was brilliant, because (a) it required the candidate to remember only four words, and (b) he delivered them so believably that everything Carter said seemed like a lie. If Carter had stated that the Earth was round, Reagan would have shaken his head, saying, "There you go again," and millions of voters would have said: "Yeah! What does Carter think we are? Stupid?"
- p. 167
- That is where we stand today. And what lies ahead? Will we be able to solve our social and economic problems, clean up our environment, maybe even improve our technology to the point where we can land a manned spacecraft on Trump? Unfortunately, we cannot know what will happen in the future. If this book proves anything, it's that we don't even know what happened in the past. But we do know this: America is a strong and great country, and her people have withstood many trials and tribulations (More tribulations, actually, because many never went to trial.). And whatever problems lie ahead, we may be sure of one thing: that if we all work together and "hang tough," there will come a day when this nation- maybe not in the next few years; maybe not even in our lifetimes; but someday- will see the end of "Dick" Nixon's political career. But we wouldn't bet on it.
- p. 175
Dave Barry Turns 40 (1990)Edit
- Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.
- I'll tell you what would really age me fast: if I had a teenaged daughter. I don't think I could handle that. Because that would mean teenaged boys would be coming around to my house. "Hi, Mr. Barry!" they'd say, with their cheerful, innocent young voices. "We're here to have sex with your daughter!" No, of course they wouldn't come out and say that, but I know that's what they'd be thinking, because I was a teenaged boy once, and I was basically a walking hormone storm. I'm sure modern boys are no different. So if I had a teenaged daughter, and a boy came to my house, after somehow picking his way through the land mines in the lawn, I'd probably lunge through the screen door and strangle him right there ("Hi, Mr. Barry! Is Jennifer heAAAAAAAWWWWK"). You think I'm exaggerating, but I have male friends whose daughters are approaching puberty at speeds upwards of 700 miles per hour, and when you say the word "dating," my friends get a look in their eyes that makes Charles Manson look like Captain Kangaroo.
- p. 63
- So in some ways I'm relieved that I don't have daughters, although in other ways I envy people with daughters, because little girls tend to be thoughtful, whereas little boys tend to be- and I say this as a loving father who would not trade his son for anything in the world- jerks. I used to think this was society's fault. This was back in the idealistic sixties and seventies, when we Boomers had many excellent child-rearing theories and no actual children. Remember those days? Remember when we truly believed that if society treated boys and girls exactly the same, then they wouldn't be bound by sexual stereotypes, and the boys could grow up to be sensitive and the girls could grow up to be linebackers? Ha ha! Boy, were we ever idealistic! By which I mean "stupid." Because when we look at actual children, no matter how they are raised, we notice immediately that little girls are in fact smaller versions of human beings, whereas little boys are Pod People from the Planet Destructo. I don't think society has anything to do with this. I think that if you had two desert islands, and you put girl babies on one island and boy babies on another island, and they were somehow able to survive with no help from adult society, eventually the girls would cooperate in collecting pieces of driftwood and using them to build shelters, whereas the boys would pretend that driftwood pieces were guns. (Yes, I realize they'd have no way of knowing what guns were. This would not stop them.) Not only that, but even if the island had 176,000 pieces of driftwood on it, the boys would all end up violently arguing over one of them.
- p. 63-64
- I base my opinions on several years of working in an office located in a house with a large transient little-boy population. Individually they're okay, but if two of them get together, their combined IQ is halved, and if a third boy comes along it's halved again, and so on, so that if you have, say, six of them, you're talking about the destructive force of a tank commanded by the brainpower of a Labrador retriever. They communicate with each other by slamming doors. They have the attention span of gnats. "STOP SLAMMING THE DOORS!" I'll yell at them. "Okay!" they'll reply (SLAM). They are so busy running around and arguing and breaking things and strewing random objects over every square inch of floor that they barely have time to pee, and they definitely don't have time to aim. They just race into the bathroom, let loose in any old random direction, and then race out again, because by God there are doors to be slammed.
- p. 64-65
- The Democrats seem to be basically nicer people, but they have demonstrated time and again that they have the management skills of celery. They're the kind of people who would stop to help you change your flat, but would somehow manage to set your car on fire. I would be reluctant to entrust them with a Cuisinart, let alone the economy. The Republicans, on the other hand, would know how to fix your tire, but they wouldn't bother to stop because they'd want to be on time for Ugly Pants Night at the country club. Also, the Republicans have a high Beady-Eyed Self-Righteous Scary Borderline Loon Quotient, as evidenced by Phyllis Schlafly, Pat Robertson, the entire state of Utah, etc.
- p. 124
- I'll tell you what's weird. Not only is our generation turning into Republicans, but we also have a whole generation coming after us who are starting out as Republicans. With the exception of the few dozen spittle-emitting radicals I saw in Atlanta, the younger generations today are already so conservative they make William F. Buckley, Jr., look like Ho Chi Minh. What I'm wondering is,w hat will they be like when they're our age? Will they, too, change their political philosophy? Will millions of young urban professionals turn 40 and all of a sudden start turning into left-wing, antiestablishment hippies, smoking pot on the racquetball court, putting Che Guevara posters up in the conference room, and pasting flower decals all over their cellular telephones? It is an exciting time to look forward to. I plan to be dead.
