Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey

. . . actually, they’re mine or my dad’s, and I’ve put them in bold.

When I was young, my father used to pose me this task, “Jerry, imagine a face that you’ve never seen.” I couldn’t do it. Maybe some of you can, but when I try, it always resembles someone I know.

Second Deep Thought, which derives from the first. This morning I was drinking my coffee: I have only one cup per day, but it’s a latte I make on my Breville Cafe Roma espresso machine, a great deal on a pressure machine, and it’s lasted several years (the trick is using distilled deionized water, so it never needs cleaning).

This is what my morning java looks like; it’s in a cup I had made with a logo sent by a friend, featuring the LOLCat translation of Why Evolution is True:

But I digress. Here’s the second Deep Thought. Many of you, like me, are avid fans of good coffee. Even though my intake is limited, I love the taste and appreciate the wake-up buzz.  A world without coffee would be inconceivable to me, although that was what the ancient world is like, and what many places are like now. (How did the Spartans manage to fight without jave?)

Now think of this: what other things are even BETTER than coffee but don’t exist? Imagine the delicious beverages and foodstuffs that we’ll never know about because their ingredients don’t exist. Could you imagine a banana, or a roast goose, if neither that fruit nor fowl existed? No, you couldn’t. Sometimes stuff like this bothers me.

Nota bene: Just because one can imagine, say, a beverage that is greater than coffee is not proof that that beverage exists. I am not Anselm of Canterbury.

Lagniappe: My ducklings are growing, though the brood of five newborns is gone and I fear they are in the Great Pond in the Sky. But here’s the thriving brood of four, eating the Cheerios I gave them this morning (note: DO NOT give bread to ducks or ducklings: it has no nutritional value for them. Try instant oatmeal or Cheerios [not the sugary kind]).


  1. Jeannie Hess
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    When you read a novel, don’t you form an image of the character they describe?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely. But it’s usually in terms of which actors I would cast if it were to be made into a movie (or in terms of an amalgam of people I’ve known who have the same vibe as the characters).

  2. kieran
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    I don’t drink tea or coffee as such I have little to no opinion on what is better than coffee but doesn’t exist. However, the angels share of whiskey/brandy is clearly better than coffee and it does not exist.

  3. Randy schenck
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I suspect you do not miss what you never knew. Does not matter if it exists or does not. Coffee is something that I have always done but was never a connoisseur of it. I just want a cup that taste normal to me and not strong or old. Could I get by without it, I probably could, but why? I stopped getting along with that cigarette that always went with the coffee long ago.

    • Colin McLachlan
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that cigarette was the hardest one to give up.

  4. jknath1
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Where can I get a t-shirt with your mug inscription/picture on it? Too cute!

    • Posted June 7, 2017 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      Just email me and I’ll send you the logo. You can then have it put on tee shirts, cups, etc. by places like Cafepress and Zazzle.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted June 7, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        If one has the logo, you can print it on a tee shirt yourself for a fraction of what it’d cost to have it done by someone else. Just buy the tee shirt, print the image out on a color copy machine onto heat transfer paper, easily obtainable. Then you can either have the copy shop do the transfer if they have a transfer press, or take it home and iron it on. I’ve done several tee shirts using this method and the results were quite satisfactory. But this method is just for tees and other fabrics that lie flat.

  5. Art
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    (How did the Spartans manage to fight without java?) Wine probably helped.

  6. µ
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Kurt Gödel’s coffee is better than your coffee. Such coffees must exist, but we cannot prove these coffees to be true.

    We should call this Coyne’s Incompleteness Theorem.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      Covfefe? Is that a drink? What would it taste like?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        An astringent, unpleasant brew, with heavy orange overtones and bitter aftertaste?

  7. busterggi
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Prime rib of unicorn, rare, au jus.

    • barn owl
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      I has a sad now.

    • Posted June 8, 2017 at 6:31 am | Permalink

      It’s because that is so delicious that unicorns didn’t survive the Ark and so are thought to be mythical.

      Also, apparently T. rex tasted like chicken.

