Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One… a Top Ten List of Funny Federal Titles

April 1, 2014

A few weeks ago, Jennifer Davis’ supervisor delivered a challenge to her via email: write a story about humorous government document titles for April Fool’s Day. (Read various stories about the origins of April Fool’s Day here, here and here.) April Fool’s humor has had a long history with American Government, dating back to Founding Father Benjamin Franklin (read caption below).

Benjamin Franklin wearing an ostentatious fake moustache for April Fool's Day

According to news humor site “Weekly World News”, the American founding father of April Fool’s Day was Benjamin Franklin. Since Franklin, April 1st has been synonymous in America for a day of practical jokes and general mischief. Tales of his exploits were published in the Philadelphia Gazette on the 1st of April every year. For example, says the site, he was known to give entire public speeches on April 1 wearing an ostentatious fake moustache. ;-) Can you believe it? (Image courtesy of Weekly World News.)- M. Bartram

Says Jennifer: “I love reading government documents for their data and their fascinating stories, but I usually wouldn’t consider them to be laugh-out-loud funny. Or as a colleague said, “They’re not Abbott and Costello funny”. But everyone’s got to laugh some time, right? And when I searched GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP), and picked my colleagues’ brains, I found that Uncle Sam sometimes gets his chuckles, too. I found more titles than these ten—but I want to save some for another occasion. There have been a few other lists of humorous government documents, not all of them Federal titles, circulating around the Internet, and so I’ve tried to keep this list as unique as possible.”

(If you like the topic of this column, you should visit the Washington State University’s exhibit, The Lighter Side of…. The Government Printing Office, which runs through June 28, 2014.)

[Michele Bartram Editor's Note: Over the years, Government Book Talk has also highlighted some funny Federal publication titles within previous blog posts including: Society through a Comic Lens, The Nuttall Tick CatalogueDr. Seuss, U.S. Army, Sprocket Man!War Games, and Ponzimonium. You'll chuckle over the odd, quirky, ironic or inadvertently funny titles of the books mentioned!]

All of these titles in this blog post have records in GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications, and you might be able to find a copy in your local Federal depository library, or find one at your regional library. Click here for a list of Federal Depository Libraries (the Federal Depository Library Directory or FDLD). Since many of these Government documents —books, posters, pamphlets and PDFs— are older than five years, you might have to search a bit to find a copy. When available, we have provided links for the electronic version of these titles.

Below is the list of Top 10 funniest titles that Jennifer provided, along with additional details about each.

TOP 10 FUNNIEST TITLES

Gobbledygook_has-gotta-go_green-cover1) Gobbledygook has Gotta Go. This Bureau of Land Management title about the problems with Government writing is a classic, and a precursor to the “Plain Language” initiative today to simplify the wording in communications. It has been cited in several collected lists of funny titles, and it’s the only time I cheated and included it in my list anyway.  Gobbledygook is just such a great word to say, and the alliteration makes the title even funnier. You can read a scanned copy of this book here.

2) Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic. All of our GPO office mates agree: this comic has got to be the most fun Federal government document to date.  The CDC was smart and exploited the current interest in zombies, and made an emergency preparedness checklist into a comic on preparing for the “zombie pandemic”. In this comic, the scientists of the CDC are the superheroes, isolating the virus “Z5N1” and developing a vaccine in record time, while the locals develop a checklist of emergency supplies so they can stay inside their home. Just the title alone is enough to make you smile—and it gets its point across. You can read the entire publication online here.

cdc-preparedness-101-zombie-pandemic

3) This is a Dumb Bunny. I love the idea of the Federal government calling someone a “dumb bunny”. Even if the document it is quite literally the image of a rabbit, which spoils some of the fun, I am still tickled by the idea of a snarky Uncle Sam. The poster’s actually about smoking cessation.

"This is a dumb bunny!" anti-smoking 1970s poster from the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare

4) Safety is as Stupid Does!!  I know what the goal was with this title. The poster (seen on the University of Iowa Digital Library) makes it clear to the intended audience of military personnel that not thinking hurts safety on the job. However, I think the title missed the mark. It’s funny in its own right.