- p. 128
- You get the idea. The main thing is, don't be discreet. We Boomers have never been a discreet generation, and I see no reason why we should fade quietly away just because we're getting old. Let's not go out with a whimper. Let's go out proudly whapping the umbrella of defiance on the taxicab hood of time. Let's remember the words of that rock song from the sixties, the anthem of our entire generation, the unforgettable song that spoke for all of us when it said... when it said... ummm... Jeez, how the hell did that song go?
- p. 179
Dave Barry's Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need (1991)Edit
- We travel because, no matter how comfortable we are at home, there's a part of us that wants - that needs - to see new vistas, take new tours, obtain new traveler's checks, buy new souvenirs, order new entrees, introduce new bacteria into our intestinal tracts, learn new words for "transfusion," and have all the other travel adventures that make us want to french-kiss our doormats when we finally get home.
- I took an estimated two thousand years of high school French, and when I finally got to France, I discovered that I didn't know one single phrase that was actually useful in a real-life French situation.
- What Dad means by "see" of course, is "drive past at 67 miles per hour." Dad feels it is a foolish waste of valuable vacation time to get out of the car and actually go look at an attraction.
- During the warm season (August 8 and 9), Maine is a true "vacation paradise," offering visitors a chance to jump into crystal-clear mountain lakes and see if they can get back out again before their bodily tissue is frozen as solid as a supermarket turkey.
- But Nebraska was not always a bed of roses. When the first settlers arrived, they found a harsh, unforgiving place, a vast treeless expanse of barren, drought-parched soil. And so, summoning up the dynamic pioneer spirit of hope and steely determination, they left. But a few of them remained and built sod houses, which are actually made of dirt. Think about that. You can't clean a sod house, because it would be gone. The early settlers had a hell of a time getting this through to their children. "You kids stop tracking dirt out of the house!" they'd yell.
- Vermont: See New Hampshire
- Denmark (also called "Norway") is best known as the original home of the prune Danish as well as the Vikings, who wore hats with horns sticking out of them, and for a very good reason: they were insane.
- Ha ha! We are just poking a little friendly fun at Germany, which is famous for enjoying a good joke, or as the Germans say, "Sprechnehaltenzoltenfussenmachschnitzerkalbenrollen." Here is just one hilarious example of what we are talking about:
- First German: How many Polish people does it take to screw in a light bulb?
- Second German: I don't know! How many?
- First German: Let's invade Poland and find out!
- Millions of Other Germans: Okay!
Dave Barry Does Japan (1992)Edit
- New York: Random House.
- My most important finding, however, does not involve the differences between us and Japan; it involves the similarities. Because despite the gulf, physical and cultural, between the United States and Japan, both societies are, in the end, made up of people, and people everywhere- when you strip away their superficial differences- are crazy.
- p. 19
- The way I attempted to learn Japanese was by reading a book called Japanese at a Glance in the plane from San Francisco to Tokyo. This is not the method recommended by experts. The methiod recommended by experts is to be born as a Japanese baby and raised by a Japanese family, in Japan.
- p. 20
- No, subtlety and protocol are not the strong suit of Americans, which is one reason why the Japanese tend to view us as large, loud water buffalo, lumbering around without a clue, tromping and pooping all over their carefully arranged, exquisitely tended garden of a society. I certainly felt like a water buffalo when I got off the plane at Narita Airport, mumbling my one word of Japanese, taking my long vowels seriously, and weighing approximately four hundred pounds more than when I got on.
- p. 39
- I never really did get accustomed to all the bowing. According to the guidebooks, there's an elaborate set of rules governing exactly how you bow, and who bows the lowest, and when, and for how long, and how many times, all of this depending on the situation and the statuses of the various bowers involved. Naturally, my family and I, being large, ignorant foreign water buffaloes, were not expected by the Japanese to know these rules. Nevertheless, we did feel obligated to attempt to return bows when we got them.
This happened quite often. It started when we arrived at our hotel in Tokyo. As I was descending the steps of the airport bus, two uniformed bellmen came rushing up and bowed to me. Trying to look casual but feeling like an idiot, I bowed back. I probably did it wrong, because then they bowed back. So I bowed back. The three of us sort of bowed our way over to where the luggage was being unloaded, and I bowed to our suitcases, and the bellmen, bowing, picked them up and rushed into the hotel. We followed them past a bowing doorman into the hotel, where we were gang-bowed by hotel employees. No matter which direction we turned, they were aiming bows at us, sometimes from as far as twenty-five yards away. Bobbing like drinking-bird toys, we bowed our way to the reception desk, where a bowing clerk checked us in.