  8. Adam
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    When I was a child and left to my own imaginings, I often wondered if there were any colors that had not been “invented” yet. I would try to imagine a “new” color that no one had ever seen before. I thought to myself: What would a color that had never been seen look like? Then I wondered: If I could imagine a new color, how would I show it to someone else? Would it be comprised of other colors? If it could be blended from other colors then it could not be new. So, what would a new color be made of? -And then my head would hurt and I would go outside and play.

    • busterggi
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Ah, but there are colors that ‘don’t exist’ at least to many people. Remember that not all people can see the same colors.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 7, 2017 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        Defne ‘color’. Insects can see into the ultraviolet. I don’t know of any animals that can see in the infrared but those ‘colors’ are there. The electromagnetic spectrum is continuous and virtually endless* and the only difference between the colors we see and the vast range that we don’t see is that we can’t ‘see’ the latter.

        You could take any arbitrary wavelength, give it a ‘color name’ (which is no more arbitrary than designating some shade of pink to be ‘fuschia’ for example) and bingo!, you’ve invented a color that nobody will ever see.


    • Posted June 7, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      Are you sure your name isn’t David Hume? 😉

      Hume thought that the only thing you could guarantee as existing without having investigated the world is a “missing shade” of a colour. (His example is blue, which makes me wonder if D. Adams got the idea of a superintelligent shade of blue from him.)

    • Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      There are special colors that only a few humans get to see: pure monochromatic colors produced at arbitrary wavelengths by tunable dye lasers…these don’t exist in the outside world.

  9. John Aylwin
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    I have a similar line of thought about art, particularly music. There are wondrous forms that hypothetically exist, but which have not yet been discovered/imagined. Incidentally, I realise there are wondrous forms that already exist but of which I’m ignorant. I often wonder how I might best learn of them. One such way has been to arrange a trade with someone who’s taste I respect. In order to avoid overload with dross (a particular problem with today’s swamp of media) I exchange one piece of music with my Brother once a month. It has to be something we think outstanding, as well as obscure. The trouble is he sends me some blues every month. (The blues: it’s all the same piece of music, but at least it’s a good one)

  10. Posted June 7, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Jack Handey looks a lot like Lawrence Krauss.

  11. BobTerrace
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I am content to recall some of thousands of things I have tasted and can anticipate, but not imagine, the thousands I have not tasted.

    I also appreciate the thousands of colors and millions of musical pieces that I have heard and those I have not yet heard.

    * This current attitude may have been influenced by the last hour of jazz I just listed to after my hours of gym and shower as I enjoy my 2 cups of 100% Colombian coffee.

  12. Posted June 7, 2017 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    When someone says, “Think of X”, just being told to do so limits parameters. In a dream state, however, your brain can take old perceptions or memories and mix them into something never before combined. Keep a notepad on the nightstand.

    I also greatly admire your cup.

    Are you the one that offered your ducks after dinner mints (Lifesavers) with the Cheerios?

  13. Posted June 7, 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Evolution and free will in one [sorta] comic. You might like.

    • Posted June 7, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink


    • busterggi
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      I liked it but had not choice.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      As often happens, though, the words being put into the compatibilist’s mouth are not quite what compatibilists actually say. I’d rewrite panel four like so:

      “And so you see that parts of your notion of free will are stupid and vacuous. Recognizing this, we can discard the nonsensical parts and define free will to be the sensible residue, which is compatible with determinism.”

      • Posted June 7, 2017 at 11:53 am | Permalink

        Given that the majority of people are dualists who accept libertarian free will, then there is a parallel between the scam at the top and the semantic scam at the bottom.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

          Scam? Personally I think it’s cool that pigeons are dinosaurs.

  14. Larry Cook
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Interesting that an atheist imagines his ducklings in “the Great Pond in the Sky”. Perhaps they’re enjoying a drink better than coffee with a cereal greater than Cheerios, although I can’t imagine it.

  15. Posted June 7, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Imagine something that doesn’t exist?
    ..and yet humans have done this many times. The wheel, tamed fire, metal implements, plastic, antibiotics, electricity, aircraft, microwave communications, GPS….
    Granted most of these existed naturally and all that was needed was to make use of or properly combine the “ingredients”. But just taking a natural phenomenon or material and using it for something that nature hadn’t intended it for was a yooge leap of the imagination!