Safety-is-as-stupid-does_DOD-poster

5) Do Mandrakes Really Scream?  A colleague of mine is a huge Harry Potter fan. She said cataloging this title was the pinnacle of her career. It’s the online exhibition catalog of an National Library of Medicine (NLM) History of Medicine exhibit relating NLM’s historical holdings and the magic and medicine of Harry Potter.

If you read the Harry Potter series, you’ll know what the title is referring to. If you haven’t read the series, check out this free exhibit first; you might find yourself diving into the book series afterwards.

National Library of Medicine NLM "Do Mandrakes Really Scream? Magic and Medicine in Harry Potter" website

6) USDA Saves French Donkey.  The title of this mid-1980s US Department of Agriculture publication just speaks for itself.

[Editor's note: Probably the publication refers to this 1985 story reported in the Los Angeles Times about a rare 7-month-old curly haired French Poitou donkey named Sonette at the San Diego Zoo: "Rare Donkey Passes Test, Can Stay Here"]

French Poitou donkey has dreadlocks that need a haircut

The rare French Baudet du Poitou donkey breed is born with curly hair that naturally grows into long dreadlocks as an adult. This one hasn’t had a haircut in 17 years! (Source: The Telegraph – UK)

7) Self-Motion Perception and Motion Sickness: Final Report for the Project  NASA’s report on a motion sickness project makes me want to just… stop… moving! Read about it on NASA’s website.

NASA-astronauts-with-motion-sicknessAbove: NASA astronauts in zero gravity try to fend off the effects of motion sickness.  To learn more about motion sickness, watch this 3-minute TED Talk animated video about “The Mystery of Motion Sickness.”

America the Beautiful: A Collection of the Nation's Trashiest Humor with comic strips about solid waste or trash8) America the Beautiful: Collection of the Nation’s Trashiest Humor. Not only is the title funny, but the book’s content promises humor as well. This is publication number 2048 of The U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, originally published in 1970. The book consists of thirty comics, from the funny pages like B.C., and some from the editorial pages of publications from the New Yorker to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, all focusing on the problem of waste disposal. You can read the publication in its entirety online at the EPA’s website.

9) French Meadows: Hell Hole Recreation Areas. Although the area is really quite lovely, there’s a problem with image marketing in this U.S. Forest Service tourism brochure.

French-Meadows-Hell-Hole-Reservoir

Poster for The Vampire Bat movie starring Fay Wray10) Controlling Vampire Bats.  This serious US Agency for International Development publication about controlling the spread of rabies through these creatures nevertheless evokes shades of Tippi Hedren… Don’t you get a mental picture of people running down the street away from the bats, waving their arms over their heads and screaming, à la The Birds? Or Fay Wray being controlled by an evil vampire in bat form in the movie “The Vampire Bat” (movie poster image at the right)? Maybe I’ve read too many zombie comics.

How can I find these funny-titled Federal publications?

In addition to clicking on the links in the article above to find the publications, you may find these publications from the following:

  • Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for U.S. Government publications in a nearby Federal depository library.
  • Visit a Public Library: Ask your local public librarian about Federal Government books available to check out as well as Federal eBooks that may be available for library patrons to digitally download through the library’s Overdrive subscription.

And to find popular current Federal publications, you may:

  • Shop Online Anytime: You can buy eBooks as well as print publications (with FREE Standard Shipping worldwide) from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore website at http://bookstore.gpo.gov
  • Order by Phone: You may also Order print editions by calling GPO’s  Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.

About the author: Adapted and expanded by Michele Bartram, Government Book Talk Editor and Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, from an original post by Jennifer K. Davis, formerly from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP).

Have a fun and funny April Fool’s Day!


The U.S. military storms to the rescue in foreign disaster relief

March 5, 2012

Last year, the United States suffered a record number of devastating weather and climate disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and floods, causing the President to issue a record 99 “major disaster declarations” during 2011.