- p. 44-45
- The mysterious thing about all this is that Japan- ask anybody who has been there- has superb service. And not just in nice hotels. Everywhere. You walk into any store, any restaurant, no matter how low-rent it looks, and I bet you that somebody will immediately call out to you in a cheerful manner. This happened to us all over. I never understood what the people were saying, of course. They could have been saying: "Hah! Americans! We will eventually purchase your entire nation and use the Lincoln Memorial for tofu storage!" But they always sounded friendly and welcoming. And they were always eager to wait on us. I couldn't help but think of the many times I've been in American stores, especially large ones, attempting to give somebody some money in exchange for merchandise- which I always thought was the whole point of stores- but was unable to do so because the store employees were too busy with other, high-priority activities, such as talking or staring into space. More than once, in America's stores, I have felt like an intruder for trying to give money to clerks. "Oh great" is their unspoken but extremely clear attitude. "Here we had everything going nice and smooth, and along comes this doofus who wants- of all things!- to make a purchase. In a store, for God's sake."
- p. 47-48
- In Hiroshima, a bellman arrived at our room, literally, within one minute. He had obviously been sprinting, and he looked concerned. He checked the faucet, found it was, indeed, malfunctioning, and- now looking extremely- concerned- sprinted from the room. In no more than three minutes he was back with two more men, one of whom immediately went to work on the bathtub. The sole function of the other one, as far as we could tell, was to apologize to us on behalf of the hotel for having committed this monumentally embarrassing and totally unforgivable blunder. "We are very sorry," he kept saying, looking as though near tears. "Very sorry." "It's OK!" I kept saying. "Really!" But it did no good. The man was grieving. The bathtub was fixed in under ten minutes, after which all three men apologized extravagantly in various languages one last time, after which they left, after which I imagine the hotel's Vice President for Faucet Operations was taken outside and shot. No, just kidding. He probably took his own life. That's how seriously they take their jobs over there.
- p. 48
- I would certainly never say anything judgemental about another culture, but in certain food-related areas, the Japanese are clinically insane. The new culinary rage when we were in Japan was to eat fish that were still alive. I cannot imagine doing such a thing unless I were really desperate to get into a fraternity, but according to news reports, people were paying top yen in Tokyo restaurants for live, gasping fish. The waiter brings you your fish, still gasping (I mean the fish is gasping, although I suppose the waiter could be, too.), then quickly slices it open right at your table; then you're supposed to eat it while the fish is staring at you with its nearer eyeball and a facial expression that says, "Go ahead and enjoy yourself! Don't mind me! I'll be dead fairly soon!"
And that's not the weirdest culinary activity the Japanese engage in. There is also fugu. This is a kind of blowfish that the Japanese eat raw. So far, you are not surprised. You are saying: "Big deal, the Japanese eat a lot of fish raw." Well, what you are apparently not aware of, Mr. or Ms. Smarty Pants, is that fugu contains a lethal poison. The liver of the male and the ovaries of the female contain one of the most toxic substances in nature, for which there is no antidote, which means that if your fugu is not prepared exactly right, with all of the dangerous organs removed, you have encountered the Blowfish of Doom and soon are going to meet the Big Maitre d' in the Sky. Clearly this is a fish that Mother Nature is telling us we should leave the hell under water, but to the Japanese it is a great delicacy.
- p. 72
Dave Barry is Not Making This Up (1994)Edit
- New York: Random House. NOTE: Quotes and cited page numbers are from the 1994 hardcover edition.
- We need our highest judicial body to stop this childish bickering and get back to debating the kinds of weighty constitutional issues that have absorbed the court in recent years, such as whether a city can legally force an exotic dancer to cover her entire nipple, or just the part that pokes out.
- In a few minutes we encounter dramatic proof that China's population is 1.1 billion: At least that many people are in a traffic jam with us. I have never seen a traffic jam like this- a huge, confused, gear-grinding, smoke-spewing, kaleidoscopic mass of vehicles, on the road and on the shoulders, stretching for miles and miles, every single driver simultaneously honking and attempting to change lanes. Our driver, Bill, puts on a wondrous show of skill, boldly bluffing other drivers, displaying lightning reflexes and great courage, aiming for spaces that I would not have attempted in a go-kart. Watching him, we passengers became swept up in the drama, our palms sweating each time he makes another daring, seemingly impossible move that will, if it succeeds, gain us maybe two whole feet.
We pass an exciting hour and a half this way, finally arriving at the source of the problem, which is, needless to say, a Repair Crew. Providing security are a half-dozen men who look like police officers or soldiers, standing around smoking and talking, ignoring the crazed traffic roiling past them. The work crew itself consists of eight men, seven of whom are watching one man, who's sitting in the middle of the highway holding a hammer and a chisel. As we inch past, this man is carefully positioning the chisel on a certain spot on the concrete. It takes him a minute or so to get it exactly where he wants it, then, with great care, he raises the hammer and strikes the chisel. I can just barely hear the ping sound over the sound of the honking. The man lifts up the chisel to evaluate the situation. I estimate that, barring unforeseen delays, this particular repair job should easily be completed in 12,000 years. These guys are definitely qualified to do highway repair in the U.S.
- p. 96
- I think everybody should go to Bimini from time to time. I think President Bush and whoever is governing the Soviet Union this afternoon should meet there. They would definitely have a more relaxed kind of summit.
ALICE TOWN, BAHAMAS- In a surprise development, the leaders of the two superpowers announced today that they have learned all the words, in English AND Russian, to "Conch Ain't Got No Bone."
