Monday, March 24, 2008


Gerald Sirkin died a year and a day ago. Amongst his files are Cartoon Ideas, Commonplace Book, and Speeches.. Here is a sampling:

Letter to Joan D of May 27, 1975, referring to her circular pinned to the door of the Store, on the subject of male bread bakers for Naromi Land Trust:

Dear Joan: It was kind of you to include me among Sherman ’s Foremost Bakers, especially after my confession that my only credential is that I have never tried baking bread and therefore have never had a failure. However, I have a recipe from my grandmother (renowned in our family as Lead-Bread Sirkin) and I have a month to practice, so we will see what emerges. If successful, I shall deliver it to the Store. If not, I shall deliver it to Kenny Grant for use in road repairs. Come what may, something in Sherman will gain. I hope it will be Naromi—a kneady cause.

Yours, Jerry Sirkin


NS: I’ve got a 41-year-old husband.

GS: Oh yes, but still almost as good as new. Practically no depreciation.


At a dinner party in honor of Harry M and wife given by the Ks, we all, some 28 of us, sat around the room and Mrs. M explained the complex rules of a parlor game she proposed we play. Harry tried to help by giving a simpler, clearer explanation, but she stopped him. She did not want his help. Finally she seemed to be finished. Dead silence, broken by

GS: “Well, that was fun! Now what shall we play?”

Peter W came in. He looked down at Natalie’s feet. She was wearing no shoes, and one white sock and one gray sock.

GS: “She has another pair just like that.”


Stigler in review of Heller, New Directions of Political Economy: “If fiscal policy proves to have been a minor force [in maintaining our recent prosperity], the new economics will have been an awful failure.”

GS: “And if the world is flat, we will fall off if we walk too far.”


Senator McGovern has charisma,” says his campaign manager.

GS: Is he taking anything for it?


NS: “In the latest Economic Weekly, the reviewer of Taya Zinkin’s new book referred to a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago who disparaged Indian dance without knowing enough about it to distinguish the main types.”

GS: “Ah well. I don’t know all the different kinds of diseases but I don’t like any of them.”


(In Ghent ) Shop advertises “real Bengali tea.”

GS: “It has twigs and stones in it.”


GS: “Your hair doesn’t need a washing so much as it needs a pressing.”


At a New Year’s Eve party, GS suddenly announced that everyone was required to speak for five minutes on a topic which each would draw by lot. The topics which he provided included:

The State of Medical Science Under the Caliphate of Cordoba
The Piltdown Man, a Nasty Case of Skullduggery
Municipal Administration in Corsica , 1919-1939
Cultural Integrative Forces Among the Amazon Tribes
Lafcadio Hearn, Genius or Charlatan?
The Use of Death Symbols in Iclandic Sagas
Migratory Birds of Sierra Leone
What Do Ichthyologists Really Know?
Elements of Platonism in the Works of John Ruskin
Great Moments in Numismatics
Fungi in a Changing World
Harmonic Systems Before Monteverdi


NS: When you laugh, you have rings under your eyes.

GS: I’ve been thinking of giving up laughing.


We were driving. Someone said as we were passing cows in a field, “When they face east, it is going to rain.”

GS: “When they face west, it is not going to rain. They are facing both ways. There will be scattered showers.”


The others had just left murmuring “baby-sitter.” As we started leaving, Neil said, “You don’t have a baby-sitter. You don’t have to go.”

GS: “Our doorman’s waiting up for us. He’s very young. He’s only nine years old.”


The elementary economics examination was given this morning in the gymnasium. GS was a proctor. On the gym’s bulletin board appears a notice of students’ grades in aquatics. No one got below a C.

GS: “To flunk aquatics, you have to drown.”


James Mill says Sir William Jones says Hindoos boast of three inventions: chess, decimal, and “the method of instruction by apologues.”

NS: What’s that?

GS: You give them an apple if they get it right and hit them over the head with a log if they get it wrong.


Sirkin’s Law: If you have to lie to make your point, you don’t have a point. This Law is found in the penumbra formed by emanations from the ten commandments.


A newspaper announces that the Netherlands is giving Harvard $200,000 for a chair in Dutch culture.

GS: It takes $500,000 to establish a chair. $200,000 will only be enough for a stool.



Or The New College Jeerleader (l969

We’ll burn the place down, says the militant,
If you don’t make the courses more relevant.
Just scrap the old studies
And we can be buddies
Though we’ll still burn it down for the helluvit.


Cartoon Ideas

Man saying to attorney, “I want a will in which I take it all with me.”


A group of dinosaurs and other huge beasts walking into a building which has a large sign, MONSTER RALLY.


Radio news commentator reading his broadcast from a newspaper. He is saying, “A special bulletin has just been handed to me.”


Woman in shop selling “Lifetime” pens, pens guaranteed for 20 years, etc. Woman is saying to clerk, “Don’t you have something for a very old man?”


Series of pictures. 1, Man putting towels marked “Hotel Rumsey” in suitcase. 2, At door, he sees sign reading “Have you forgotten anything?” 3, Man pulling bedspread off bed and stuffing it in suitcase.

By Natalie Sirkin


Bob said...

True wit.

And not a foul word used.
How did he do it?

GS: “To flunk aquatics, you have to drown.”

Thanks, I enjoyed this.

Don Pesci said...

Not at all surprising. Geniuses are like that, extremely polite. I remember attenting a house affair during which the great John Chamberlain, Gerry Sirkin and Natalie were all present. I had the good sense to shut up and enjoy the show.

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