Image: Natural disaster word collage Source: JimKimmartin.com

(And just this week, as I write this post, we are faced with the news about a line of dozens of deadly tornadoes that hit the Midwest, striking Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, and Kansas, with particular devastation to the towns of Harrisburg, IL and Henryville, IN.  See the end of this article for a links to terrific Federal disaster preparedness and response publications for citizens and professionals.)

However, the U.S. unfortunately had a lot of company as the entire world endured one of the worst years ever for catastrophic natural disasters.

Record Number of Catastrophic Natural Disasters Worldwide

2011 was the costliest year on record in terms of global property damage, with more than a third of a trillion dollars in damages worldwide, according to Munich Re, a multinational that insures insurance companies. The single worst and costliest natural disaster of the year was Japan’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami and nuclear disaster.

But some of the other worst disasters in the world in 2011 included: floods and landslides in Thailand, Guatemala, El Salvador, Pakistan and Brazil; earthquakes in New Zealand and Turkey; severe spring storms and tornadoes in the USA; Hurricane Irene in the USA; Cyclone Yasi and flooding in Australia; drought in the USA and Somalia; wildfires in the USA and Canada; and the violent winter storm Joachim that swept across western Europe in December.

Image: The world’s natural disasters of 2011. Source: “2011 was costliest year in world disasters” USA Today, January 4, 2012.

Fortunately, while the total number of disasters was about average, the loss of life was below average. Still, many lives were lost around the world, including 15,840 fatalities reported in Japan’s disaster alone.

DoD to the Rescue 

To help local governments around the world respond to these disasters, the United States Government often comes to the rescue with supplies, personnel and logistical support. But sometimes civilian agency response is not sufficient. In these cases, the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development may ask for support from the U.S. military.

Image: The crew of a U.S. Navy MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) unloads food and supplies at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Jan. 15, 2010. Source: Defense.gov

U.S. Government and Department of Defense (DoD) joint task forces may also coordinate with International Organizations such as the United Nations and International Red Cross and Red Crescent and other Intergovernmental Organizations (IGO) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO).

In total, the U.S. Government on average responds to approximately 70 to 80 natural disasters worldwide annually, but the Department of Defense (DoD) only lends support to 10-15 percent of these disaster responses.

The DoD describes their foreign disaster relief assistance as follows:

“DoD disaster assistance can range from a single aircraft delivering relief supplies, to a fullscale deployment of a brigade-size or larger task force. Though the overall percentage of disasters requiring DoD support is relatively small, these disasters tend to be crises of the largest magnitude and/or the greatest complexity.”

Some of the past disaster response efforts with which the U.S. military has assisted include the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia; 2005 earthquake and 2010 flooding in Pakistan;  and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Handy Handbook for All Those Who Give a Hand

To assist their personnel who are engaged in foreign disaster relief operations, the Department of Defense prepared a handbook which “offers an overarching guide and reference for military responders in foreign disaster relief operations,” particularly for Joint Task Force (JTF) Commanders and below.

INTENDED FOR ANYONE INVOLVED IN US FOREIGN DISASTER RELIEF OPERATIONS: Fortunately, DoD also released an unclassified version that can be used not only by the military, but also by anyone involved in U.S. foreign disaster response operations, including U.S. Government agencies, international organizations, Intergovernmental Organizations (IGO) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO).

CONTENTS: This public version of the “Department of Defense Support to Foreign Disaster Relief Handbook” (ISBN:  9780160888632) is divided into 4 major sections:

  • Section I: Introduction: Provides the background, legal authorities and guidance for performing foreign disaster relief (FDR) operations. Includes info on the U.S. Government’s FDR response processes, international and humanitarian guidelines and principles.
  • Section II: Operational Context and Planning Factors.
  • Details the types of missions that DoD units may participate in and the roles of Joint Task Force members. Also provides a five-phase FDR operation and metrics of success, and how to protect responders. Of particular interest in Chapter 6 are the characteristics of natural disasters, including hazards expected from different disaster types, and in Chapter 7, guidelines for talking to the media.
  • Section III: Supported and Supporting Organizations
    • This section provides a broad overview of functional commands and the cross-cutting organizations roles and missions, including Geographic Combatant Commands (GCC) and typical DOD tactical FDR units. Even shows photos to help identify different U.S. military transportation vehicles that could be used.