Maybe you should go to Bimini, too. Maybe I'll even see you there, and we can wave to each other, if we're not feeling too lethargic. Please address me as "Bonefish Dave."
- p. 130
Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys (1995)Edit
- Contrary to what many women believe, it's fairly easy to develop a long-term, stable, intimate, and mutually fulfilling relationship with a guy. Of course this guy has to be a Labrador retriever. With human guys, it's extremely difficult. This is because guys don't really grasp what women mean by the term relationship.
- p. 59
Dave Barry in Cyberspace (1996)Edit
- Buying the right computer and getting it to work properly is no more complicated than building a nuclear reactor from wristwatch parts in a darkened room using only your teeth.
- The first human beings didn't need computers, because they had no numbers. This was a big problem for parents, because they had no way to control their children ("You kids stop that! I mean it! I'm going to count to... um... to... YOU KIDS STOP THAT!")
- p. 15
- It was the ancient Egyptians who first figured out that numbers could, if you added and subtracted them, be used to form mathematics; this made it possible, for the first time, to build the pyramids as well as keep score in bowling.
- p. 16
- Clearly, nobody was going to stand in the way of this amazing new technology. But because of the extremely high cost and phenomenal inaccuracy of early computers, the only customer for them was the federal government. In 1890, for the first time, the government used computing machines to conduct the census; it was completed in a record two months, and it yielded much valuable information, including the startling fact that the United States had only twelve residents, all of them named "Earl A. Snepp."
As you would expect, when the federal income tax was enacted in 1913, the Internal Revenue Service quickly embraced the computer. The model used by the IRS was a simple yet effective device that employed a bank of electrically charged nails and a series of cardboard cards with various patterns of holes punched in them; when the nails were pressed down onto a card, they passed through the holes and formed a complete electrical circuit by pircing the naked bodies of taxpayers who had been summoned for audits.
- p. 20
- But it was not until World War II that the U.S. government began to unleash the true power of this technology, when our intelligence forces first employed computers to break enemy codes. Probably the most famous example concerns a top-secret cable sent from the Japanese military high command to Japan's ambassador in Washington on December 3, 1941. The cable, intercepted by U.S. agents, read:
E-WAY ILL-WAY ATTACK-AY EARL-PAY ARBOR-HAY
This cable was immediately fed into the U.S. War Department's top-secret code-breaking computer, code-named CODEBREAKER, which consisted of thousands of interconnected electronic switches, or "relays." Unlike human intelligence analysts, CODEBREAKER was able to work on the problem nonstop, 24 hours a day, never taking a coffee break (Although it did go to the bathroom four times), until finally, in March of 1944, it gave up. Before it quit, however, CODEBREAKER was able to correctly identify "Tokyo" as "a city in Asia"- information that was to prove vital in the war effort.
- p. 20-21
- The next major advance came soon after the war, with the construction of the first commercially available electronic digital computer, UNIVAC. This device, which contained 20,000 vacuum tubes, occupied 1,500 square feet, and weighed 40 tons; there was also a laptop version weighing 27 tons. UNIVAC was capable of performing 5,000 mathematical calculations per second (Although it did get most of the answers wrong), which, although slow by today's standards, meant it was now possible for a single corporate employee to do something that formerly was impossible- play solitaire on the computer screen. The modern electronic office was born.
- p. 21
- We're just beginning to scratch the surface of the capabilities of this incredible tool. Just as the people who were alive when the telephone was invented had no way of knowing that the new device would someday make it possible for virtually every person on Earth, regardless of physical location, to be interrupted at dinner, so are we fundamentally ignorant of the ways in which the computer will ultimately change our lives. We cannot see the future; we do not know what lies around the next bend on the Information Superhighway; we cannot predict where, ultimately, the Computer Revolution will take us. All we know for certain is that, when we finally get there, we don't have enough RAM.
- p. 209
Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs (1997)Edit
- I'm Really Serious. Do Not Turn the Page. You Will Regret It.
- p. xvii
Dave Barry Turns 50 (1998)Edit
- If someone is nice to you but rude to the waiter, they are not a nice person.
- On the business front, by 1955 the United States was being flooded with cheap, shoddy products from Japan. We of course laughed at these products and at the Japanese; we could not imagine in our wildest dreams that they would one day stomp on our consumer-electronics industry the way Godzilla stomped on Tokyo. If somebody had told us that the Japanese would eventually try to sell us cars, we would have laughed and laughed, and then we would have gone back to trying to start our flooded Nash Ramblers.
- p. 70
- Americans loved Disneyland, because it gave them something good, something decent, something that epitomized a quality that vacationing American families value above all else: clean toilets.
- p. 71
- 1957- There was big trouble this year for the Boomers. There we were, innocently enjoying our childhoods, when, without warning, the Russians launched the first man-made, Earth-orbiting godless satellite, named Sputnik. America went crazy. Until then, we had just assumed that we were far superior to the Russians, because they were just a bunch of vodka-swilling potato chompers wearing bad suits, whereas we were a highly advanced consumer society with color televisions and Amana freezers and record players with as many as four speeds. And suddenly we find out that the Russians were BEATING US IN THE SPACE RACE!!!