  16. E.A. Blair
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Coffee upsets my stomach – I even feel a little queasy from the smell when I go through the supermarket aisle where they have the bulk coffee. I do like tea, however, and a local tea and spice merchant does individual custom blends for his regulars. I have my own personal Irish Breakfast on file with him.

    When I make a pitcher of iced tea, I add in a little bit of unsweetened Kool-Aid powder. The fruit flavor adds a sense of sweetness that means not having to sweeten it with sugar. My favorites are orange, cherry, raspberry, black cherry, strawberry and sharkleberry.

    • Richard Bond
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      When I was at University, I spent a lot of time in the Students’ Union coffee bar, and enjoyed coffee. Over the ensuing years, I came to prefer black coffee, and ever stronger. My last cup was about a dozen years later, in Yugoslavia, and was very strong Turkish coffee, with the bottom third of the cup consisting of grounds. I suddenly thought: “why am I drinking this”? and have never touched coffee since.

  17. tubby
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    My espresso machine died this past winter, so I’ll have to look into your recommendation when I get a new job. It lasted for years, but was finally done in by the high mineral content in the local water- it’s like a free calcium and iron supplement. I’ve been doomed to cold brew made in a couple of water jugs for months.

  18. Michael Fisher
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Future “sex” should be spectacular – neural lace implants, ‘wearing’ any body you want, in any environment that titillates ‘n’ all. Numbers of persons involved: From 1 up to vast. Probably will not be called “sex”

    All I ask is don’t let it be naff like Jane Fonda’s Piano Orgasm [Barbarella 1968]!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      A traducement of Roger Vadim, sir!

  19. David Duncan
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    I can imagine people I think I’ve never seen, but if I could draw them they would probably exist and be pointed out.

    Your lost ducklings are undoubtedly enjoying the very best tea in the Great Pond, where coffee has rightly been banned.

  20. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Chefs routinely imagine flavors that don’t exist and then create them. It’s their job.

  21. nicky
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Better than coffee? Easy peasy: a Chorey-lez-Beaunes or an Aloxe Corton…. no contest.

  22. JohnH
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    “Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
    Alice in Wonderland

  23. Posted June 7, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I can’t stand coffee – never even tried it because the smell is too awful.

    But I do know what it is like to have tasty drink and food, so in that we are alike!

  24. nicky
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    There are those things that smell so good, the taste cannot live up to it: freshly ground coffee, strawberries, vanilla pod, etc.
    Are there some ‘universals’ there?
    Of course we find the opposite too, taste much better than smell: a ripe camembert (many cheeses anyway), mangoes and durian, cabbage (yes they don’t always taste nice, but their smell is generally repulsive), some fish and seafood (check Jerry’s theory about the latter).
    I’m sure some sort of map could be made, what compounds make it smell or taste ‘good or bad’. E.g. sulphur compounds smell bad, but do not nescessarily taste bad. Sugars and salt ‘improve’ taste (something the food industry is well aware of).
    But what makes freshly ground coffee or a vanilla pod smell so Devine ?

  25. Smegma
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Hate to quibble about this stuff, but technically, anytime you imagine a face, it’s a novel one. You cannot perfectly recall any face. Any recall will be an approximation that is an amalgam of other faces. If your question was “can I imagine a face I’ve never seen before and doesn’t contain any features on any known face” then that’s another matter altogether. Same goes for imagining a novel food. Total novelty is impossible, and every thought of food is in some degree novel.

  26. Mark R.
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I love to sketch w/ pencils and sharpies. I like to draw faces and these faces are always from my imagination; start with the eyes, then nose, mouth, outline the head, ears, hair. So perhaps it’s easier to draw a face you’ve never seen piece by piece than imagine it as a whole.

    In Flan O’Brien’s novel The Third Policeman a character invents a color no one has ever seen and paints his bicycle in this new color. He rides his bike in public and anyone who sees this unimagined color is driven mad. If you like absurdism, you need to read this novel.