  • Section IV: Appendices: A number of extremely useful appendices are included that come in handy for anyone involved in Foreign Disaster Relief.
    • Appendix A presents the legal aspects of FDR operations, such as the list of laws and guidance documents allowing DoD participation in humanitarian relief efforts overseas. For example, the principal authority for DOD to conduct foreign disaster relief is the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (Public Law 87-195) (See p. 15 of this compilation of Legislation on Foreign Relations) which “provides the legal guidance for U.S. Government engagement with friendly nations.
    • Appendix B provides the DoD guidelines for interaction with NGOs in a permissive environment. More importantly, it provides excellent color charts showing how civil and military operation centers interact and differ. The page below is an example of how interaction between various civil and military operations in an operations center.

    • Appendix C provides sample formats that are useful to staff who support FDR operations, including excellent example worksheets and sample reports.
    • Appendix D provides a list of useful FDR agency and resources websites.
    • Appendix E provides a list of training courses, both from the Department of Defense and other U.S. agencies like the State Department and the Peace Corps.
    • Appendix F lists references useful in planning and executing FDR missions.
    • Appendix G is a list of acronyms used in this handbook, a must-have for dealing with the military especially, but includes acronyms for international organizations as well. For example, did you know that “OCONUS” means “Outside the continental United States” and “SPINS” means “Special Instructions”?

EASY-TO-READ, PORTABLE FORMAT: Throughout the Handbook are color flowcharts, organizational charts, checklists, notes and warnings, making this easier to read than one would expect from a military handbook.  And because of its rugged spiral bound format and smaller size, I found this handbook particularly easy to hold in one hand while writing with another, since it could lying totally flat and fold back on itself.  Considering that online versions are not convenient in disaster areas, I can see why this is a must-pack item in any U.S. foreign disaster responder’s emergency bag.

Overall, the Department of Defense Support to Foreign Disaster Relief (Handbook for JTF Commanders and Below) provides a fascinating and useful insight into how to respond to natural disasters wherever they may happen around the globe.

HOW CAN I OBTAIN THIS “Department of Defense Support to Foreign Disaster Relief Handbook “?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a library.
  • Find some of the information online.

OTHER DISASTER RELIEF PUBLICATIONS FROM THE U.S. GOVERNMENT:

  • Field Operations Guide for Disaster Assessment and Response by the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), print edition available from GPO.  This handbook comes at the topic from the U.S. civilian agency perspective, helping members of a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) get quickly oriented while on site at a disaster.
  • National Interoperability Field Operations Guide Version 1.4 Provides a waterproof, pocket-sized guide that contains radio regulations, tables of radio channels, and technical reference information, and is a must-have tool for establishing or repairing emergency communications in a disaster area.
  • U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance Reference Guide from the United States Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (online version only). Included are basic fact sheets for 19 funding accounts, each containing citations of important underlying laws, itemizing primary activities (such as Bilateral Economic Assistance, Humanitarian Assistance, Multilateral Economic Assistance, Military Assistance and Law Enforcement Assistance), outlining recent funding history, and describing important statutory restrictions.
  • Legislation on Foreign Relations is a list of U.S. laws governing all aspects of foreign relations, including disaster relief, compiled by both Congressional committees: U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
  • Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness. This FREE online guide provides a step-by-step approach to disaster preparedness by walking the reader through how to get informed about local emergency plans, how to identify hazards that affect their local area and how to develop and maintain an emergency communications plan and disaster supplies kit. It is produced by Ready.gov, a national public service advertising campaign designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies including natural and man-made disasters.
  • FREE Tornado Safety Guide from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Ready.gov website has important tips on what to do before, during and after a tornado.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (Bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Vote for the top Government news story of 2011

December 26, 2011

2011 was a momentous year in Federal Government-related news and as such, it was a banner year for important Government publications, as demonstrated by our 2011 Year in Review collection available from the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO).