- p. 78
- Guess who got punished for this. Do you think it was the grown-ups, who let the Russians get ahead? Of course not. It was the same group that had to get the polio shots: us kids. All kinds of experts came crawling out of the academic woodwork to declare that Americans were science and math morons, frittering away our brainpower playing Davy Crockett while Russian children were learning about the cosine. And so I remember 1957 as the year when school became less fun. From that point on, we spent a lot less time making authentic medieval castles out of papier-mâché, and a lot more time learning about the ionosphere. I suppose this change also had to do with the fact that we were getting older, but at the time I viewed it as yet another reason to hate the Russians.
- p. 79
- Dad was busy earning money so that the family could purchase the new Buick, which boasted 44 pounds of chromed trim. The Russians may have had working space satellites, but they had nothing like that.
- p. 81
- If I had to pick one year to represent the Fifties, I'd pick 1958. For one thing, it was the year that the folks at Wham-O, always looking for new ways to raise the level of American culture, gave us the Hula Hoop. This was a bright-colored plastic hoop that you spun around your hips using a hula-type motion. I realize that this sounds stupid, but you must trust me when I tell you, as one who participated extensively in this fad, that it really was stupid. In terms of intellectual content, the Hula Hoop made the Frisbee look like international championship chess.
- p. 81
- In consumer news, the American automotive industry, continuing its tradition of meeting basic consumer needs, came up with two major technological advances in 1959: 1. The Edsel. 2. Even bigger tailfins. Despite these accomplishments, increasing numbers of ungrateful Americans were purchasing the cheap and reliable Volkswagen Beetle, even though it had hardly any chrome and no fins whatsoever. At first the U.S. auto industry laughed at the VW, but finally realized that, faced with this new low-end competition, it had to start making smaller, cheaper cars. But these would not just be any small cars; no, by God, these were going to be really crappy small cars, the theory being that consumers would be unhappy with them, and thus resume buying traditional American models that were designed more along the lines of freight locomotives.
- p. 84-85
- And thus Detroit gave us the Ford Falcon, the Chevrolet Corvair, the Studebaker Lark, and the Plymouth Valiant (my mom's car). As the Germans, and then the Japanese, began to send over better and better economy models, Detroit shrewdly countered with a whole parade of stunningly bad cars, including the Ford Pinto, which exploded; the American Motors Gremlin, which appeared to have been designed by very young, poorly coordinated children; and of course the legendary Chevrolet Vega (I had one of these), a car that apparently had rust installed on the assembly line. You know how, in old Star Trek episodes, when people get beamed up to the Enterprise, their bodies become sort of transparent, and then they disappear entirely? Well, the Vega would do that while you were driving it.
- p. 85
- Do you remember that little vent that cars used to have on the front windows, so on coolish days you could let a little fresh air in without causing a big draft? WHO THE HELL TOOK THAT LITTLE VENT AWAY?
- p. 88
- You may have gone to college and learned how to solve all of society's problems, but when you get out in the real world, nobody ever asks you to how to solve all of society's problems. In the real world, what people ask you are questions like: "Can you make coffee?" and "Where's the rent money?"
- p. 135
- The antiwar protests led to pro-war- or more accurately, anti-anti-war- protests, including a big one in Manhattan in which thousands of people, many of them construction workers, marched through the streets. I went out and watched that one during my lunch hour. My main memory is of two men, both about my age: One was a crew-cut protestor, wearing a tool belt; the other was a long-haired guy on the sidewalk. The long-haired guy started yelling "STOP THE WAR! STOP THE WAR!" The crew-cut guy ran over to him and, stopping just short of making physical contact, began yelling "BETTER DEAD THAN RED! BETTER DEAD THAN RED!" The two of them stood there, close enough to exchange spittle, screaming slogans at each other. That was political discourse in 1970.
- p. 137
- The waterbed trend was similar to the fulfillment movement, in the sense that you paid for something that was supposed to bring you happiness, but you wound up with something less fulfilling, in this case motion sickness and water damage.
- p. 142
- 1973- This was the year that the war finally ended. Nixon called it "peace with honor," although he surely knew that the Communists would take over, just the same as if we had never gotten involved over there in the first place- except of course for the hundreds of thousands of people who got hurt or killed. So you tell me why the whole thing was not a terrible, criminal waste. You tell me why Henry Kissinger got the Nobel Peace Prize, instead of being required- along with all the other "leaders" who kept sending Americans over there long after they knew the war was pointless- to get down on his knees and beg the forgiveness of the American veterans, and their families, and the Vietnamese people. Everybody knew that "peace with honor" was bullshit, but nobody cared at that point. Everybody just wanted it to be over. When it finally was, there was no joy, only relief.
- p. 151. NOTE: The Vietnam War did not end in 1973, but in 1975. 1973 was the year the United States officially withdrew from the conflict and removed the last of its combat personnel from South Vietnam.
