An unfortunate loss of a good joke: leftist thinking finally overtakes math parody

There was an old, and sadly funny joke about the Evolution of Math Quizzes that went like this:


A logger cuts and sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is four-fifths of that amount. What is his profit?

1970s New-math

A logger exchanges a set (L) of lumber for a set (M) of money. The cardinality of Set M is 100. The set C of production costs contains 20 fewer points. What is the cardinality of Set P of profits?


A logger cuts and sells a truckload of lumber for $100. Her cost is $80, her profit is $20. Find and circle the number 20.


An unenlightened logger cuts down a beautiful stand of 100 trees in order to make a $20 profit. Write an essay explaining how you feel about this as a way to make money. Topic for discussion: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel?

Ha ha ha ha! Right?

Unfortunately, wrong. For here, as incidentally reported in Foreign Policy, is an actual math quiz question from a German textbook:

In 2004, a bread roll cost 40 cents. For the wheat that went into it, the farmer received less than 2 cents. What do you think about that?

This is not the first time that reality has overtaken parody (here is one small example), but the rate at which it is doing so is beginning to exceed the rate at which comedians can create new jokes. And, it should be obvious, if comedians cannot write funny satirical material quickly enough, they will be out of work and forced into collecting unemployment, further burdening the welfare system. Therefore, I propose a law banning all new social behavior that overlaps with any prior-produced satire, unless that said behavior is itself unintentionally hilarious.

One such exception is this example from today’s New York Daily News (full story here):

Life imitated the movies Tuesday when two dopes wheeled a dead man around Hell’s Kitchen in an office chair as they tried to cash his Social Security check, cops said.

The “Weekend at Bernie’s” stunt was an attempt to collect 66-year-old Virgilio Cintron’s dough less than a day after he died, police said.

James O’Hare, and his pal David Dalaia attempted to dress Cintron’s corpse in a pair of pants, a T-shirt and sneakers…and wheeled him from his W.52nd St. apartment to a check-cashing outlet around the block on Ninth Ave.

“Witnesses observed Mr. Cintron flopping from side to side and these individuals propping him up as they rolled along,” said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.

The casual corpse on the sidewalk at 3:45p.m. drew a large crowd, including an on-duty detective who was eating lunch at a restaurant next-door…O’Hare and Dalaia were taken to the Midtown North stationhouse, where last night police were preparing to charge them with check fraud.

Update: 11 January 2007

Turns out that the Six Million Dollar Man Lee Majors saw the Daily News story and called his buddy Terry Kiser, who played Bernie in the movies. Kiser says that there is a script in the works for a third installment to the series, and that he will offer bit parts to O’Hare and Dalaia, which gives me hope that the human race has not entirely lost its sense of humor.


  1. John Perry

    I looked at the Foreign Policy article & didn’t see that question you claim is in a German textbook. I can’t even find the word “bread” in the article. Did you obtain the question from another source?

  2. John Perry

    Bah. That’s what I get for not looking at the pictures.


  3. We al know where the $0.38 / roll goes – into the pockets of the evil wholesalers and merchants!

    Why, we can do much better if we collectivize the farms, and if we “sell” all bread at state-run “shops” – don’t worry about the “bread-lines” they allow for more “community”!

    Just ask the Russians and the Poles, etc…!

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