    “It is nearly an insoluble pancake, a conundrum of inscrutable potentialities, a snorter.”

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      Hate to be a wet blanket but my experience with matching colours for touch-up on my various old cars has shown that the alleged match is almost never a precise match for the existing. So logically some at least of those efforts will be colors ‘no-one has ever seen before’. In practice we take a near-enough range of pigmentation to be one and the same colour.

      So, given the astronomical number of colours-that-have-been-produced crowding the available spectrum, I don’t think there’s room for a colour to be sufficiently different to be (a) never seen before and (b) sufficiently different to be actually noticed by anybody.

      Sometimes the premise of a story can be entertaining even if not physically possible.


      • BobTerrace
        Posted June 7, 2017 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        We moved a thermostat and there was a white spot. The wall was painted 20 years earlier. My wife went to a paint store and had them mix paint until she thought it looked correct. The white spot was painted and the match of color was perfect. We could not tell where the white spot had been. My wife has a good eye for color.

      • Posted June 8, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        At one time I wanted to write a computer program to generate a gigantic image which had around 10 pixels of each of the 16.7 million colours available. I had no way to display this, so I gave up. But it might have been vaguely interesting – even though colour is partially surround-dependent.

  27. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Imagine the delicious beverages and foodstuffs that we’ll never know about because their ingredients don’t exist.

    Relatedly, Huey Lewis was able to imagine a new drug, at least apophatically. 🙂

  28. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I imagine some of my fellow synesthetes might be able to imagine a food that tastes like a color, or a beverage that smells like a number. (I can’t, but I experience a different form of synesthesia.)

  29. Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    ‘Just because one can imagine, say, a beverage that is greater than coffee is not proof that that beverage exists. I am not Anselm of Canterbury.’ – this also applies to the question of Why there’s something rather than nothing? The question presupposes that there is a state of absolute nothingness. Because we can abstractly in our mind can imagine the state of absolute nothingness that doesn’t mean it exists.

  30. Tony Eales
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    I was watching an antique show where they featured a collection of coffee machines through the ages and they made the statement that all of these weird and varied designs were to attempt to do one thing. Capture the beautiful smell of coffee in drink form. That’s the thing I imagine that’s better than coffee and doesn’t exist. BTW change your milk or your technique, those bubbles are too big 🙂

  31. Vaal
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Am I alone on this one…?

    I do not like coffee.

    Or tea.

    Generally speaking, hot beverages leave me cold.

    In fact, they go beyond that. They tend to annoy the hell out of me. When I want a drink I want a drink. Not an extended 1/2 long sipping session.

    So when I go to someone’s house and…inevitably…they give me tea, I burn my mouth. Every. Time. I just don’t get this “here, I understand you are thirsty. I will serve you a scalding hot drink that you will have to sit and watch until it’s actually not dangerous to drink, and then you will only find this out by trying and hoping in tiny uncomfortable sips over time, until it just tastes like tepid dishwater.

    Don’t get it. Never will.

    • Posted June 8, 2017 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      People are well-meaning. Most are addicted to coffee and like hot tea. Some my friends who do not like it too hot add cold water to it.

    • Posted June 8, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      I hate the smell of coffee, enjoy (good) hot chocolate, and find that tea is sort of boring. I joke that I only drink tea with beautiful women – as often times my lady friends have gotten me to try it (or just have it around when we go for dim sum or something). Some items called “tea” are really weak soup, as they don’t use tea leaves but other plants. I find those annoying because they are not enough like water to be water-useful, and not enough like soup to be soup-useful.

  32. Posted June 30, 2017 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Because we can abstractly in our mind can imagine the state of absolute nothingness that doesn’t mean it exists. I imagine some of my fellow synesthetes might be able to imagine a food that tastes like a color, or a beverage that smells like a number.

  33. Posted July 17, 2017 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Because we can abstractly in our mind can imagine the state of absolute nothingness that doesn’t mean it exists. Because we can abstractly in our mind can imagine the state of absolute nothingness that doesn’t mean it exists.

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