- Actually, I have fond feelings toward Gerald Ford, largely because of a semi-encounter I had with him in 1995, when he was in his eighties. We had both given speeches at an event in Bakersfield, California, and we were both among the passengers aboard a small, two-propeller commercial plane headed for Los Angeles, where most of us were making connections. The flight was running late, and although everybody was anxious to get going, we figured we had no choice but to sit through the safety lecture from the co-pilot. "Ladies and gentlemen," he began, "I'd like to take just a few minutes to..." "Let's just go!" snapped Gerald Ford, former president of the United States. "Okay, sir!" said the co-pilot, sitting down immediately. That is my kind of leadership.
- p. 153
- A few years ago I got into a heated argument with the 18-year-old son of a friend of mine. Actually, it wasn't so much an argument as it was me getting angry at him for something he said. What he said, basically, was that he wished there was a war like Vietnam going on right then, so that the members of his generation would have something big, something exciting, in their lives. I told him that this was a reprehensible thing to say; I told him he should not want people to die to keep his generation amused. But in retrospect- although I obviously don't want another Vietnam- I see what he meant. He didn't want people to die; he wanted there to be something to give his life significance, something to mark his formative era that would be more meaningful than whatever TV sitcoms were popular at the time. We Boomers had that; we had a lot going on, maybe too much.
- p. 159
Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway (2001)Edit
- When I purchase a food item at the supermarket, I can be confident that the label will state how much riboflavin is in it. The United States government requires this, and for a good reason, which is: I have no idea. I don't even know what riboflavin is. I do know I eat a lot of it. For example, I often start the day with a hearty Kellogg's strawberry Pop-Tart, which has, according to the label, a riboflavin rating of 10 percent. I assume this means that 10 percent of the Pop-Tart is riboflavin. Maybe it's the red stuff in the middle. Anyway, I'm hoping riboflavin is a good thing; if it turns out that it's a bad thing, like "riboflavin" is the Latin word for "cockroach pus," then I am definitely in trouble.
- The Constitution of the United States of America, Article V, Section 1: "There shall be a National Anthem containing incomprehensible words and a high note that normal humans cannot hit without risk of hernia."
- But when it came to eloquence, George [H. W.] Bush was Winston Churchill compared with his vice president, the legendary J. Danforth Quayle. You never knew what Dan was going to say next, and the wonderful thing was, Dan clearly didn't know either. He'd be asked a question, and he'd start talking, and you could see in his eyes that he was thinking, Ohmigod I'm talking and I HAVE NO EARTHLY IDEA WHAT I'M TRYING TO SAY! I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT I'M SAYING RIGHT NOW!
- A lot of people were very upset, especially people in Palm Beach County, who were saying that they had accidentally voted for Pat Buchanan, which was clearly a mistake. Even Pat Buchanan admitted this.
- "You'd have to be nuts to vote for me!" he declared. "Hell, I didn't even vote for me!"
- [Gary] Hart was clearly the most attractive candidate, the only one with even a remote chance of beating Ronald Reagan, so naturally the Democrats selected: Walter Mondale. When Mondale accepted the nomination, he wooed the voter by informing them...that if they elected him as president, his first move would be to jack up their income taxes. Walter you sweet talker!
- What was life like in the colonies? Probably the best word to describe it would be "colonial".
Dave Barry's History of the Millennium (So Far) (2007)Edit
- U.S. News Organizations observe the anniversary of September 11 with investigations about the nation's continuing vulnerability to terrorism. First, the New York Daily News reports that two of its reporters carried box cutters, razor knives, and pepper spray on fourteen commercial flights without getting caught. Then ABC News reports that it smuggled fifteen pounds of uranium into New York City. Then Fox News reports that it flew Osama bin Laden to Washington, D.C., and videotaped him touring the White House.
- In sports, Vijay Singh wins the Masters golf tournament and is awarded the coveted green jacket, which is quickly snatched away by angry Buick executives and given to Tiger Woods.
- In sports, the U.S. Open is not actually held because it's more efficient just to mail the check to Tiger Woods.
- Tiger Woods is kidnapped by rival golfers, sedated, handcuffed, placed in a straitjacket, wrapped in chains, and locked inside a trunk, which is then weighted with concrete blocks and dropped into the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean. He easily wins the PGA Championship.
I'll Mature When I'm Dead (2010)Edit
- This book is dedicated to everybody who buys this book. Without you, I would have to get an actual job.
- If Man A asks Man B for directions, Man B, realizing that Man A is a weak, direction-asking type of male who probably also reads owner's manuals, could decide to attack Man A's village and plunder his women. Man A is not about to run that type of risk.
- p. 27
- There was a time when the human race did not have technology. This time was called "the 1950s." I was a child then, and it was horrible. There were only three TV channels, and at any given moment at least two of them were showing men playing the accordion in black and white. There was no remote control, so if you wanted to change the channel, you had to yell at your little brother, "Phil! Change the channel!" (In those days people named their children "Phil.") Your household had one telephone, which weighed eleven pounds and could be used as a murder weapon. It was permanently tethered to the living-room wall, and you had to dial it by manually turning a little wheel, and if you got a long-distance call, you'd yell, "It's long distance!" in the same urgent tone you would use to yell "Fire!" Everybody would come sprinting into the living room, because in the 1950s long distance was more exciting than sex. In fact there was no sex in the 1950s, that I know of.