But which Government news story was the most significant, in your opinion? Vote in our poll below, and then see the publications that follow that relate to these important stories:

Note 1:As of January 27, 2012, this poll is NOW CLOSED with the final results showing above, but feel free to click on the SHARE THIS link to pass on the results to others.
Note 2: This is a non-scientific user poll. Results are not statistically valid and cannot be assumed to reflect the views of the Government Printing Office customer as a group or the general population.

Following are the Federal Government publications that relate to each of these important 2011 stories:

2011 News Story   Related Federal Publication(s)
9/11 tenth anniversary   Ten years have passed since that tragic day, but the memories are still strong. 2011 saw some excellent publications about that day, including a 10th anniversary edition of Pentagon 9/11 and a reprinting of the 9/11 Commission Report, all of which you can find in our 9/11 Collection: A Decade of Remembrance.

Assassination of Osama bin Laden  FBI Terrorism Research and Analysis Project (TRAP) A Navy SEALS team located and killed Osama bin Laden this year, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks and many other Al Qaeda and insurgent terrorist attacks. This 2011 publication, Terrorism Research and Analysis Project (TRAP): A Collection of Research Ideas, Thoughts, and Perspectives, V. 1analyzes causes and possible responses to terrorism as presented at the FBI Terrorism Research and Analysis Project (TRAP) Symposium of international academics and law enforcement personnel.

Death of North Korea’s Kim Jong Il   The recent death of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Il, marks an uncertain time for the Korean Peninsula and the entire region. North Korea: A Country Studyreviews the history and the dominant social, political, economic, and military aspects of contemporary North Korea before this.

Deep Water BP Gulf oil disaster report  Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling, Report to the President, January 2011 In January of this year, the National Commission on the BP (British Petroleum) Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling released its controversial Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling, Report to the President, January 2011. This best-selling publication offers the fullest account available of what happened in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010 and why, and proposes actions, changes in company behavior, reform of government oversight, and investments in research and technology that will be required to avert future disasters.

End of the war in Iraq  Battleground Iraq: Journal of a Company Commander There is an interesting White House timeline about the Iraq war at the end of which is a link to the Joining Forces initiative with which one can express one’s support for the troops. GPO’s bookstore has a number of books about Iraq, but two stand out as best-sellers. Battleground Iraq: Journal of a Company Commander gives a realistic account by Major Todd Brown of his experiences as a U.S. Army company commander in Iraq from April 2003 to March 2004. Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experienceexamines the Iraq reconstruction experience, and provides 13 take-away lessons for future contingency relief and reconstruction operations.

  • Buy them in our online bookstore:

a)      Battleground Iraq: Journal of a Company Commander

b)      Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience

Japan earthquake and tsunami  Field Operations Guide for Foreign Disaster Assessment and Response Natural disasters were big in the news this year, and the Federal Government was involved in responding to them, from the National Guard in the U.S. to foreign response teams overseas. For example, in response to the tragic earthquake and resulting tsunami and nuclear reactor problems in Japan, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) that included disaster response experts, urban search and rescue teams, and nuclear experts from the U.S. Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Field Operations Guide for Disaster Assessment and Responseis used by USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) for DART teams and other disaster assistance personnel when responding to foreign disasters like the Japan situation.

Last Space Shuttle flight  NASA and Space Shuttle publications including "Wings-in-Orbit" 2011 marked the end of NASA’s three-decade long space shuttle program when, on July 21, the final space shuttle mission ended with the shuttle Atlantis rolling to a stop at its home port, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA has published a number of terrific books about the program which you can find in our NASA and Space Shuttle Publications, along with a new set of beautiful color bookmarks, one for each shuttle and the best-selling Wings in Orbitbook.

U.S. economy and the Federal budget  Books about Government and Politics, including the Federal Budget and the Economy It seems every newscast this year has covered the US economy, Federal Government budgets and deficits and differing opinions about options to address them. You can find the President’s original budget submission published this year and subsequent analyses and responses to it in our collection of Books about the Government and Politics, including the Federal Budget and the Economy.

How can you find even more Federal Government publications? We have assembled many collections of Federal publications on our year-round Gift Guide and in our Special Collections page on GPO’s online bookstore.

About the Author: Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (Bookstore.GPO.Gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public. 

 


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