- p. 51
- There were automobiles, but they lacked many of the features that automobiles have today, such as a working motor. In the Barry household, we had a series of cars named (these were all real Barry cars) the "Rambler," the "Minx," the "Metropolitan," and the "Valiant." You could rely on these cars- rain or shine, hot or cold- to not start. The "Metropolitan," in particular, was no more capable of internal combustion than of producing a litter of puppies.
- p. 54
- Sharks are hardy creatures, but they do not thrive on public transportation.
- p. 83
- Two invasive species in particular have caused serious concern: Burmese pythons, and New Yorkers. The New Yorkers have been coming for years, which is weird because pretty much all they do once they get to Florida is bitch about how everything here sucks compared to the earthly paradise that is New York. They continue to root, loudly, for the Jets, the Knicks, the Mets, and the Yankees; they never stop declaring, loudly, that in New York the restaurants are better, the stores are nicer, the people are smarter, the public transportation is free of sharks, etc. The Burmese pythons are less obnoxious, but just as alarming in their own way. These are snakes that started out as pets of Miami residents, until one day these residents stopped smoking crack and said, "Jesus H. Christ! We're living with a giant snake!"
- p. 84-85
- So they let the pythons go, and a lot of them ended up in the Everglades, which is basically Las Vegas for pythons. They've been engaging in wild python sex out there for years; wildlife biologists estimate that there are now more than one hundred thousand of them. They can grow to be longer than twenty feet, and they don't have any natural enemies, so they're eating all the other Everglades animals. The wildlife authorities are desperately trying to figure out what to do about this. My preference would be to use tactical nuclear weapons, but this would never fly with the wildlife community, which regards the Everglades as a precious ecosystem, even though to the naked civilian eye it is a giant festering stinkhole of muck.
- p. 85
- The American newspaper industry is in serious trouble. How serious? Consider: In 1971, when I was hired for my first newspaper job, there were 62 million newspaper subscribers in the United States; today, there are twelve, an estimated five of whom are dead and therefore unlikely to renew.
- p. 185
- I have, over the years, received in the mail approximately 17 million manuscripts from people whose goal is to become professional writers. They want me to discover them, encourage them, mentor them, find them an agent, etc. Some of these people have talent; some of them have actually become professional writers. But a great many of them will never become professional writers, because- follow me closely here- they are not good at writing. Of course I don't tell them that. Probably nobody will ever tell them that. They will continue to try and fail, and in the end they'll be bitter, like the early-round contestants on American Idol who think they got booted because Simon Cowell is mean, rather than because their singing sounds like a bull being castrated with a hockey stick. These contestants humiliated themselves on national TV because when they were growing up, loving to sing, always singing around the house, no thoughtful family member or caring friend ever had the kindness to put a hand on their shoulder and say, in a gentle and loving voice, "You suck." They needed Simon Cowells, but instead they were surrounded by Randy Jacksons and Paula Abduls, trying to be nice, not wanting to hurt their feelings, and thus setting them up for failure.
- p. 240
- Here's the problem: A lot of parents are insane. You may be one of these parents without knowing it, because the craziness takes over you gradually.
- p. 241
- I think that parents- not all of them, but a lot of them- are sucking the fun out of kids' sports. They're making it clear to their kids that they think sports is about winning, and only winning. This is a reasonable value to instill if you honestly believe your child is going to become a professional athlete. But you need to remember two things: 1. Your child is not, in fact, going to become a professional athlete. 2. There are more important things in life than winning. Such as not being a jerk.
- p. 244-245
- Your kids don't need you shouting at them on the playing field, any more than they need you shouting at them in the classroom. Let them play the game and figure out for themselves how they feel about it, without having to worry about your feelings, too. Make it clear that your happiness doesn't depend on the score. Cheer for your kid, sure, but do it cheerfully. If you can't manage that, take a walk; the game will go on fine without you, because it's not about you.
- p. 245
Big Trouble (1999)Edit
- The main reason why Deeber's car ignition had never been wired to a bomb is that reporters have poor do-it-yourself skills. (Chapter 1)
- As it happens, the Herk household did have a dog, named Roger. Roger was the random result of generations of hasty, unplanned dog sex: Among other characteristics, he had the low-slung body of a beagle, the pointy ears of a German shepherd, the enthusiasm of a Labrador retriever, the stubby tail of a boxer, and the intelligence of celery. (Chapter 2)
- Inside the family room, Arthur Herk was methodically, relentlessly changing channels. He was doing this partly because the instinct to change channels is embedded deep in the male genetic code, and partly because he knew his wife and stepdaughter hated it. (Chapter 2)
- Miami turned out to be a great market: It seemed as if everybody here wanted things that went bang. You had your professional drug-cartel muscle people, who needed guns that shot thousands of rounds per minute to compensate for the fact that their aim was terrible. You had your basic local criminals, who wanted guns that would scare the hell out of civilians; and your civilians, trying to keep up with your local criminals. You had your hunters, who, to judge from the rifles they bought, were after deer that traveled inside armored personnel carriers. You had your "collectors" and your "enthusiasts," who lived in three-thousand-dollar trailers furnished with seven-thousand-dollar grenade launchers. You had an endless stream of shady characters representing a bewildering variety of revolutionary, counterrevolutionary, counter-counterrevolutionary and counter-counter-counterrevolutionary movements all over the Caribbean and Central and South America, who almost always wanted guns on credit. (Chapter 5)
- Arthur, compelled by masculine instinct, leaned over and frowned at the contents of the case, exactly the way countless males have frowned at household appliances, plumbing, car engines, and all manner of other mechanical objects that they did not begin to understand. (Chapter 5)
- After the door closed behind them, there was a moment of silence in the Jolly Jackal. Finally, John, sitting on the floor next to the briefcase containing ten thousand dollars in cash, said to Leo, Kakimi chertyami oni viigrali holodnuyu voinu? This translates roughly to: "How the hell did these people win the Cold War?" (Chapter 6)
- Monica was glad Walter was married, so she didn't have to go into any of the other reasons she didn't want to get involved with him, such as the fact that he had the intellectual depth of mayonnaise. (Chapter 7)
- Even veteran air travelers find Miami International Airport disorienting. It's often crowded, and it seems to have been designed so that every passenger, no matter where he or she is coming from or going to has to jostle past every other passenger. The main concourse looks like a combination international bazaar and refugee camp. There are big clots of people everywhere: tour groups, school trips, salsa bands, soccer teams, vast extended families, all waiting for planes that will not leave for hours, maybe days. There aren't enough places to sit, so the clots plop down and sprawl on the mungy carpet, surrounded by Appalachian Foothill-sized mounds of luggage, including gigantic suitcases stuffed to bursting, as well as a vast array of consumer goods purchased in South Florida for transport back to Latin America, including TVs, stereos, toys, major appliances and complete sets of tires. Many of these items have been wrapped in thick cocoons of greenish stretch plastic to deter baggage theft, which is an important airport industry. Another one being the constant "improvements" to the airport, which seem to consist mainly of the installation of permanent-looking signs asking the public to excuse the inconvenience while the airport is being improved. The airport air smells of musty tropical rot, and it's filled with the sounds of various languages - Spanish predominantly, but also English, Creole, German, French, Italian, and perhaps most distinct of all, Cruise Ship Passenger. (Chapter 11)
- It was the standard airport-security operation, which meant it appeared to have been designed to hassle law-abiding passengers just enough to reassure them, while at the same time providing virtually no protection against criminals with an IQ higher than celery. (Chapter 11)
Tricky Business (2002)Edit
- Gamblers need action, even when the odds suck. And so they return to the ships, night after night—the slot-machine ladies, clutching their plastic cups of quarters; the shouting, hard-drinking craps-table crowd; the roulette addicts, who truly believe, all evidence to the contrary, that there is something lucky about their birthdates; the blackjack loners, with their foolproof systems that don't work—all of them eager to resume the inexorable process of transferring their cash to whoever owns the ship. In the case of the Extravaganza of the Seas, the owner of record was a man named Bobby Kemp, who was usually described in the newspaper as a millionaire entrepreneur. Kemp liked the look of that, entrepreneur, although he personally could not pronounce it. (Chapter 2)
- Despite countless hours of practice, dozens of auditions, many artistic disputes, seven demo CDs, and two radical changes in hairstyle, Arrival never arrived. It wasn't that they were bad; it was just that, as they reluctantly came to understand, they really weren't anything special. They were competent. The problem was, there were competent bands everywhere. Competence wasn't the key to stardom; you needed something else. Whatever it was, Arrival didn't have it. (Chapter 3)
- Experiences like that led the band to develop the Retaliation Song. The way it worked was, if they were forced to perform a song they hated, they'd retaliate by playing a song that was even worse. For example, if the band had to play "My Way," it would counterattack with Bobby Goldsboro's sap-oozing piece of dreck, "Honey" (She wrecked the car and she was sad, and so afraid that I'd be mad, but what the heck!). One night, at a wedding reception, an extremely drunk man ordered the band to perform "The Ballad of the Green Berets," and then, a half hour later, demanded that it be played again. That night, Arrival struck back with the hydrogen bomb of retaliation songs: "In the Year 2525," the relentlessly ugly Zager and Evans song with the disturbingly weird lyrics (You won't find a thing to chew! Nobody's gonna look at you!). Some guests actually fled the room. (Chapter 3)
- The remote control had 48 buttons. No resident of the Old Farts Senile Dying Center knew how to operate it. They were the Greatest Generation, men and women who had survived the Depression, defeated the Nazis, built America into the greatest nation the world had ever seen. But this damned gizmo had beaten them. (Chapter 4)
- So for a while there, Eddie was one happy ship's officer. But like most men whose brains are in their dicks, he was not really thinking things through. (Chapter 5)
- Once, when the bar was slow, he told her about things he'd found in his clients' pools. Alligators, for example; he'd encountered at least a dozen. Also the occasional snake. Hundreds of frogs. These were to be expected in South Florida, which as far as the native wildlife was concerned was still a swamp, no matter how many houses got built on it. (Chapter 7)
- Big Trouble (film)